For starters, Packers look good

Lost in the shuffle of the Packers losing to Tennessee in Friday's final preseason game is the fact Green Bay's starters took care of business against their Titans counterparts.

If there was ever a time when the numbers on the scoreboard meant absolutely nothing, Friday afternoon's preseason game against the Tennessee Titans was it.

The Green Bay Packers lost 35-21? Who cares.

Here are the only things that matter.

The Packers' first-team defense — minus the starting cornerbacks and a couple of others — yielded one first down before forcing a punt. It's the first time this preseason that the starting defense didn't allow points on the first possession of the game.

The Packers' first-team offense, sparked by a first-play, big-play completion to rookie starting wide receiver Greg Jennings that set up a well-blocked touchdown run by Ahman Green, scored on its only possession.

That was it for the Packers' starters. Green Bay 7, Tennessee 0.

Would that score have held for the full 60 minutes of a regular-season game? Who knows. But it was certainly an encouraging performance in light of what happened at Cincinnati a few days earlier.

Here are a few other thoughts:

— Thumbs up to the Packers' run defense. Even though the Titans' No. 1 offense matched up against the Packers' No. 2 defense for much of the first half, Tennessee rushed 41 times for 112 yards. Starter Chris Brown was held to 25 yards on 11 attempts. The defensive line, which got knocked around by Cincinnati, stepped up in a big way.

Jon Ryan will probably boot more than his share of bad punts this season, but the potential he showed on Friday is more than enough reason to risk letting him keep the job. Among his eight punts, three were longer than 50 yards. And that's not including a 60- and a 69-yarder. He averaged 53.6 yards per punt. His hang time was adequate, and if the Packers' coverage teams had bothered to tackle anyone, Ryan's net would have been considerably better than 33 yards.

— First-round pick A.J. Hawk had better improve quickly in pass coverage, or teams are going to go after him relentlessly. On the Titans' first series, he was beaten badly by tight end Ben Troupe. No matter how good cornerbacks Al Harris and Charles Woodson perform, if the Packers can't cover the tight end, they'll never get off the field on third down.

— Couple that with the continued horrendous play of all safeties not named Nick Collins, and the Packers' pass defense is a wreck. Thankfully, Green Bay plays the offensively impaired Bears in Week 1 of the regular season.

— Will Ted Thompson have the guts to cut Ahmad Carroll when he trims the roster to 53 players today? You all know he's a hot-headed, stubborn underachiever. Will Friday's offsides penalty — when he stepped across the line of scrimmage while following an in-motion gunner on a punt — be the last straw? Some penalties you can live with. Pass interference and defensive holding, for example, will happen. But being offsides on a punt is stupid and unacceptable. He single-handedly deserves the blame for the Titans scoring their opening touchdown.

— Will Ted Thompson have the guts to not cut Cory Rodgers? Let's hope not. He dropped yet another punt, and on a second attempt, his indecision allowed the punt to hit the ground and nearly bounce into him. Even Rodgers seemed to sense his fate. "Hopefully this organization sees the potential in me and I'm still around. I had a bad game. I can't blame anybody for it."

— Mike McCarthy made a bold move by handing the starting job to Jennings. It's not like the incumbent starter, Robert Ferguson, has had a bad camp and unproductive preseason, but everytime you turn around, Jennings was doing something good. One reason why Jennings slid into the second round after a big-time college career was his supposed lack of speed. Well, there's track speed and there's football speed, and Jennings has football speed. He nearly outran Pacman Jones to the end zone on his first-quarter reception, and Jones can flat-out fly. "It was a goal," Jennings said about starting. "I just wanted to get an opportunity. They feel like I've earned the opportunity and I've performed up to my ability and earned the job."

Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. Send comments to steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com.


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