The biggest news following the Packers 31-21 win over the Oakland Raiders on Friday is that nose tackle B.J. Raji will be out for the season after he was diagnosed with a torn right bicep. The team will now rely on Josh Boyd, rookie Kyhri Thornton, veteran Letroy Guion, and probably undrafted rookie Mike Pennel to fill the gap left by Raji.
In what is usually deemed the "dress rehearsal" before the regular season, the Packers trotted out the first-string offense for six series, and put 22 points on the scoreboard. Other than a 40-yard touchdown scamper by Maurice Jones-Drew, the defense held their own against Matt Schaub and the Raiders offense.
The team appears to be ready for the regular season, and now it awaits the final preseason game on the schedule to help sort out who makes the 53-man roster, who gets a practice squad invite, and who gets the pink slip.
To the Grades!
Aaron Rodgers played six series and finished 9 of 20 for 139 yards and two touchdowns. Rodgers wasn't quite as sharp as his week 2 performance, but a couple of key drops by Randall Cobb and spotty pass protection appeared to throw him off his rhythm at times.
Matt Flynn repped as the No. 2 quarterback, and didn't exactly instill a lot of confidence in the coaching staff or fan base. Flynn finished 4 of 10 for 35 yards and a head-scratching interception on a screen pass. Scott Tolzien looked much sharper, finishing eight of 11 for 107 yards and one touchdown.
I believe Tolzien will start next week's game against the Chiefs, and how he performs may be the deciding factor in who earns the No. 2 spot on the depth chart. Personally, I think Tolzien's ceiling is much higher than Flynn's, but if last season taught us anything, it's that you can't put a price on an experienced back-up quarterback.
Running Backs: A
Eddie Lacy only had one drive of work, but didn't disappoint. Lacy finished with 36 yards on six carries and one touchdown. The MVP of the game might have been DuJuan Harris, who finished with 56 yards on 12 carries and led the team in receiving with 42 yards on two receptions. Harris may have found himself a job as a kick returner, as he opened the game with a 34-yard return. Harris' only negatives were a pair of false-start penalties.
James Starks added nine yards on seven carries, LaDarius Perkins had five yards on six carries, and Michael Hill had four yards on four carries.
It's going to be interesting who gets the lion's share of reps at the No. 2 running back position during the regular season. Heading into the preseason, it appeared that Starks had the job locked up, but his carries and performance have declined since week 1. Harris seems to be a better "change of pace" back than Starks, but both will likely get playing time through the season.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: B
One observation that jumped out to me while watching the game on Friday is that the wide receivers were not able to create much separation against the Raiders secondary. Nelson and Cobb were targeted a combined seven times and only Nelson was able to get on the board with two receptions for 19 yards and a score.
The bright side of the issue is that rookie tight end Richard Rodgers was able to make his presence known, grabbing two passes for 40 yards, including a 32-yard long catch-and-run across the middle of the defense. His progression and reps with the first-string offense shouldn't go unnoticed. I believe he will eventually unseat Quarless as the No. 1 tight end (if he hasn't already), as Rodgers gives the offense a better pass-catching option than Quarless.
Also improving their stock was Alex Gillett, who caught two passes for 23 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown from Scott Tolzien. Myles White also looked impressive on his 19-yard reception, while Chris Harper added 2 receptions for 33 yards.
Offensive Line: C
The offensive line wasn't nearly as sharp in pass protection as last week, allowing veteran linebacker LaMarr Woodley to get a free shot on Rodgers when he came in on a stunt between Josh Sitton and David Bakhtiari. Bakhtiari was called for a pretty bad holding penalty as well. It's nothing to press the panic button on, but the unit will have to clean that up in time for the week 1 match-up with Seattle.
It's worth noting that Derek Sherrod bounced back well from his awful performance against the Rams, at least in the pass-blocking department.
Defensive Line: B
Other than the 40-yard touchdown run by Maurice Jones-Drew, the defensive line held their own against the Raiders' two-headed monster of MJD and Darren McFadden. Oakland finished with 77 total yards rushing on 17 carries (4.5 per carry).
Josh Boyd, who will likely step in as the starting nose tackle after the loss of B.J. Raji for the season, led the unit with two tackles, while rookie Khyri Thornton also added a pair tackles.
Can we stop worrying about Julius Peppers now? The 13-year veteran recorded three tackles, including a sack, in limited duty. He showed explosiveness off the ball, took good angles, and got to the quarterback. If Peppers plays like that and Clay Matthews can get back to 100% health, this defense may have its best outside linebacker duo in the Dom Capers' era.
Jayrone Elliott likely locked up a roster spot with another solid performance on Friday, recording two tackles, including one sack, and knocking down a pass behind the line of scrimmage. Nick Perry also improved his stock with a strip-sack on Matt Schaub in the second quarter. Perry may be a one-trick pony in terms of pass-rush moves, but when he gets leverage on a blitz, he usually wins.
Davon House may not start over the likes of Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, or Casey Hayward, but he has more than proven that he can be plus-player for this secondary. His aggressive bump-and-run style coverage may get him in trouble, but he shows great instincts when the ball is in the air. House finished with five tackles and three pass break-ups, while rookie Jumal Rolle added five tackles as well.
Micah Hyde and Sean Richardson each added three tackles. I wouldn't be surprised if rookie Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Sean Richardson were the starting safeties by mid-season. Morgan Burnett continues to miss tackles and assignments. This was never more evident than during Maurice Jones-Drew's touchdown run in which Burnett, A.J. Hawk, and Micah Hyde all whiffed on bringing down the veteran tailback. I'm always a fan of taking the unproven player with a high ceiling over a veteran who can't seem to win the job, but starting your first game at Seattle is less than ideal. Regardless, Burnett's job isn't written in ink just yet.
Mason Crosby was one of two on the night, connecting from 41-yards out and missing from 53.
The Ginger Wolverine punted six times for an average of 42.8 yards and a long of 48.
The team advances from its dress rehearsal to host the Kansas City Chiefs on at 7 p.m. (EST) Thursday night in what will likely be the Back-up Bowl.