ReFo: Packers @ Rams, Preseason Week 2
Week two of preseason gave both sets of fans a chance to see their starting quarterbacks in action. It was a good day for each of them too, with offenses generally winning the day while the starters on the field. Both units will have been pleased to score touchdown in the 20 odd plays they were afforded.
Despite the positives this wasn’t a great day for Jeff Fisher’s defence. With the preseason caveat applied, their front seven looked particularly vulnerable to the run in significant contrast to last season. Extended action for Aaron Donald and Ray Ray Armstrong will have left Rams fans hoping for the rapid return of James Laurinaitis and Michael Brockers. The secondary didn’t look much better with rookie Lamarcus Joyner looking like he needs more time to transition. In contrast to the seven defensive starts ending up with red-graded games for the Rams, the Packers had just one in Sam Shields. The linebackers in particular had good games, combining for a combined grade of +5.2.
Let’s take a look at some individual performances.
Green Bay – Three Performances of Note
Nelson’s Admirer Surely Impressed
At one stage of the GB @ STL broadcast, the announcers cut to someone holding a sign saying they had left their husband to see Jordy Nelson. Ultimately they got their wish, if not in the way they were expecting. Nelson (+1.9) failed to catch a single pass in his 24 snaps (at least one that counted), but still made a significant contribution. While Rodgers threw him a touchdown nullified by penalty, it was his input as a blocker that stood out. In the run game he made a mockery of the concept of taking it easy in preseason, throwing an absolutely nasty block on their first offensive play. His field intelligence is also exceptional, transitioning from receiver to blocker seamlessly against the blitz enabling a teammate to pick up extra yardage. Nelson is the kind of player you can rely on to do whatever job he’s asked excellently well.
Packers’ fans will be pleased with the performance of new starter JC Tretter (+1.2). This is the second week in a row he’s put up a positive grade and there were no apparent communication issues with Rodgers. Overall the 2013 fourth-round pick out of Cornell made a couple of plays in the run game and only had a single lapse in his performance in pass protection. That lapse consisted in a pressure conceded where Tretter failed to recognize a stunt quickly enough and was bull rushed into the pocket (Q1, 0.28). In the run game the positives came on defensive lineman in particular, where he was able to consistently seal tackles on inside runs. In contrast, he looked less comfortable on the move when trying to get to the second level. All things considered this wasn’t a bad start for a sophomore out of a small school but harder tests are to come.
Is the Defensive Line Good Enough?
While one can feel fairly confident Mike Daniels (+1.8) will provide constant pressure there seems a real lack of depth on the Packers’ line. It would require a miraculous turnaround from BJ Raji and significant improvement from Datone Jones to be totally happy with the starting group and behind them there really doesn’t seem like much else. Overall, the group graded at -5.6 with only Daniels grading positively. Aside from his three hurries, the group had just a solitary clean-up sack and three stops in the run game. Will the Packers rue the lack of quality in their defensive line come those cold weather games around Christmas?
St Louis – Three Performances of Note
Better from Bradford
Could this be the year Sam Bradford (+2.0) finally steps into that “top quarterback” group? He may well find it has to be, or he won’t be guaranteed the spot next year. The good news is he looked more aggressive downfield and had the accuracy to go with the intent. A beautiful throw to his receiver in stride on a post route (Q2, 12.36) was encouraging, as was the touchdown toss on the same series between two levels in a place only his teammate could get it (Q2, 8:07). He also seemed calmer under pressure, completing three of five rushed attempts for 50 yards. It was only 20 snaps but progress appears to have been made.
Rookie Woe for Robinson
Greg Robinson (-3.6) had something of a rude awakening in this one. Starting this game at left tackle he couldn’t handle Julius Peppers’ experience, giving up a hit to the former Bear (Q2, 11.18). Other than that he also gave up a hurry in his 18 pass- blocking snaps (-0.9). His issues in the run game were more significant, however, with a lowlight coming in the second quarter (9:06) where he showed poor technique to allow a tackle for loss. That play was subsequently followed by a holding call at the second level which detracted from his grade further and the former Auburn star will be disappointed he didn’t get into better position against the safety (Q2, 3:26). Overall, his struggles culminated in a -2.8 grade.
Linebackers Still A Concern
With Laurinaitis’ injury, Jeff Fisher has to be concerned about the state of his linebackers. Alec Ogletree (-1.2) still looks light weight against the run, struggling with guards at the second level in particular. JoLonn Dunbar (-0.5) doesn’t fill you with a huge amount of confidence, either, while Armstrong (-3.3) proved a disaster. The former hurricane actually improved on his Week 1 showing (-4.5) but was still pushed around easily in the run game and also graded negatively in coverage and as a pass rusher. The trio of backups don’t seem like they could step in if needed, with only Lawrence Wilson recording a positive grade.
– The Packers finished with a +7.7 run blocking grade.
– In 25 rushes, the Rams’ starting defensive end of Robert Quinn and Chris Long picked up just the solitary hurry
– Ethan Westbrooks and Michael Sam each picked up a sack, hit and hurry
PFF Game Ball
As it’s the preseason, I feel like I’m allowed to pick the punter so congratulations Johnny Hekker (+3.8).
Follow John on Twitter @PFF_John