The Green Bay Packers dropped their second straight preseason game Thursday, continuing an ugly run of play in San Diego with four more quarters of forgettable action in a 35-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns.
After a second and third viewing of the game this morning, I broke down several of the players from Green Bay’s sideline last night.
There’s no sugar-coating the fact that Harrell stunk up the joint Thursday night. On eight drives, Harrell scored just three points and gave away nine points to the Browns. He finished 12-of-24 for 100 yards and two interceptions. His passer rating was a paltry 26.4.
It’s going to be a tedious process, but I broke down every one of Harrell’s passing snaps from Thursday night. It’s the only way to get the complete picture without making a lazy assessment. Here’s the breakdown:
1. Harrell’s first pass is behind an open D.J. Williams, who beat the press coverage and was open. Right read, wrong ball placement. Incomplete.
2. The Browns jam Randall Cobb at the line, forcing Harrell to dump off to Marc Tyler on a swing route out of the backfield. Tyler drops it.
3. Harrell’s senses pressure and went to the hot read. It was phantom pressure, however, and Jarrett Boykin never turns around for the ball. Harrell needed to let the four vertical route develop down field.
4. Throws a little behind Tom Crabtree on a 10-yard out. It was a catchable ball, but Crabtree tips it up for interception. Cleveland defender returns it for a touchdown, but neutral zone infraction brings it all back.
5. On 3rd-and-3, Harrell throws short to Cobb on a underneath crossing route. Good coverage, but complete. First down.
6. One of his best throws of the night was his backshoulder to Cobb. Harrell needed to be a little more towards sidelines, but still a good throw. Good play defensively to breakup the pass.
7. Harrell senses pressure, back pedals, then attempts to throw away. The pass is almost intercepted along the sidelines. Packers have to punt.
8. Drive starts at 1-yard line. On 2nd-and-10, Harrell is too slow getting the ball out. He then undershoots Williams as he rolls to his right.
9. Pressure came on third down, and Harrell attempts to hit Cobb on a slant that was short of the first down. Cobb dropped it. It was a good throw ball-placement wise.
10. After Green Bay is awarded great field position for the first time, a screen pass on first down is wayyyyyy too slow to develop. Harrell probably should have thrown it into the ground considering the time situation (under two minutes in first half). Tyler loses a couple and the clock starts ticking.
11. Boykin makes a nice catch on a short slant. Just a short gain. OK throw from Harrell.
12. Harrell steps up nicely in the pocket on third down and scrambles for five or six yards. The run gives Mason Crosby a chance to hit a field goal from 54 yards, but he can’t convert.
13. On his last throw of the first half, Harrell is picked off on a Hail Mary that doesn’t get to the end zone. Kind of crow-hopped it as he was delivering the ball. Didn’t look good.
14. First throw of the second half is a confident one to sidelines. Gets five yards on first down.
15. Harrell feels pressure inside and scrambles to the outside. Nice pocket awareness. First down as Harrell dives to the sticks on the far sidelines. Still not a great athlete.
16. Another easy throw outside to Williams for six yards. He’s comfortable making that throw.
17. Harrell rolls right, has a defender in his face and delivers an accurate throw to Ryan Taylor, but the tight end slips. Would have likely been a completion had Taylor finished the crossing route. Instead, the Browns have a pick-six to go up 23-7.
18. Harrell gets immediate pressure off the play-action, then makes a dangerous throw to the outside off his back foot. Somehow finds Dale Moss for eight yards.
19. Once again Harrell hits Taylor on another 5-yard out.
20. Another smart scramble for a first down. Stepped up to avoid outside pressure.
21. Harrell hits Boykin on a bubble screen. Easiest throw of the night.
22. Made the right read on third down, but Harrell throws high to Moss. Liked the decision, not the accuracy (running theme).
23. Has a clean pocket initially, but then has to step up and make a play.He throws left to Moss. Four yards. Holding penalty puts the Packers back inside the 10-yard line.
24. A well-run stunt by the Browns defensive line gets a free rusher inside. Harrell can’t escape to his right and he’s hit as he throws. The ball looks headed for Tori Gurley down field but the hit allows it to travel just a yard or two. Referees call intentional grounding in the end zone, resulting in a safety.
25. Harrell again finds a completion when hits another 5-yard out to Cosby.
26. Finally, a big play. Harrell connects with Boykin, who is wide open in the middle of the field. Good ball placement from Harrell. Right on the numbers.
27. Far-and-away Harrell’s best throw of the night comes one play later. He again hits Boykin down the middle on a well-thrown ball. Thread the needle between a trio of Browns’ defenders.
28. Put the ball in the only place it could be to Andrew Brewer on a 6-yard out.
29. Harrell’s final throw sums up his night. After Brewer’s double move left the cornerback trailing, Harrell’s pass sails well off the mark. Brewer was wide open for an easy touchdown. It was similar to Aaron Rodgers’ miss of Jordy Nelson earlier in the game, but a worse overall throw.
Sorry that got long, but it helps illustrate the point here.
A couple of things:
- The only time Harrell looked comfortable in his drop was when he had a guy on a quick out pattern.
- The ball placement is still a mess. For a guy with below average arm strength, accuracy and placement are so important. Through two games, Harrell doesn’t have it.
- Pressure was abundant Thursday night. The Packers second-team offensive line is a rag-tag group. Hard to get a completely accurate assessment of Harrell in that sense.
- The Browns first-team defense did a nice job of disrupting routes. Plenty of times you see Harrell watch his first read get jammed and then hurry to find his next progression. That transition didn’t go smoothly.
- The turnovers simply weren’t his fault.
- Overall, he still has a long ways to go. He needs reps and a lot of them, especially in live games. Is there enough preseason left for him to get them?
- Even if the Packers aren’t satisfied with the position, time is running out to get a veteran backup into camp. The staff still sounds confident in Harrell’s development.
From a running perspective, Green had an impressive showing Thursday night. He was explosive to the edge, and you can just see that he’s going to have a handful of runs this season where he attacks the edge and then makes one cut up field to spring a big gain. Would have liked to see a screen or two designed for him, but that’s getting greedy. He ran four times for 16 yards.
In pass protection, Green was only so-so. He put himself in the right position each time he was asked to pass-block, and there was one or two times where Green shifted himself across the line to pick up an overload blitz. But once he got to his man, the technique was missing. He failed to stick his guy. On the Packers’ third offensive series, Green was in position but whiffed on a blitzing linebacker, which caused Rodgers’ to step up and eventually run. The NFL MVP then got clocked on the back end of the scramble. That’s a no-no. Once the technique gets cleaned up, Green should be a sound pass protector.
Boykin really stuck out when re-watching the game. He’s not a fast guy by any means, but he understands coverages and how to get open. Once the ball is delivered, he catches it. Simple as that. Boykin finished with a team-high five catches for 63 yards. If the Packers lose Diondre Borel to another 53-man roster, or keep him on their own, stashing Boykin on the practice squad doesn’t lose that unit much. He’s a player.
After struggling for most of camp, Datko looked improved Thursday. He played all his snaps as the second-team left tackle. The feet were much quicker, which allowed him to handle most of the speed rushes he saw. At times Datko lost ground on a bull-rush, but he kept the pocket mostly clean. For a guy that Bob McGinn was ready to write off as a Ricky Elmore-type bust, I thought Datko gave himself a chance to be this team’s backup tackle if Derek Sherrod’s recovery spills into the regular season.
Hayward was simply in the right place at the right time for a fumble recovery on the first play from scrimmage. He stayed with the play and had the awareness to fall on it, which counts for something. From there, it was a mixture of good and bad.
He was beaten badly on a 10-yard post after he gave way too much of a cushion early. Easy pitch and catch for the Browns. Later, Hayward played the cushion right and jumped a 10-yard hitch. He undercut the route much like Tramon Williams has mastered over the years, but he botched the catch. There’s no doubt Hayward takes the pick for six points if he corrals it.
On the Browns’ fourth series, Hayward got turned around on a comeback by Greg Little, but then blanketed him on the next play as Weeden looked his way initially. It was a hot-and-cold starting debut for the Packers second-round corner.
Newhouse did a strong job in his return. Facing Browns RDE Emmanuel Stephens, Newhouse had little to no issues. On at least three passing snaps, Newhouse did a textbook job of pushing the rusher wide of the pocket during a speed move. He was light years better than Herb Taylor last week.
McMillian was one of the bright spots Thursday night. He brings a physicality to the safety position that the Packers really haven’t had since Atari Bigby. In fact, McMillian throws his shoulder around much like the former Packers safety. He knifed into the backfield to drop Brandon Jackson in the first half, then delivered a lick after a short run one play later. The fourth-rounder from Maine doesn’t look scared playing near the line, and the Packers even had him at cornerback on a few snaps. If he can figure out the complexities of playing on the back end, McMillian can push M.D. Jennings for a starting spot. Jennings has been iffy at best in two games so far.
- Randall Cobb has to be better in ball security. The touches are going to be there this season, but fumbling at the rate he has early in his NFL career is unacceptable.
- D.J. Williams is going to have a role in this offense. He’s night-and-day better than the guy who disappeared last preseason.
- RB Marc Tyler is just a guy. Would like to get a look at Du’ane Bennett before the preseason is over.
- First-round OLB Nick Perry sets the edge so well in the running game. He’s a far cry on the right side from Erik Walden on the left last season. Still, when the Packers asked him to drop into coverage Thursday, Perry looked lost. By my count, the Browns completed at least two throws when Perry didn’t handle his zone. The feel for that will only come with more experience playing the position.
- B.J. Coleman single-handedly ensured there wouldn’t be an in-house competition for the backup role when he threw his first pass right to a Browns defender for a pick. A miscommunication, clearly, but it was an ugly end to an ugly contest.