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Cory's Corner: Packers making preseason mistakes

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Cory's Corner: Packers making preseason mistakes

When you only play 16 regular season games, every win is important.

But just how much of a priority is Week 1 when the team is making preseason mistakes?

“First game of the year for many of us,” said Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers who threw for two touchdowns and ran for another as the Packers beat Jacksonville 27-23. “Myself and a lot of us didn’t play a whole lot in the preseason. We went out there and battled through some heat. Would have been real disappointing to not come out on top in this one, but thanks to our defense for finishing the thing off. On offense, we’ve got to play better. At times we moved the ball really efficiently, we spread it out and ran the ball the effectively, and other times we went three and out.”

Rodgers’ quarterback rating of 95.1 was his lowest Week 1 rating since a trip to Seattle in 2014. And a lot of that has to do with his limited action in the preseason — he only threw nine passes that spanned two drives.

Obviously being an offensive skill player, rhythm and timing are hallmarks of making everything work. With the Packers holding on to a 24-20 lead in the fourth quarter, he didn’t plan on miscommunication to short circuit a potential touchdown which would’ve put the game away.

Facing third-and-goal at the 2, James Starks got the handoff. However, Green Bay’s offensive line was not plowing forward, they were chopping their feet in pass protection. Starks was bottled up for no gain and Mason Crosby had to come on for a 20-yard field goal — still a one possession game for Jacksonville.

“Half the guys thought we were running a pass play and half thought we were running a run play,” Rodgers said. “That’s disappointing. So we got to clean that up.”

Cleaning things up is what the preseason is reserved for. It’s the time when coaches and players can see how the team responds to certain situations and how it reacts to communication breakdowns. And blaming mistakes on the heat is acceptable, since field temperatures reached as high as 113 degrees, but only in terms of execution not play recognition or communication. 

A play like that is fine on Aug. 11, but it’s unacceptable on Sept. 11. But all that coach Mike McCarthy wants to talk about is being 1-0.

“Our standard of play is nowhwere where we want it to be, but it’s good enough to win on Week 1,” he said.

Keep playing like this and it won’t be good enough. The Jaguars played good enough to win that game. The Packers were fortunate that they don’t know how to win yet. Jacksonville is young, but Green Bay has the third-youngest roster in the NFL that is blessed with veterans that are some of the wisest in the league.

Yet, the coaching remains questionable. In the last four years, the Packers are now 11-6 in the first four games. With teams like the Packers have had, it’s disconcerting that the Packers cannot start any better.

McCarthy has a legitimate worry about preseason football. But he’s doing it at the expense of his offense being fully prepared and going full speed as soon as it gets off the preseason entrance ramp.

This may have been a Week 1 misstep but the Packers’ Get Out Of Jail Free cards are now gone.

The season has started. It’s time to play like it.

 

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (32) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Amanofthenorth's picture

11-6. Coaching questionable? Yeah. I suppose the writers should be like the bloggers and many fans, stunned that the packers don't win every game 80- 6.

The TKstinator's picture

11-6?

jeremyjjbrown's picture

First four games of the last four seasons combined. 66% is decent but leaves them behind for homefield advantage and suggests (according to the author at least) that they are under prepared to start the season.

chugwater's picture

This is a damned if you do, damned if you don't scenario that McCarthy can't win. Play Aaron and other key starters too much in August and everyone will ask why did we take the risk when someone goes down, too little and the team is too rusty. There is a not insignificant portion of the NFL fan base who questions why we even have a preseason given all the season ending injuries that occur.

I'll give MM a lot of leeway here. It's a calculated risk that may bite us in the rump for a game or two, but having AR on the IR would be much worse. We could be in Minnesota's or Dallas's shoes right now.

toolkien's picture

I suppose since seeding in the playoffs doesn't matter as much as it used to (bye/home games used to be invaluable) if you blow a game in the regular season, it's not the end of the world. Back in the day every win was needed to separate from the other great teams because the home team was probably going to win. So if guys are "rusty" because they were kept on the shelf in the pre-season, OK. Different day and age.

But that doesn't excuse procedural errors. When the 2014 season came to an end because guys were playing stupidly after 18 games, one would like to have the feeling that the basics and intermediates are locked down. Having to try and call two consecutive time outs? An Offensive linemen doesn't know if it's a run play or a pass play to block correctly? This coming off the Sitton move? Yeah, crunch time is still three months away, and if you have a few glitches and twitches, fine. But I come away from so many Packer games that these guys are sniffing their own farts from a paper bag. The reality is too many fat players and a few too many flops in the playoffs to be so arrogant.

The Packers have been nearly as talented as the Patriots for the last decade or so, but they seem to be so much more on the same page than the Packers. I want my team to have swagger, but I want it to be earned, not an entitlement. I think TT is a great GM. MM leaves me with the impression he thinks he's a Belichick and he's the smartest guy in the room. I see a guy with a very talented but sloppy team. The talent is there, the consistency isn't.

chugwater's picture

I think we agree the Packers have had mental let downs well into the regular season, but that's a systemic issue. Not a pre-season issue per se.

croatpackfan's picture

Well, you know it is never good to lose star player in unimportant game, more in unimportant practice. I think we should propose to prohibit pre season games and praqctices. There is always huge possibility of injury of important players...

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Excessive heat can be enervating. It can affect both the physical and the mental aspects of performing an activity.

Sunday's game adduces more evidence that practices and scrimmages are not the same as playing a real game and a real opponent during the preseason. That said, there is no way any coach should play an elite QB much in the preseason: they are irreplaceable and expensive. I happen to think MM went to an extreme when he only played AR 26 snaps and allowed only 9 pass attempts, but it is hard to argue for a lot more than that.

Getting the play call conveyed in a timely manner has been a problem for a while; I am not sure that the delay of game penalty after a time out had anything to do with lack of playing time. I haven't read a real explanation why why some OL thought it was a run and others a pass.

WKUPackFan's picture

Hi Tgr: Thanks for the kind words regarding the Hilltoppers in a previous article. Having a better showing than USC did against the Crimson Tide was fun. Saban said afterwards that he had never been more disappointed in a win. I took that as a compliment of WKU.

WKU's Jack Doyle also had two TD catches for the Colts against Detroit. Hope you and your children are well.

dobber's picture

"Rodgers’ quarterback rating of 95.1 was his lowest Week 1 rating since a trip to Seattle in 2014."

One of my pet peeves: the short term comp. Like when an announcer says, "this is the first time that team X has been to the playoffs since 2014"...as if it's been an eternity and a half.

In this case, you're saying his week 1 rating of 95.1 is lower than last year. That's about all. And is 95.1 really all that terrible? Only if you lose...

SlamminCharlesMartin's picture

I felt the same way.

Tundraboy's picture

Didnt watch game but from all that I've read seems like playcalling is again ridiculous. Whether MM, Rodgers, Bennett, whoever, doesnt matter it smacks of predictability. That needs to change or we will end up losing more games than this team should . Too much talent and too many weapons on this team to run the same plays over and over. Seems each year the playbook is getting smaller and or MM is less daring than he used to be. Really miss the Packers we have grown to love. Thrilled that we won but feels like we were lucky.

John Galt III's picture

Same plays?

Randall Cobb lining up in the backfield and used as a RB was interesting. Here's why. Opposing coaches will recognize this and adjust. But what if MM and staff is using R Cobb as a RB as a decoy and eventually have him throw. I mean he was a QB at the U of Kentucky.

Could be interesting, 26 running plays during the season with Cobb and in a play-off or SB game he throws a 40 yard TD pass for the game breaker.

Tundraboy's picture

Would love to see Cobb throwing a pass.

Amanofthenorth's picture

Play calling ridiculous? Yeah. Should have been 80-6.

John30856's picture

Not sure whay most of the people in here even watch the games. Enjoy the win

Probably many hated it when MM gave up play calling for a time last year, LOL Players not plays

toolkien's picture

Pretty much the whole first quarter wasted.

In the second half, a 16 play drive ending in a field goal with three running plays with arguably one of the top 5 QB's EVER. Yeah, great play calling.

The Packers need to run the ball when it's cold and snowy. Otherwise they need enough running to keep the passing lanes open for our great QB. I've never seen a team so neutered by their head coach/play caller.

And, no, I don't expect 60 passes and 12 runs per game, but you've got AARON RODGERS. Trying to be the Giants with Eli Manning doesn't make any sense.

Spock's picture

Toolkien,
I take your point. However, running the ball A LOT when the temperature is 113°F on the field makes sense. The game was entertaining and we won. That works for me. McCarthy's team typically start slow (last year was an exception) so I'm pleased with a "W" for the first game.

holmesmd's picture

The offense started a bit slow. So friggin what? It was the first game! Calm down and be happy we got a win. We still have a QB that can make throws that no one else in the league can make. Get out of the worry chair and enjoy the season as it unfolds. All of this "doom & gloom" is just plain silly after the first regular season game. I mean, really?!:(

NMPF's picture

After a re-watch of the game, the only play call that should make you grind your teeth is the 2nd and 2 pitch to Lacy with 5 min. left in the game. Other than that, a W with brutal on field heat & the starting O that did not play 1 series as a unit in pre-season should come off as a positive. 1-0. Off to the hall of the northern queens. Go Pack!

JDK52's picture

This type of article is getting old. The fact is they beat an up-and-coming team loaded with young talent, in their own house, on a day when the weather posed a challenge many of our guys have never experienced before. There will be issues in games, particularly week 1 against an uncommon opponent.

To address your "lowest Week 1 rating since a trip to Seattle in 2014" point, that's nothing more than incomplete (dare I say lazy?) statistical analysis. To prove my point, see the following:

Rodgers week 1 Passer Ratings as a Starter

2008: 115.5
2009: 92.0
2010: 73.1
2011: 132.1
2012: 93.3
2013: 102.6
2014: 81.5
2015: 140.5
2016: 95.5

I get the point you want to make. The expectations for the 2016 Packers are a Super Bowl, and it's frustrating that they didn't play a largely perfect game against an inexperienced team. However, this is real life, and calling the right play doesn't automatically mean you win.

I choose to enjoy a win in a very tough environment.

PaulRosik's picture

Rodgers has had 4 openers with better ratings than last Sunday. And 4 openers with lower ratings than last Sunday So if the article wanted to say he was average - that would be accurate. This game was in fact the median of his 9 openers. But the implication that it was somehow terrible was way off.

There are indeed high expectations for this team and the specter of last years offensive struggles makes people leery of anything that looks like a bad offensive day. And this leads to way too many people on this site having the "Sure the Packers won but they almost lost" mindset. At any time in the NFL you take a win on the road and are happy about it.

As always there are way too many Packer fans so used to winning that they complain about the way the win arrived.

Tarynfor12's picture

Tarynfor12 says:
September 07, 2016 at 11:35 am(edit)
We'll certainly be more high powered than last year....as long as receivers do what they need to do regardless of what Nelson can or cannot do. Can we really accept the loss or lack of Nelson to be the excuse blanket again if it plays that way.

I have doubts whether this team is ready for week one and an opening loss to Jacksonville looms larger than many may want to accept. : )

Like Dislike 1 points (5 like | 4 dislike)

We came away with a win but the play of this team showed I was right in my thinking....must be those ' homer ' glasses I refuse to wear 24-7 like many others.

dobber's picture

Those homer glasses are tinted a little differently when they get the W.

PaulRosik's picture

The dislikes are for your continued, tired use of the ridiculous "excuse" mantra. There are no excuses for losing.

An NFL season is long and difficult. You have to be happy for each win - specially on the road. You have to be happy when you get a winning season, win the division, make the playoffs, win a playoff game. But I know none of these things matter to you and wins do not make you happy unless it comes in February.

Tarynfor12's picture

Always happy for a win, I just don't ignore the issues in a win. These are the things that bite you when you really need a win via solid play and not by the gracious lesser effort of an opponent. Playoffs offers no rebound week like during the season as we have been subjected to because of issues being ignored.

PaulRosik's picture

Who ignores the issues? Does anyone ignore the issues? That is all that goes on here is discussing what needs to improve as the team goes forward.

It is all a matter of the implications of the words. I prefer to state that the Packers won AND they have areas to improve. But so many others seem to approach it as the Packers won BUT they have areas to improve.

Life is short, enjoy the victories. Then move forward and see what adjustments are required for more.

I also like to think of the last defensive play as a great play by the Packers and not a mistake or lesser effort by the Jaguars. It all depends on your frame of reference.

PETER MAIZ's picture

One pro that could have helped the offense get going: Josh Sitton, how ironic.

zeke's picture

Yes, because the problem with the offense was sub-standard play by the OG. That's why Adams dropped the first pass, that's why Rodgers called the TO coming out of the half, and that's why half of the OL was running pass pro on running play.

On the other hand, Sitton single-handedly enabled Chicago to grab their first victory of the season and are now in first place in the NFC North, never to look back. Oh, wait.

Thanks for playing.

WKUPackFan's picture

GB isn't significantly different from the other 31 teams in this regard. The current CBA rules limiting off season and camp mean that every team comes to the first game less prepared than prior to this CBA. It showed in every game Week 1.

PETER MAIZ's picture

Where was Cook in the scheme of things? And how will Montgomery be used?

sheppercheeser's picture

The bar is set pretty high as a GB fan. No excuse for the "miscommunication", heat or no heat. A veteran team lead by MM & AR should not have THAT problem. Gotta get the ball to Cook. Love the idea of Cobb in the backfield, slinging the ball! Looking forward to Sun. nite.

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