Friday, August 24, 2007

The Kids Better Be Alright . . .

. . . because otherwise the Packers are screwed.
I managed to watch about half of last night's Packers' 21-13 loss to the Jaguars -- just enough to see Donald Driver get carted off the field after hurting his foot/ankle area. That was clearly the biggest story of the game. My reaction was probably quite similar to yours, if you're a Packer fan. It went something like "Oh expletive-ing expletive!" and a grim muttering of "there goes the season." Not at all good. Hopefully, fingers crossed, it's not too serious.

The Packers' offense was already riding on the improvement/contribution of several young players-- guys like Brandon Jackson, Greg Jennings, Vernand Morency, Darryn Colledge, Jason Spitz, and James Jones. Now, with DD potentially missing some significant time, the team's offense will depend on these young players to an even greater extent.

The Jaguars have one of the league's best defenses, with at least three Pro Bowl caliber defenders (Henderson, Stroud, and CB Rashean Mathis), so last night's game provided the best test yet of these young players' abilities. The results were, at best, pretty mixed.

First, the Packers running game couldn't get the job done. The team tried running the ball straight at Henderson and Stroud but couldn't ever manage more than a few yards at best. Spitz and Colledge might be better than last season (as evidenced by the several pass plays where there was decent protection and no tight end kept in as a blocker), but the O-Line is not a great unit. At least not great enough to run on a really good rush defense like the Jaguars.

Second, though he didn't have much space to run, Brandon Jackson didn't look great. Not particularly fast, powerful, or quick. He was decisive though, and made a nice hard cut on a screen pass that almost led to a touchdown. But he's not bursting with talent by any means. Also, he did cough up the ball for the first time this preseason-- thankfully Corey Hall jumped on it. Again, I really wish we could see Morency in there so we'd have a better basis for comparison. Hopefully Vernand will be able to play next weekend.

Third, James Jones looked solid, except on a couple plays when Brett was in-- the too easily stripped fumble (see picture below), and the play where he stopped running and Brett threw the ball to where he should have been. Jones is not a burner, but he does seem to be able to do enough to get open. And man, he can get balls in traffic. Rodgers threw him a high sideline pass (when he was guarded by Mathis, the Pro Bowl corner) that was begging to be picked, but Jones skyed up and snatched it, then turned around and ran for more yards.

Fourth, we finally saw a little bit of Greg Jennings, though he and Brett miscommunicated at least once. He still looks quick, and has great hands, shown on a fifteen yard catch he made during the first string's one scoring drive. You could really see him pluck the ball out the air with both hands.

It's funny, but it looks like Rodgers actually has more of a rapport with the younger receivers than Brett does. He never looks frustrated with their routes, and actually, as shown by his high pass to Jones, seems to have more confidence in them. Maybe its because the coaches are worried about wearing Favre out, so Rodgers gets more reps? Given Favre's demonstrated lack of chemistry with the younger guys, it looks like we could have an ongoing generational struggle within the offense as the season progresses-- especially if Donald can't come back quickly.

1 comment:

Sal said...

I noticed the same thing about the young receivers. Perhaps Brett is too old to relate to them. He looked like he was making good reads against a solid D though. He didn't make any stupid throws, as he is wont to do.

Rodgers's performance this pre-season does give me some hope for the future though, as he has played well against 1st string defenses.

I am intrigued with the kicking competition. Rayner is definitely solid, but Crosby has a ridiculous leg. Having seen him a bit at CU, I know he can kick the shit out of the ball. He may be cut because the Packers would rather have the devil they know, but Crosby will be an NFL kicker somewhere.

Finally, my favorite totally stupid color commentary of the night was when Tony Siragusa was talking about how hard it was to bat balls down at the line. All you have to do is put your freaking hands in the air when the QB is about to throw the ball. I knew D-lineman were dumb. I didn't know that they were that dumb.