Packers are still 0-0
Alex Green. Image by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
GREEN BAY - Before everyone assumes the worst, it’s important to take a deep breath and remember the Green Bay Packers are still undefeated this season. The preseason doesn’t count.
It’s a time to iron out the off-season kinks and serves as an extended audition for the lesser-known players to scrap it out to make the first roster cut to 75 on August 25, and then the final paring to 53 later in the summer.
Remember that magical 2010 season? The Packers lost twice in that preseason, including once to the lowly Kansas City Chiefs.
But what this 17-0 loss to the Arizona Cardinals gives head coach Mike McCarthy is food for thought.
The game hit the mark on two of his goals for the season of Protection and Reflection. It also proved the team has a way to go with the third principle of Connection.
Aaron Rodgers showed the Packers Nation that he has no rust issues. He’s ready to rumble, proving once again he can drop the long ball into James Jones’ hands as though he was effortlessly threading a needle.
Rodgers only remained in the game long enough to show that there’s little to worry about with the first team offense.
McCarthy quickly pulled him after a single 86 yard drive. No sense risking an unnecessary injury in a matchup where Rodgers has nothing to prove.
The same goes for Datone Jones. He’s already demonstrated intense speed and physicality in practice and his spot in the final 53 has long been solidified.
There was no sense keeping him in the game after he sprained an ankle on his first play.
The team is already riddled with injuries, and it made perfect sense for McCarthy to protect his first round draft choice and sit him after a trivial injury.
But protection wasn’t just centered on keeping key players off the long-term injury list.
If he was nervous lining up on the blind side in his first head-to-head match-up, it didn’t show on the field. He’s obviously ready to fill some very big shoes and play a pivotal role protecting Aaron Rodgers.
Of course, it didn’t help that veteran guard Josh Sitton gave him a heaping dose of encouragement by pointing out he was just as nervous in his first start on the left side as well and that they were in it together.
Nothing says teamwork more than a seasoned veteran looking out for new members of the team.
A team can’t win if the quarterback cannot find a way to move the ball toward the end zone, and McCarthy was less than pleased with Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman’s performances.
Both struggled to even get a first down and managed to turn the ball over, too. Harrell lobbed an interception while Coleman fumbled the ball away. They each looked lost on the field and hardly students of the McCarthy Quarterback School.
After the game McCarthy reminded everyone that the Packers have no intention of carrying four QBs through the duration of training camp.
One will be dropped, likely in the first round of cuts, and if the head coach’s disgust in their play is any indication, there is a good chance that odd man out will be either Harrell or Coleman.
The Packers didn’t connect on secondary either.
Supposedly stacked nine deep, the secondary floundered with Tramon Williams and Casey Hayward on the sidelines. Davon House was all but invisible, giving away far too many yards and a touchdown to rub salt in the wound.
This is the most important goal after the 17-0 shutout.
It’s not the first time the Packers have looked like a shadow of their championship self in the preseason, but the loss gives the clues to how to improve as the regular season approaches.
While McCarthy did not give the new guy Vince Young a ringing endorsement, he at least provided him with a stay of execution.
He simply needs more time, and it sounds like McCarthy is willing to provide him with more to develop within the Packers system.
Johnny Jolly may not have been back to his previous playing form, but he showed glimmers of his past self, reinforcing the team’s decision to keep him on the roster after years away.
Like Young, he merely needs more time, and McCarthy will use training camp to reflect on his progress.
Up and coming receivers Jarret Boykin and Tyrone Walker are earning their keep and proving that the Green Bay Packers can part company with two very productive wide receivers and still maintain a solid and talented receiving corps.
McCarthy has a tough decision to make when determining who will make the final cut and who will be given an offer to play for the practice squad (provided they aren’t snatched up by other teams in the process.)
At halftime, Mike McCarthy told the team to “Win the damn game.”
But preseason games aren’t about wins or losses. They are about reflection — what are the team’s strengths and, more importantly, where must the team improve.
The Packers need to identify those opportunities for improvement before the season opener in San Francisco when they are no longer opportunities and become true deficits.
Many players have secured their roles on the team while others need to embrace these opportunities for a chance to make the final roster.
It’s how a team improves. It makes the difference between a mediocre team that finishes in the middle of the pack and a Packers team that will be a contender throughout the season.
Protection, connection, reflection—achieving two out of the three goals isn’t a bad start, but all three need to be achieved to reach the top.
Fortunately, there are three more weeks to go three for three.
Kelly Hodgson (@ceallaigh_k on Twitter) who grew up across the river from Lambeau Field, is the co-host of the podcast "Out of the Pocket" at Packerstalk.com. Her other Packers musings can be found at PocketDoppler.com.