Green Bay Packers fans who watched Thursday’s preseason game saw a tired and all-too-common occurrence when the first-team offense took the field. Quarterbacks Brett Hundley and DeShone Kizer were under frequent pressure in the early stages of the game, particularly while Kyle Murphy and Byron Bell lined up at the offensive tackle positions.
Hundley was sacked once, stripped of the football by rookie Harold Landry who had beaten Murphy around the edge. Pass-rusher Gemil President probably should have been credited with a second sack after throwing Bell around and hitting Hundley on his front side, but the ball flew in the air and was picked off. Kizer was then sacked twice on the first drive of the third quarter.
However, the Packers got a huge boost to their pass protection on Sunday: left tackle David Bakhtiari returned to practice following the sprained ankle he suffered eight days prior at Family Night.
Murphy and Bell’s performances on Thursday night underscored the need for the Packers to stay healthy at the tackle position. Head coach Mike McCarthy still has not sufficiently explained the decision to start Bell over Jason Spriggs — even Spriggs doesn’t seem to know why that happened — but it’s clear that the team needs Bryan Bulaga back as quickly as possible. Thankfully, Bakhtiari’s return to work makes it all but a sure thing that this ankle issue will not keep him out into the regular season.
Joining Bakhtiari on the field for Sunday’s practice was rookie first-round pick Jaire Alexander, who missed last week’s practices with a groin injury. Alexander also sat out the preseason opener, which allowed the Packers to see a lot of fellow rookie Josh Jackson (mostly good), veteran Quinten Rollins (almost exclusively bad) and a group of other cornerbacks fighting for spots on the roster.
However, if Alexander remains healthy enough to practice through the week, that should put him on the field for the first time in the upcoming preseason contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday. In that case, Alexander would likely receive a workload similar to Jackson’s last week (around 35 snaps) and he’ll probably see snaps both on the boundary and in the slot.
All in all, Sunday’s practice was full of good news for Packers fans, and hopefully Monday will be a similar source of optimism.