Thumbs up, thumbs down

Highs and lows of Green Bay Packers' exhibition opener

While there was plenty of good in the Green Bay Packers' 13-9 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday night, there also was the not-so-good by the Packers. Here are a few thumbs up/thumbs down thoughts on the Packers:

Thumbs up: Aaron Rodgers carried over his solid play in training camp onto the playing field. Rodgers was 18-of-27 for 168 yards, and produced the Packers' only touchdown by ending a 71-yard drive on their opening possession of the second half with a 3-yard scoring pass to Carlyle Holiday.

Rodgers is ready to start for the Packers, and if Favre should struggle at some point in the season, coach Mike McCarthy would be wise to give Rodgers a shot as the starter. His poise in the pocket is better than ever, and his ability to run with the ball is refreshing.

Thumbs down: Brett Favre, who looked sharp as a tack in the team's intra-squad scrimmage a week ago, guided the Packers to four straight three-and-outs before putting on his baseball cap and watching the rest of the game from the sideline. Favre finished 2-of-7 for seven yards and never got into any kind of rhythm with the offense.

Thumbs up: Will Blackmon had two punt returns for minus-4 yards, but he had a 44-yard punt return called back because of holding in the third quarter. The Packers tried Blackmon, Shaun Bodiford as punt returners against the Steelers, and Blackmon by far showed the best ability to make the first guy miss.

Look for Blackmon to be the team's main punt returner when the regular season starts.

Thumbs down: Tight end Bubba Franks dropped a pass that was very catchable against the Steelers. Ironically, Franks, who has dropped a number of passes in the last two seasons, has been catching the ball well in training camp practices. He obviously was disappointed at himself when he let a pass from Aaron Rodgers bounce off his pads on third-and-8 late in the second quarter that would have given the Packers a first down in Steelers' territory.

Thumbs up: Justin Harrell showed few signs of fatigue against the Steelers. Harrell has been struggling to get his ‘football legs' under him early on in training camp, but on Saturday night he finished with a sack and three tackles after entering the game late in the second quarter.

"It's going to take a little bit to get back out there and get things loose," Harrell said. "The more I played, the more comfortable I got. The whole game is coming back to me."

Thumbs down: Safeties Atari Bigby and Marviel Underwood entered the game with the second string offense in the first quarter after starters Marquand Manuel and Nick Collins were pulled. Both struggled and gave up big passes that allowed the Steelers to take a 9-0 lead between the first and second quarters.

Underwood, who injured his hamstring in the game, is battling back from a knee injury that he sustained early in the 2006 training camp. Bigby spend most of last season on the team's practice squad.

Neither Bigby nor Underwood did anything to enhance their chances of sticking with the team after their performances against the Steelers.


Todd Korth

Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at packrepted@aol.com.


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