First Impressions – Cardinals @ Packers

| August 20, 2011

The Packers won the first string portion of this game 7-6, but it was the Cardinals who dominated both time of possession and yardage. The match-up brought back memories of the epic playoff battle from two years ago, but this game looked nothing like that one.
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Both teams attempted to establish the run, and when either passed it was rarely for big plays. We did get to see plenty of the Cardinals’ new quarterback Kevin Kolb and found plenty good and bad to say about his performance. The highlight of the night was a diving, one-handed catch by Larry Fitzgerald – words cannot describe how beautiful it was and you’re sure to see it wherever you get your highlights.
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Arizona Cardinals – Three Things of Note
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●  When Kevin Kolb wasn’t under pressure, he played some strong football. There were five passes to his lesser-known receivers that kept the offense moving down the field and led to field goals on two of his three drives. It was when he was under pressure that problems started. Twice early on he threw the ball away in the face of a rush, which looked like the right choice in both cases. On another, again under pressure, he tried to make a play but ended up taking a sack. There were a few times where he tried to force balls to Larry Fitzgerald – not a bad place to go in a pinch, but balls were overthrown or behind the target and twice nearly intercepted. The amazing catch Fitzgerald made was on a ball that was behind him. If the offense can improve their pass blocking, Kolb could have a strong first year in the desert, but without that help it will be another long season in Arizona.
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● I’ve never really known how to feel about Beanie Wells, but after the first half I remembered why he never puts up the best numbers – his offensive line. The addition of Daryn Colledge helps in pass protection, but doesn’t bring much of an improvement to their run blocking. Six of Wells’ 11 runs were for 2 yards or less, and that was mostly due to there being nowhere for him to go. He had a few longer runs, including a great 10 yard run to the left end where he carried Desmond Bishop on his back for half of it. He had some nice moves on a 20 yard screen as well, although the play was called back on penalty. He showed what he can do if he could just get some space. Other than getting a quick rest, Wells took most of the snaps with the first team offense and should get significantly more snaps then he has seen now that Tim Hightower is in Washington. His top competition is from rookie Ryan Williams, who got injured in the third quarter. While I don’t know how long Williams will be out for, it didn’t look good.
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● While the passes by Kolb mixed with some nice runs by Wells got the Cardinals some first downs, they weren’t able to find the end zone. Holding them back were unnecessary penalties. On their first third down, Levi Brown had a holding penalty that ended up being declined. The second drive saw false starts by both Brown and Rex Hadnot which hurt momentum. On drive No. 3, Kolb was called for delay of game and Early Doucet got dinged for an illegal shift on the following play – bringing back Wells’ 20 yard catch. Without these, the Cardinals could have put up two touchdowns against a strong Packers defense. These mental errors need to get buttoned-up.
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Green Bay Packers – Three Things of Note
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● For the second straight pre-season game, it took turning to the no-huddle offense in order for the Packers to get into rhythm. On the first two drives, there were a few of Aaron Rodgers’ passes that looked a little off compared to what we’re used to seeing from him. There were also times where Ryan Grant’s decision making on how to use his blockers wasn’t spot on. However, on the third drive, Green Bay went with the no-huddle in a three-receiver set, and everything clicked. Their top receiver in this game was Donald Driver who made two catches on this drive and three in the game for 40 yards. Last year, Grant and Jermichael Finley were injured for most of the season, but both looked good on this drive with two solid runs by Grant, and a pair of catches for Finley. The drive ended with a big touchdown by Greg Jennings for his second preseason score.
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● While the talk about the Packers’ defense has been in regards to who will win the outside linebacker spot opposite Clay Matthews, there seemed to be more problems on the defensive line. Both Ryan Pickett and B.J. Raji were able to bring some inside pressure and contribute to run stops, but behind them it’s very thin. Projected starter Mike Neal missed the game due to an injury, and his replacement C.J. Wilson left with a concussion. This left the Packers with Howard Green and Jarius Wynn in their places. Neither was overly impressive last year, and they didn’t make a splash with the first team in this game either. The Packers will look to limit Pickett’s snaps, so this depth issue could soon grow into a legit concern.
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● The battle at left guard continued, this time with T.J. Lang getting the start. On the first drive there were four throws, and Lang didn’t allow any pressure on the first three. On the fourth, Darnell Dockett was being blocked by Wells before dipping around Lang’s man. Lang came off of his block and attempted to corral Dockett to no avail as a hit was registered on Rodgers. On drive No.2, we saw rookie Derek Sherrod. On his third play, he allowed blitzing corner Richard Marshall to get by him, but Rodgers took off to run while Sherrod recoverd. Later in the drive, Sherrod allowed Calais Campbell to swing past him for a quick sack. He would go on to log a couple of nice run blocks at the second level, but this game brought Lang closer to the starting lineup.
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A typical preseason game, it provided some reason to be optimistic and some reason to doubt. Things like the Cardinals’ penalties and some of Rodgers’ throws you’d expect to get cleaned up come regular season, but for today, at least we got to see some entertaining moments sprinkled in with Fitzgerald’s catch and Matt Flynn’s 97-yard touchdown pass.
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Follow Nathan on Twitter: @PFF_NateJahnke and check out our main Twitter feed too: @ProFootbalFocus
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