For most teams, the third preseason game is the final dress rehearsal for the regular season. Starters play until halftime and sometimes longer, coordinators show a few more wrinkles in their play calling, and players on the fringe of the roster make their final pitches to remain on the roster.
But the Packers aren't most teams.
Aaron Rodgers lasted only one drive Friday night as Mike McCarthy smartly decided that there was little to gain by further exposing his starting quarterback. The rest of the number ones stayed in the game to give the coaching staff an extended look at the backup quarterbacks. Overall, it was a mixed bag.
In case you've somehow forgotten, the Seahawks were the Packers opponent in the infamous "Fail Mary" game. The fans at Lambeau haven't, as evidenced by the wave of boos that poured in following every appearance of Seattle wide receiver Golden Tate. Likewise, both teams were chippy throughout the game, and it affected the composure of several players.
As in the previous two preseason games, the starting offense looked potent yet failed to punch the ball in the end zone. In his only series, Rodgers drove the Packers down the field for a field goal. While his passing numbers won't stand out (4-7 for 41 yards), Rodgers looks ready for the regular season.
Rookie left tackle David Bakhtiari had a mixed performance. While the holding penalty he was called for on the Packers' second drive was questionable, the refs let him get away with one a drive earlier. Those plays aside, Bakhtiari's pass protection was once again solid, a fortunate sign for the Packers.
Tonight's game saw the return of DuJuan Harris, who opened as the team's starting back. Harris had little room to run, as the offensive line struggled all night to open holes and establish the ground game. After a short catch and run on Green Bay's second drive, Harris suffered an apparent leg injury and never returned. According to sideline reports, he re-aggravated the knee injury that kept him out of training camp until last week.
Nick Perry made his first splash play of the preseason by tipping a Russell Wilson pass to Casey Hayward for an interception. Perry provided consistent pressure while on the field, a positive sign for the Packers' pass rush heading into the season. His partner in crime, Clay Matthews, also had an impressive showing. Matthews badly beat running back Robert Turbin for a 12 yard sack on Seattle's opening drive. For all the flaws Dom Capers defense may have, an effective pass rush doesn't appear to be one of them.
Despite receiving his first extended playing time with the starting offense since last season, Graham Harrell irrefutably failed the audition. Not only did he finish the game six for 13 for 49 yards, but he threw several ill-advised passes that were either batted down by a lineman or deflected by the defensive back. After three years in the system, the Packers can no longer justify Harrell's continued employment.
The backup quarterback situation wasn't all gloom and doom, though. Vince Young cobbled together a pair of long scrambles and some short passing, ultimately culminating in the Packers' only touchdown. Young still lags behind the other passers in terms of understanding the offense. Yet the fact remains that after only two and a half weeks, Young's performance has exceeded that of Harrell and B.J. Coleman.
Jerron McMillian, technically a backup tonight as M.D. Jennings was given the start, intercepted his first pass of the preseason. While it was his only splash play, McMillian performed steadily in both coverage and run support. The Packers aren't going to decide the starting safety until the regular season, but with a game like this McMillian might have crept into the lead.
We haven't heard much of Loyce Means this preseason. He's been stuck behind Davon House, Micah Hyde, Brandon Smith, and James Nixon, but Friday he stood out for all the wrong reasons. On consecutive plays, Means drew penalties that effectively ended the first half. Later in the game, Means drew yet another penalty for a Seattle first down. With the cutdown to 75 coming this Tuesday, it's safe to say Means' tenure in Green Bay is over.
B.J. Coleman's performance had more in common with his first preseason game than his second. He attempted almost as many passes as he had yards. While part of that falls on the receivers, it's probably time to wonder if Coleman still has a place on the practice squad waiting for him.
Jake Stoneburner probably didn't have much of a chance to make the Packers' 53 this year, but he occasionally looked like an NFL player who at least deserved a spot on the practice squad. That may still happen, but his fumble near the end of the fourth quarter is going to linger in the minds of the coaching staff and front office. While he's had as many successes as failures in the preseason, there are other talented tight ends (Brandon Bostick) who could be stashed on the practice squad this season.
Offense: Vince Young
Despite his inexperience in the Packers' offense, Young looked capable of keeping the Packers in a game or two if Rodgers were to go down for a short period. His mobility is still intact, and he'll usually make the right short to medium passes.
Defense: Nick Perry
While Nick Perry has been steady through training camp and the first two preseason games, he demonstrated a heightened level of play Saturday. He'll never equal Clay Matthews, but if he continues to bring pressure from the left side, it's going to be harder and harder for opposing teams to key on just one player.
Special Teams: Tim Masthay
Masthay punted three times at the end of the first half and each one was a beauty. So too was his takedown of Golden Tate.
Jason Hirschhorn covers the Green Bay Packers for Acme Packing Co. He has previously written for Lombardi Ave, College Hoops Net, LiveBall Sports, and the List Universe. He is also currently a senior writer for Beats Per Minute, an indie-music webzine. Follow him on Twitter: @JBHirschhorn