Game Balls and Lame Calls: Chargers 21, Packers 13
First things first: the sky is NOT falling.
Despite losing 21-13 last night to the San Diego Chargers in their exhibition opener, the Green Bay Packers are not doomed.Â Some fans have a tendency to put way too much stock in the first preseason game.
Still there was some good, some not-so-good and some downright awful things to take from the defeat.
Hereâ€™s a look at some of the good and the bad.
A nonsense excessive celebration penalty notwithstanding, Perry made a great first impression right out of the blocks with a sack on Philip Rivers.Â As the game went on, Perry showed flashes of ability in the pass rush that the Packers hoped he had when they selected him the first round of the draft.
In the words of Mike McCarthy, itâ€™s definitely an experience Perry can grow from. While itâ€™s silly to draw conclusions from one preseason game, Perry has gotten off to a solid start in his rookie season.
What else is there to say? The man made plays.Â House showed hustle and playmaking ability in breaking up multiple passes.Â Wherever the ball was, #31 seemed to be close by.Â He definitely outperformed Jarrett Bush, who basically was named the starter for the game by default.
Secondary depth was a big concern for the Packers going into training camp.Â House injured his shoulder during the game, and if heâ€™s out for any extended period of time the Packers may be in trouble.Â Jarrett Bush looked sloppy and House probably would get the start ahead of him should the season start tomorrow.Â Hereâ€™s hoping House is back in the house very soon.
Speaking of Williams, he flashed some of his 2010 form in his limited playing time against the Chargers.Â Again, we shouldnâ€™t draw too many conclusions from a single preseason game but when Williams jumped the route to intercept Philip Rivers, it looked like Williams was back in top form after a shoulder injury nagged him for most of 2011.
If Williams returns to form, that is only going to help the Packersâ€™ secondary as Charles Woodson moves to safety and with an unproven (yet promising) House next to him (assuming his shoulder injury is not severe)
Cobb finished with four catches for 58 yards and a touchdown.Â More importantly, he acted as a sort of security blanket for Graham Harrell as the new backup quarterback tried to recover from a poor start.Â With the Packers stacked at the wide receiver position, Cobb may have trouble finding playing time with the starting offense but if he keeps performing like he did last night, McCarthy may have no choice but to insert Cobb into some plays with the number ones.Â Heâ€™s too talented not to be.
Masthay recently signed a contract extension with Packers and if last nightâ€™s performance is any indication, then heâ€™s worth every penny.Â With the Packers offense struggling to move the ball, Masthay got a workout.Â Despite poor field position, he constantly kept the Chargers starting from their own 20 or even further back.Â Â This in turn took pressure off a defense that was trying to gel with many new faces in the lineup.
The good news is that the tackling has improved.Â The bad (and arguably worse) news is that the coverage has not. With Houseâ€™s aggressiveness and Williamsâ€™ interception being the lone bright spots, the rest of the defense looked loss in pass coverage.Â M.D. Jennings was burned, Bush looked like Bush and Casey Hayward looked like a rookie by not even turning his head on a long floating pass.
Yes, the Chargers have one of the best passing offenses in the NFL but when you make Jarrett Lee look like Rivers you have a problem.Â The defense needs to get back to its ball hawking ways if they hope to improve on their dead last defensive ranking from a year ago.
In 2010, Starks was nicknamed â€œNeoâ€ by the fans whom if you have seen the Matrix films is known as â€œThe One.â€Â Many fans considered Starks â€œthe oneâ€ to cure the woes of a running game that was ailing without Ryan Grant and had a struggling Brandon Jackson as starter.
After a poor 2011, Starks was beginning to lose the faith of fans and the faith is probably still being lost after Starksâ€™ poor performance against the Chargers. Â On the Packersâ€™ first possession pinned against their own goaline, Rodgers tossed a pass to Starks that would have helped the Packers get out of their own end zone and Starks dropped it.Â One fumble and only 16 yards on five carries later, and I (as well as many others Iâ€™m sure) wished Brandon Saine was healthy so we could see what he can do.
The Packers need a better running game and it is beginning to look like Starks isnâ€™t the answer.
Many a cheesehead cringed at the thought of Taylor protecting the blind side of the reigning league MVP with Marshall Newhouse sidelined, and those thoughts quickly became a sad reality.Â The last pass Rodgers through was an interception after he got decked by Melvin Ingram and the rest of the night didnâ€™t get any better for Taylor.
While right now it would be too cruel to compare Taylor to Allen Barbre, itâ€™s at least within reach.Â Depth at the left tackle position was an issue heading into training camp and it definitely was exposed last night.
Everyone expects some rust in the first preseason game, but itâ€™s unlikely someone expected quite the turnover epidemic the Packers (and to be fair the Chargers too) had on display last night.Â Four turnovers are inexcusable, especially for a team that went 15-1 last season.Â Â Three fumbles by Rodgers, Starks and Diondre Borel and the interception by Rodgers arguably proved the difference between a win and a loss.Â Yes it was a meaningless preseason game but dismissing such a performance would be foolish by the Packers
The Packers forced three turnovers but when you still finish minus 1 in turnover ratio, itsâ€™ not a good sign.
To be fair I am not singling out the crew working the Packers/Chargers game. The crew at the game in Canton messed up the coin toss.
Bottom line is the NFL needs to act and get their regular officiating crews back on the field ASAP.Â Itâ€™s painfully obvious if the replacements are allowed to work into the regular season that more than half of the 32 head coaches may fall over from a heart attack out of sheer anger. I canâ€™t say that I blame them.
The call on Perryâ€™s â€œcelebrationâ€ after his sack was a joke and the crew took way too much time debating what penalty to call after the flag was thrown.
Fix this, Mr. Goodell. Now.â€”â€”â€”â€”â€”â€”
Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke