The first preseason game of the year tends to lead NFL fans into their most drastic set of overreactions of any time on the league calendar. After taking seven months off, fans and writers alike often will draw conclusions about players or teams based on just a few snaps, when there are still three weeks left in training camp.
As such, I will try to identify a few big reactions that I have seen or that I thought myself after the game, and I will try to give you the readers reasons for patience before jumping to conclusions after one ugly, rainy game between the Green Bay Packers and Tennessee Titans.
JULIUS PEPPERS IS OLD, WORN-OUT, AND OVER THE HILL!
Slow your roll. Yes, Peppers looked lackluster in his Packers debut, but there are plenty of possible explanations for this. Lets go through them one by one:
- He was in his first game as a 3-4 outside linebacker and is adjusting to seeing the game from a two-point stance
- He only played 10 snaps, which is far too small a sample size to judge a player's competency
- It was wet and gross outside, and it was the preseason, so he may have been deliberately playing slow to avoid injury - furthermore, it's not crazy to think that the coaching staff specifically told him to do so, especially when you factor in the fact that they held Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, and Eddie Lacy out of the game entirely.
Did Peppers look impressive? No. Did he get too far upfield and lose some of his gap responsibility on Shonn Greene's touchdown? Yes. But now is not the time for panic - there are too many reasonable explanations for an unimpressive performance out of a veteran who received very brief playing time.
RAJION NEAL IS THE SECOND COMING OF EDDIE LACY AND DUJUAN HARRIS IS A BUM!
Yes, Neal had some very nice runs, including a 12-yard score in which he showed good speed to get to the edge and some nice trucking ability to power his way into the end zone. Yes, Harris struggled a bit to get anything substantial going on the ground, as his 7-carry, 18-yard stat line indicated.
However, the Packers' backup offensive line largely seemed to struggle in front of Harris. Harris was frequently dealing with Titans defenders penetrating into the backfield, preventing him from hitting the line of scrimmage with any sort of authority. His best run of the day - a 19-yard scamper through the middle and up the left sideline - was wiped out by a holding penalty on Brandon Bostick. An 8-carry, 37-yard day would look a lot better in contrast.
As for Neal, he definitely looked good, but the knee injury he suffered in the second half is concerning, especially since as of the time this article was written, we know little to nothing about the extent of that injury. Hopefully it is minor, but it leaves a big question mark over his status until we know more. Let's wait another week or two before anointing Neal the third running back.
SCOTT TOLZIEN JUST WON THE BACKUP QB BATTLE!
To my eyes, Tolzien looked like a far better quarterback on Saturday, and Pro Football Focus agreed with me. In fact, they gave Flynn a -3.8 rating overall for his 31 snaps, compared to +2.3 for Tolzien on 23 plays (he could have been 11-for-12 if not for three dropped passes). However, don't ignore the fact that Tolzien's stronger arm probably gave him an advantage in the bad weather and that Flynn was the better quarterback in the first couple weeks of practice according to most beat writers. With three more games to go, this battle is likely to go back and forth - at the very least, let's see what Flynn does in the air conditioning in St. Louis before writing him off.
JARRETT BUSH IS IMMORTAL AND WILL REMAIN A PACKER UNTIL THE END OF TIME!
Well...I actually can't argue with this one. Bush had one of the best performances by a Packers defender in the game, leading the team in tackles with 8 and recording a sack. He allowed completions on both passes into his coverage, but those two plays went for a grand total of 7 yards, and he recorded a tackle for loss on one of them. If he continues to have performances like that on defense and can be a plus player on special teams (he was graded with a +0.5 by Pro Football Focus on ST), he'll always have a home on the Packers' roster, regardless of the opinion some fans may hold of him.
Thanks for your patience - overreaction is part of the nature of fandom, but hopefully this will help you relax a bit until Saturday in St. Louis.