The Green Bay Packers opened up their 2013 exhibition schedule with a 17-0 loss to the Arizona Cardinals Friday night at Lambeau Field.
Here are some quick-hit observations from the preseason opener:
Bakhtiari Shines: The rookie left tackle handled himself just fine in his first live setting as the blindside starter. In fact, the Packers rarely needed to give him help, including on the first series with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback.
On a third-and-2 play that saw Rodgers hit James Jones for 50 yards, Bakhtiari kept his side clean despite playing out on an island. Overall, he didn't give up a pressure over roughly 20 snaps in the first half. The fourth-rounder did whiff on one run block early on, but he was otherwise sound in the passing game. It was a strong debut.
Backup QBs Struggle: Struggle might be putting it too kindly. After Rodgers marched the Packers 86 yards on his one and only series, a combination of Graham Harrell, Vince Young and B.J. Coleman all but stunk up the joint. The three backups combined to complete 15 of 29 passes for just 98 yards, which equates to roughly 3.4 yards per attempt. Over nine drives, the trio provided two turnovers (Harrell interception; Harrell lost fumble), seven punts and zero points.
Harrell was the big disappointment, as he still appears to lack confidence in attacking downfield. Despite all his experience in the offense, he's still a dink-and-dunker who struggles to make something happen when the play breaks down. His interception was the result of both a mixup with the route and Harrell staring down his first read. Young ran a vanilla offense over two series but showed some mobility (two rushes, 12 yards), while Coleman looked even more lost during his two series (2 for 7, 15 yards) than he did last Saturday night. By the looks of it Friday, the Packers have three No. 3 or 4 quarterbacks competing to be the team's backup.
Cornerback Depth Tested: Even without Casey Hayward (hamstring) and Tramon Williams (knee) available due to injury, the Packers cornerbacks came into Friday night with capable depth at the position. In fact, cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt, Jr. said this week that he though he had nine cornerbacks who deserve to be on 53-man rosters this season.
However, the Cardinals made quick work of that perceived depth.
Davon House gave up four completions, including a 38-yard touchdown to Andre Roberts, in a disappointing performance. He was also burnt on a double move later in the second quarter. Rookie Micah Hyde proved himself to be a willing tackler, but he too gave up a touchdown pass and was victimized on a handful of other completions.
Overall, the four Cardinals quarterbacks picked apart the Packers secondary to the tune of 16 completions for 270 yards and two scores. Starter Carson Palmer was nearly flawless (4-for-6, 77 yards, touchdown), while backup Drew Stanton gave the Lambeau Field crowd a glimpse at what a real No. 2 quarterback looks like for the better part of two quarters. He completed 8-of-14 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown.
Strong First Series: Those worried about the offense after tonight's performance need only remember the effectiveness of the first drive. Rodgers converted a third down by hitting Jones in stride for 50 yards, while Starks carried six times and appeared to score a touchdown on fourth and goal. The Packers' challenge of the play came back empty, but it was still an encouraging march for the first-team offense. Little did anyone know, the first drive would be as close to scoring as the Packers would get all night.
No Opportunity for the Kicking Competition: Few could have expected the Packers to go a full game without attempting either a field goal or extra point, but that's exactly what happened Friday night. While many teams could go without trotting out a kicker during the preseason, Green Bay can't. As Mike McCarthy said before the game, either Mason Crosby or Giorgio Tavecchio needs to step up and win the kicking job. Friday offered no help to solving that riddle. McCarthy also said that he plans to ramp up the volume of kicking opportunities during next week's practice, but he couldn't have envisioned his two kickers attempting zero chances to open the preseason.
Limited Injuries: First-round rookie Datone Jones played just one snap before exiting with an ankle sprain, but there doesn't appear to be any internal concern over the injury. Other than Jones, the Packers escaped Friday's opener relatively injury free. While this was about as ugly a preseason game as a team could produce, Green Bay can mark this down as a win if Jones' ankle sprain turns out to be minor. No team wants to put on this kind of performance in front of a record preseason crowd, but getting to the second week without a major injury is the focus here, especially for a team that has already dealt with so many early injuries.
Zach Kruse is a 25-year-old sports writer who contributes to Cheesehead TV, Bleacher Report and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He also covers prep sports for the Dunn Co. News. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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