Packers vs. Cardinals - Upon Further Review: Grades from Preseason Opener

Jonathan Daniel

We take a look at the game tape from the Packers first preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals, and hand out grades at each position.

Friday night's game at Lambeau Field marked the first competitive football game the Packers have played against another team in almost seven months. While the 17-0 shutout at home to the Cardinals was nothing short of embarrassing, a few players were able to take advantage of their opportunities.

Let's take a look at how each position performed during the Packers first preseason game.

Quarterbacks: D+

Rodgers looked sharp in his only drive of the game, taking the offense 86 yards before turning the ball over on downs at the one-yard-line. Jermichael Finley dropped a potential touchdown catch, and James Jones was just a second late on a screen pass that could have also put the Packers on the board.

Harrell received the majority of the snaps, and struggled mightily from start to finish. His interception to Patrick Peterson in the first quarter may have been due to a miscommunication between himself and Jeremy Ross, but if you look at the game tape, Harrell had Starks running a wheel route on his left, and Tyrone Walker open in the right flats. Harrell instead forced the ball into triple coverage and Peterson made a play on the ball.

Harrell's fumble in the second quarter can be blamed solely on Marshall Newhouse, who was late getting his hands up on John Abraham. Abraham got the edge on Newhouse, and stripped the ball away from Harrell. Harrell did not take advantage of his opportunity on Friday, and looked indecisive on many of his throws. He finished 12 for 19 for 76 yards, one interception, and a 49.5 Passer Rating.

Vince Young may only know a handful of plays in the complex Packers playbook, but he looked more confident and decisive than Harrell or Coleman. Young picked up a first-down on third-and-seven late in the third quarter on a crossing pattern by Alex Gillett. Young then showed off his scrambling ability on the very next play; making a quick read, and then taking off for a seven-yard gain. Young finished 1 for 3 for seven yards, and two rushes for 12 yards. If Young can learn the playbook in a short amount of time, he could earn himself a back-up job.

B.J. Coleman didn't improve his standing very much with his two series on Friday. In his first pass attempt, Coleman took too long in his progressions, and was late getting the ball out. The coaches want Coleman to play faster, and get the ball out quicker, and he did not do that on Friday.

Running Backs: B-

James Starks received the majority of the carries, and had flashes of his 2010 form, but also missed a few cut-back lanes that could have turned 1-yard gains into 10 yard gains. He does look like he is in better shape, but his vision on Friday was average. He finished with 12 carries for 38 yards.

Johnathan Franklin looked shifty when he got his chance in the second quarter, but was running behind a make-shift second string offensive line. He took a screen pass in the second quarter for 10 yards, and had six carries for 14 yards.

Alex Green had seven carries in the second half for 16 yards. It seems like Green only gets carries out of the shotgun formation, which could be a reason for his lack of production. Personally, I'd like to see Green take some screen passes and toss sweeps instead of the usual delay draws and off-tackle hand-offs.

Wide Receivers: B+

With Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson out, Tyrone Walker, Jeremy Ross, and Jarrett Boykin all took advantage of their opportunities and each made some nice plays. Walker finished with five receptions for 41 yards, and showed some elusiveness in the open field. Ross made a few people miss on a pair of kick returns, and looks to be the leading candidate to replace Randall Cobb on special teams. Alex Gillett also made a few nice catches, and showed good route running ability with the second-string unit.

Tight Ends: C-

The only thing keeping the tight end group from being in the D range was Matthew Mulligan's blocking. The newly acquired tight end from St. Louis was solid in the run game, and appears to be the best blocker in the group. After making a diving catch on the second drive of the game, D.J. Williams recorded two drops. Jermichael Finley had a seven-yard reception, but then dropped a touchdown pass later that drive. Brandon Bostick was below average in blocking, and didn't create much separation in the passing game.

Offensive Line: B

David Bakhtiari was above-average in his first debut performance at Left Tackle. Bakhtiari continuously knocked his defender off the ball, and showed good agility, hand movement, and foot work in pass blocking. Marshall Newhouse had a lapse in the second quarter against John Abraham that created a sack-fumble on Graham Harrell, but otherwise looked solid at Right Tackle. The first-string interior linemen performed well, but the back-ups were less than impressive. Don Barclay didn't look terrible at either Right Tackle or Right Guard, but he didn't improve on his standing at those positions either. The lack of production in the run game was discouraging, but the pass protection was solid, and gives the offensive line a slightly above-average grade.

Defensive Line: C-

The defensive line didn't produce much of a pass rush, and besides a few nice plays against the run by Johnny Jolly, Josh Boyd, and C.J. Wilson, the group was fairly quiet on the night. Datone Jones appeared in exactly one play before tweaking his ankle. Jones made a nice swim move to get past his man on the play, but appeared to trip over another offensive lineman before getting to the quarterback. The Cardinals seemed determined to test the Packers secondary, and used mostly quick drop-back passes, but the lack of even QB pressures leaves a lot to be desired.

Linebackers: B-

Clay Matthews is still Clay Matthews, and Nick Perry made a nice play on a screen pass to Larry Fitzgerald in the first quarter. Brad Jones made a nice play to stuff the run on the opening drive. Robert Francois had a beautiful jump on the ball in the second quarter, but completely whiffed on the tackle. He later recorded a sack, and added two more tackles in the game. Sam Barrington and Andy Mulumba recorded good performances, recording four and three tackles, respectively. The back-ups didn't make any plays in pass coverage, and there weren't many pressures off the edge, so the unit gets an average grade.

Cornerbacks: F

Devon House and Micah Hyde probably want this one back. House got beat on double-moves on multiple occasions, and Micah Hyde was late locating the ball in the air in pass coverage, despite making a few nice open field tackles. On the second Cardinals drive of the game, Sam Shields gave Larry Fitzgerald a 10-yard cushion (that drives me crazy), and Fitzgerald quickly took advantage, got Shields turned around, and ran a quick out route for an 18-yard gain. That will happen against one of the league's best wideouts, but that was another play that was burned into my memory from the game. James Nixon made a few nice plays in pass coverage, but also got beat for a few first downs as well. After rave reviews from the family night scrimmage, it appears this unit took a huge step back on Friday.

Safeties: B

Jerron McMillian made the most noticeable play from the safety position on the Cardinals opening drive, breaking up a potential big play to Andre Roberts from Carson Palmer. McMillian and M.D. Jennings both recorded one tackle in the game, and didn't create much separation in their battle for the starting safety spot. Chris Banjo was an unsung hero, leading the team with five tackles.

Kickers: N/A

Mason Crosby had a nice kickoff to open the game, but neither kicker had a chance to prove themselves with a live field goal attempt. This battle is Crosby's to lose, and without a chance to prove himself, "Sergio" Tavecchio doesn't get any closer to winning that job.

Punter: A-

Tim Masthay had more practice than anyone wanted to see, wielding off 8 punts for an average of 41.3 yards per punt. Despite a pair of below-average punts in the second half, Masthay performed well, downing two punts inside the Cardinals 20 yard-line.

Final Verdict

It may have only been a preseason game, but getting shutout at home by the Arizona Cardinals is unacceptable. It's clear that the back-up quarterback job is up for grabs, and with the recent struggles of Harrell and Coleman, it may be Vince Young's job to lose at this point. Tyrone Walker may be playing himself into the 53-man roster with his ability as a slot receiver, and David Bakhtiari appears to have the left tackle job all but locked up.

The defensive line, and the cornerbacks both underachieved on Friday. The two performances can be directly correlated to a lack of pass rush, and a lack of experience in the backfield. Hopefully Datone Jones' injury isn't serious, and he can find his way back on the field for next Saturday's match-up with the St. Louis Rams.

Coach McCarthy and staff have plenty of things to work on after reviewing this game film. Let's hope for a better showing next week.

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