Rarely have the Packers been crushed so thoroughly on both sides of the ball as they were Thursday night in Seattle. The Seahawks, a team clearly not content to rest on its laurels following their 2013 title run, decimated Green Bay's offense and defense down the stretch, ultimately winning by over three times their Vegas spread.
It was a night that could have lasting effects on the Packers. Injuries to running back Eddie Lacy and right tackle Bryan Bulaga purport to keep both off the field for at least some amount of time. Even should their replacements perform better, Green Bay has already stressed the depth chart at this very early point in the season. Injuries tend to pile up, not dissipate.
Still, there was good developments that came out of the game.
Corey Linsley had a solid first start
For all the talk and prayers surrounding Corey Linsley, the Packers' rookie center performed admirably in his first NFL regular season start. Despite matching up with Seattle's Brandon Mebane for much of the night, Linsley was able to seal off the defensive tackle and open holes in the running game. Working as a double team with T.J. Lang, Linsley knocked over quite a few Seahawks, demonstrating that the NFL game isn't too big for him.
He wasn't without his faults, however, and a failure to snap the ball before the final seconds of the play clock cost the Packers a first-half time out and drew the ire of his quarterback. Yet that was the only major mishap for the rookie, who at a minimum should be able to hold the fort while JC Tretter mends. Green Bay's offense had many problems last night, but Linsley wasn't one of them.
Letroy Guion cannot be the answer at nose tackle
In the fourth and final preseason game, nose tackle Letroy Guion appeared far more attractive alternative to Josh Boyd, the defensive lineman who was repeatedly pushed off the ball by the Chiefs' second unit offensive line. Whatever optimism Guion built a week ago evaporated in the Seattle Thursday night.
Guion struggled in all phases of the game. On run plays, Seahawks center Max Unger often single handedly drove Guion back on innumerable occasions. Though he did manage to penetrate on a handful of passing plays, Guion seemingly was unable to complete the play, whiffing on a few tackles. Seattle quickly identified this as the weak point in the Packers defense and began running more and more through the A gap. 207 rushing yards later, the Seahawks emerged victorious.
The Packers coaching staff likes the potential of Josh Boyd and Mike Pennel at nose tackle, but trusting a second-year player and an undrafted rookie to seal up the largest hole in the defense is a big ask. The more reasonable scenario, though one that could still be a week or more away, is to bring back Ryan Pickett to anchor the middle of the defense. While at 34 Pickett can no longer withstand a full workload, he can provide badly needed gap filling that is essential to a successful 3-4 scheme.
Don Barclay's absence has been felt
From the moment Don Barclay's ACL snapped early August, it was evident that any injury to the Packers' offensive line would be devastating. Never the most talented or fundamental of Green Bay's blockers, Barclay provided two things the Packers lacked behind their starting unit - versatility and the trust of Aaron Rodgers. After entering the league as an undrafted free agent from West Virginia, Barclay developed into a capable player at right tackle and both guard spots. Losing him forced the Packers to play Derek Sherrod at each tackle position during training camp and the preseason, and the results were mixed.
Which is more than can be said for Sherrod's performance during Thursday's game. After Bryan Bulaga went down with what Mike McCarthy described as a non-serious knee sprain, the Packers 2011 first-round pick was tabbed to take his place. Early on, Sherrod held up reasonably well, keeping Michael Bennett away from the quarterback on most of his snaps. It wouldn't last, however, and Sherrod yielded multiple sacks, including one that led to a forced fumble and ultimately a safety.
CenturyLink Field is a difficult arena to thrust a backup into, but that doesn't excuse Sherrod's discouraging performance. He'll have to improve quickly, as it's difficult to envision Bulaga suiting up for next week's game against the Jets. Depending on how long Bulaga misses, the Packers may require additional support. Green Bay's 53 currently offers only guard Lane Taylor and center Garth Gerhart. While the Packers do have offensive tackle Jeremy Vujnovich on the practice squad, he is a first-year player out of Division III Louisiana College and may not be ready for NFL action. GM Ted Thompson may be forced to look outside the organization.