Take it from a long-time Cleveland Browns fan, it’s difficult and inadvisable to take preseason victories too seriously. There is, however, nothing wrong with being excited (in general) for the start of a new NFL season, and Packers fans definitely had the covered at the Packers’ first preseason game on Thursday.
A roving polka band strolled through the parking lots between barbeques and impromptu mini-pubs serving shots off of a ski, as Packers fans revved up for the return from their long spring and summer hiatus. Live classic rock cover bands, the Packers’ drumline, and a group of guys that appeared to be a German television crew all added to the festive atmosphere of one of the jolliest tailgating sessions I’ve ever witnessed.
The mood of the observers and the participants hadn’t changed much by the end of the game, after the Packers satisfied their faithful with a solid, victorious showing.
It’s true that the stars like Rodgers, Matthews, Cobb, and Graham didn’t even dress for the game. Neither did most members of some entire starting units like the offensive line, the defensive backfield, and the linebacking corps. Regardless, those in attendance were finally treated to a full-speed effort by the meat of the depth chart, the rookies, and those still jockeying for position.
Brett Hundley and Deshone Kizer continued their battle for the #2 QB position behind Rodgers, and you’ll get a different opinion on this from me than what I’ve seen so far from others. It was close, but I thought Kizer looked more promising.
Hundley did come away with one passing TD, a slightly higher completion percentage, and a slightly higher QB Rating. Hundley also threw an interception and gave up a fumble, though, while Kizer didn’t turn the ball over at all. Kizer gained more yards on the same number of completions and rushed for two first downs in third down situations. Both quarterbacks threw well off-target more than once, though, and Kizer had a concerning amount of trouble converting on first-and-goal on multiple occasions.
The first half was a little rough for Marquez Valdez-Scantling, who I’ve mentioned as a young talent that still needs a heap of development. I was concerned for him after he lost a fumble on a return and failed to make a couple of catches early on. He came back from half-time with a vengeance, though, eventually racking up over 100 yards receiving and a touchdown.
The competition for the Wide Receiver is hotly contested in Green Bay, and it appears as though we are starting to see the defining line between those who will be invited to stay and those who will not. Geronimo Allison seems to me to have the third position locked up, while Valdez-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown, and Jake Kumerow are all making strong cases. Meanwhile, DeAngelo Yancey and J’Mon Moore appear to be struggling and in a bit of trouble.
Running Back Jamaal Williams looked capable, despite only having a few opportunities on short-yardage, between-the-tackles situations. His vision and judgment proved impressive on a short catch to the sideline that he turned into a juke and swerve score rather than attempting to bulldoze through the cornerback that stood between him and the goalline. Ty Montgomery didn’t look as good, failing to pull in a least a couple of short passes I thought looked catchable.
The defense looked stable if a bit unremarkable which can be seen as an encouraging sign considering how many starters sat out. They held up well against Marcus Mariota and seemed to render Blaine Gabbert relatively ineffective. Of particular note was rookie linebacker Oren Burks who registered the most tackles of any Packer and seemed to be shedding blocks and reading plays well for seeing his first professional game action.
It’s true that Game 1 of the preseason doesn’t give us a lot of insight into how the Packers starters are going to match up against other NFL teams when the games start to count. It does, however, tell us a little about competent the Packers bench is, and that, in and of itself, is comforting. The one place I fear that I diverge from both popular and team opinion appears to be in regard to the relative positioning of Hundley and Kizer, but, let’s be honest, if it comes down to that again this year, we’re having an entirely different discussion.