Packers 19, Rams 7: Game Balls and Lame Calls
B.J. Coleman to Jake Stoneburner.Â Â If you had that as the first Green Bay Packers touchdown of the 2013 season, congratulations on your new found wealth.
For the other 99.999% of Packer Nation, they were just happy to see Green Bay get its first win of the preseason in a 19-7 victory over the St. Louis Rams in St. Louis.Â The starting units saw action into the second quarter in preparation for Fridayâ€™s â€œdress rehearsalâ€ against the Seattle Seahawks, and improvement was visible from last weekâ€™s loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
Aaron Rodgers was his usual accurate self, finishing 10 for 12 with 134 yards.Â The backup quarterbacks improved but still left a lot of room to grow. Defensively, the loathed â€œsoft zoneâ€ reared its ugly head again as the Packers gave up chunks of yards but didnâ€™t allow any points until late in the fourth quarter. The â€œbend but donâ€™t breakâ€ defense Green Bay has become known for under Dom Capers seems to still be the name of the game.
As for those who stood out, and those who need to stand down, here is the 2013 premiere of â€œGame Balls and Lame Calls.â€
RB Eddie Lacy
People were closer than they thought when they accused Lacy of being â€œfatâ€ after an unflattering picture of him emerged from an early training camp practice.
Turns out he wasnâ€™t â€œfatâ€ but rather â€œphat.â€
The long drought of the Packers not having a powerful and bruising running back seems to finally be over.Â Lacy just refuses to go down on first contact. He finished the night with 40 yards on five carries and gained another 11 yards on a swing pass.Â His power and spin moves dazzled many Packers fans and have put Lacy at the forefront to be the Packersâ€™ starting running back.
DL Johnny Jolly
So much for Jolly being out of football shape while he was suspended.
Jolly showed what type of player he can be and still is as he made tackles at the line of scrimmage, batted a ball that led to a Jarrett Bush interception and even made an interception Â of his own (with a spin move!).
After his interception of a tipped pass, in perhaps the most touching image from a Packers preseason game in years, Jolly was greeted on the sideline by a mob of his teammates and coaches with Rodgers at the forefront.Â (Some leadership skills, right?)
Itâ€™s clear Jolly has the backing of the entire locker room.Â After his battle with drug addiction landed him in prison and away from football for years, Jolly had the potential to be on the most heartwarming stories of the 2013 season.
Thanks to his performance against the Rams, that story should continue into the regular season.
CB Micah Hyde
No Casey Hayward? No problem.
Hyde continued his impressive training camp against the Rams while playing almost the entire game. Lined up in the slot, he was up against speedy rookie wide receiver Tavon Austin and more than held his own.Â He did give up a big play, but he recovered quickly from it which is a promising sign from a rookie.
With Hayward still out, Hyde is making the most his opportunities.Â Heâ€™s displayed play making ability and once Hayward returns, the Packers will have the luxury of having another cornerback to put in nickel and dime packages.
K Giorgio Tavecchio
The kicking competition seems to be leaning towards incumbent Mason Crosby as he made his field goals while Tavecchio missed a 49 yard field goal.
Tavecchio fought the good fight in camp, but his miss in a controlled environment does not bode well for his chances to make the Packers roster.Â Crosby could still go cold, but Tavecchio is facing an uphill battle at this point.
In a battle it seemed like no one wanted to win, Crosby has pulled out ahead much to the chagrin of many Packers fans.
GM Ted Thompson could still bring in another veteran, but that doesnâ€™t seem likely with the preseason at the halfway point.
RB James Starks
After Green Bay drafted both Lacy and Johnathan Franklin to help shore up the running game, the writing appeared to be on the wall for Starks.
Once called â€œNeoâ€ by fans after his performance in 2010, Starks has done little if anything on the field since.Â With the arrival of Lacy and Franklin as well as last seasonâ€™s emergence of DuJuan Harris, Starks entered camp facing a major battle for a roster spot.
After a solid camp and decent outing in the game against the Cardinals, Starks was his old self (not the 2010 version) against the Rams. He was indecisive and ineffective and at this point has to be considered a long shot to make the team.
Itâ€™s preseason so itâ€™s not too much of a problem at this point in time, but the starting offense again had trouble finishing drives.
For an offense that prides itself on being near perfect in the red zone, this is highly out of character.Â The starting unit will see its biggest chunk of playing time of the preseason against the Seahawks on Friday and with Seattleâ€™s tough defense, this is a golden opportunity for the Packers to make an emphatic statement on offense.
With a kicking situation that is far from ideal, Green Bay has got to get the ball in the end zone early and often.Â Until Crosby (or perhaps even still Tavecchio) proves himself, the Packers need to build early leads.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