Welcome to the summer edition of PackerReport.com's "Sunday School." Each week, we'll take a look back on the Packers' most recent matchup and give you five key lessons. Our preseason-opening edition gets inside Green Bay's impressive 17-0 shut out of the Cleveland Browns, which featured big plays and performances on both sides of the ball.
1. There's no shortage of firepower on offense
Those fantasy football magazines ranking Aaron Rodgers as the second-best quarterback available might be on to something. Coming off a 4,000-plus-yard, 28-touchdown, 13-interception season in his first-year starting, Rodgers looks ready to pick up where he left off. He looked poised and confident en route to a 14-0 lead, and that first score — when he stepped up in the pocket and threw a picture-perfect spiral to Donald Driver for a 53-yard touchdown — was a thing of beauty.
Aside from the ageless Driver, receiver James Jones is back to his 2007 rookie form and has locked down the No. 3 spot. But the biggest boost to an already-potent offense could be tight end Jeremichael Finley. An athletic but immature rookie a year ago, he was an integral part of the first two scoring drives. While he showed off his route-running and pass-catching prowess, it was his blocking — including a crushing hit on Browns defensive end C.J. Mosely — that was the biggest surprise. If Finley has truly rounded out this part of his game, he could find himself in the starting lineup.
As good as Rodgers and his receivers looked, the running game did its share of damage, too. Green Bay rolled up 230 rushing yards behind Ryan Grant, Brandon Jackson, DeShawn Wynn, Kregg Lumpkin and Tyrell Sutton. All but Wynn had a run of at least 14 yards. The fact that it was done behind an offensive line still in "musical-chairs" mode made it all the better.
2. Dom Capers was the best offseason pick-up
This wasn't even the full unveiling of the 3-4 defense. It was a vanilla version of what promises to be a chocolate thunder almond crunch of a scheme with exotic blitz packages that bring pressure from everywhere but the stands. The taste, however, was definitely sweet.
Playing without starting cornerbacks Al Harris and Charles Woodson, starting linebacker Nick Barnett and probable opening-day starters B.J. Raji and Clay Matthews, Green Bay held the Browns to 191 yards while collecting three sacks, four picks and holding Cleveland's quarterback-challenged offense to a 31.7 passer rating. Aaron Kampman looked comfortable rushing out of a two-point stance, Johnny Jolly was creating havoc during an 11-play stint at defensive end and Desmond Bishop had some outstanding plays at inside linebacker. One game does not a season make, but it looks like Capers has molded the personnel and got the kind of "buy-in" that will have this defense ready to make an immediate impact.
3. Desmond Bishop will be stealing snaps from someone in September
By "this," I mean the same way he played last year at Minnesota when he made more big plays in a half than most of the Packers' linebackers made in a season. Sure, he also got juked out of his jock by Chester Taylor on a swing pass, but Bishop won't find himself in pass coverage situations as much this year in the 3-4. And as we saw against the Browns, when Bishop notched a sack, interception and had a quarterback hit that led to an interception by Tramon Williams, he has a knack for the big play that others simply don't possess.
That doesn't mean that Bishop will be bumping A.J. Hawk or Nick Barnett out of a starting spot just yet, but coaches will find a way to get him on the field one way or another.
4. Tyrell Sutton is making the most of his opportunities
To be clear, Sutton is a short running back, not a small running back. Think a bigger Darren Sproles, the pocket Hercules of the San Diego Chargers, or a slower Maurice Jones-Drew of the Jacksonville Jaguars. It was Sutton's 4.7-seconds 40-yard time that scared away NFL scouts and made this Northwestern product a free agent. But Green Bay timed him faster in a private workout, liked his footwork and attitude, and haven't been disappointed.
Sutton may be a shade under 5-foot-8, but he's 213 with a powerful lower body. Against Cleveland, he did exactly what he was doing through two weeks of training camp — finding a hole and gashing the defense. He flashed enough speed to get the outside edge and the power to get a tough yard on his way to a team-high 91 yards on 18 carries. That included runs of 12 and 17 yards. Don't be surprised if he beats out Wynn and Lumpkin for a spot behind Grant and Jackson.
5. The No. 2 quarterback job is Matt Flynn's to lose
Much as he did a year ago, Matt Flynn showed the moxie and "gamer" mentality that should guarantee him a job holding Rodgers' clipboard. Flynn came in with 10 seconds left in the first quarter and led the Packers on two drives that ended in missed Mason Crosby field goals. While Flynn went 5-fot-6 with 50 yards and posted 101.4 quarterback rating, it was the naked eye and not the numbers that tell you why he'll be the No. 2 guy.
The former LSU signal caller and national champion showed awareness and quick feet in the pocket, including when he caught his own deflected pass and took off running before being put down hard at the sideline. He overcame penalties by his offense line and a sack to make two sensational throws to Jones — both on third-and-9 — for 14 and 11 yards, respectively.
Relieving Flynn was Brian Brohm. Much as he did a year ago, his preseason started with an interception on his first throw. He'd throw two on the night and finish with a 0.0 rating. On Brohm's first pick, he was hit while throwing when Tony Moll whiffed on a block. The second INT was a catchable ball that bounced off of JaRon Harris' hands. Brohm finished 3-for-10 for 18 yards while leading Green Bay to three points. But turnovers aside, Brohm did nothing to make anyone think he's capable of the big plays he routinely made as a highly touted collegian. And that's nothing a black glove on his throwing hand is going to fix.
Agree or disagree?: Discuss hot Packers topics in our, free forums. Leave publisher Bill Huber a question in the subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum.
W. Keith Roerdink has covered the Packers since 1992. E-mail him at email@example.com.