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Defense Shines in Packers' 21-17 Preseason Win in Washington

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Defense Shines in Packers' 21-17 Preseason Win in Washington

In the final game that the Packers lost in the regular season last year, Kirk Cousins and his Washington Redskins counterparts shredded the Packers' defense en route to a 42-24 win.

While preseason wins and loss totals are virtually meaningless, that same disastrous defensive performance was far from the narrative tonight.

For the first 28 minutes—until the two-minute warning in the second quarter—the Packers held Cousins and co. to 63 yards passing, jumping to a 14-10 halftime lead. In those final two minutes, however, Cousins led the Redskins' offense down the field on a 10-play, 78-yard drive that culminated in a touchdown.

It was the first set of points in a mini-onslaught that would net the Redskins 14 unanswered points, taking the 17-14 lead midway through the third quarter.

It took the emergence of dual-threat quarterback and BYU standout Taysom Hill to bring the Packers back into the game. The offense moved the ball similarly to how they did on their final drive last week when Hill went 4/5 on an 82-yard drive that ended in a touchdown to rookie receiver DeAngelo Yancey with nine seconds left in the game.

This time, Hill commandeered the offense in a big way. Along with his six completions on 11 attempts, he was the Packers' leading rusher, finishing with six carries for 38 yards and a touchdown.

Hill stiff-arms a defender (Stefan McClure) during his touchdown run. (Brad Mills/USA TODAY Sports)

One of his targets, Jeff Janis, finished with three catches for 63 yards on his four targets. If anything, he made the roster battle amongst the wide receivers that much more difficult and increased the odds that the Packers enter the regular season with seven. A battle that Janis has an evident edge in due to his innate ability to prove as the team's best gunner on punt coverage.

And the eight aforementioned receivers is without Geronimo Allison, whose roster spot won't count until his one-game suspension is served.

On the defensive side of the ball, second-year undrafted cornerback Josh Hawkins earned a start tonight, and he did all but disappointing.

His seven tackles led the team, as did his three defended passes. The only time the Packers' secondary was truly out-dueled was on a couple of wheel routes that resulted in 29 and 43-yard gains, respectively. One with linebacker Joe Thomas in coverage and the other with safety Jermaine Whitehead.

Through the duration of the week following the win over the Eagles, head coach Mike McCarthy stressed the importance of breaking tackles, making tackles and ball security.

The Packers followed through with the improvements they put into those areas over their eight-day work week, and it showed prominently in Washington tonight.

He estimated after the game that the Packers broken tackle totals landed somewhere in the "double-digits," and their only turnover came on Trevor Davis' muffed punt early in the first quarter.

Davis seemingly over-thought making a clean catch on the punt while simultaneously thinking about dodging the first of what would be a flurry of tacklers the second he fielded the ball. It resulted in him losing control and the Redskins regaining possession. 

The team's second and last fumble came while Joe Callahan was in at quarterback during the third quarter. Albeit he recovered his own fumble, he suffered a setback in the battle for the Packers' third-string quarterback gig with his performance (1/3, 0 yards).

The Packers earned their first road win of the preseason with the 21-17 nail-biter in Washington, however, more injuries were added to the 12 players already inactive for tonight's game.

According to ESPN's Rob Demovsky, defensive end Dean Lowry suffered a knee injury and Whitehead a hip. Linebacker Jordan Tripp, who has had a strong camp in proving to be an asset on special teams, has a concussion whereas cornerback LaDarius Gunter doesn't. Linebacker Derrick Matthews is still in the process of being evaluated for a concussion.

As it stands right now, the Packers will have three players in the concussion protocol this week and are in danger of a fourth.

For their third preseason game, one in which quarterback Aaron Rodgers is expected to play extensively in, the Packers will travel to Sports Authority Field in Denver, Colorado to face the Broncos. That'll be next Saturday.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (34) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Mojo's picture

Spriggs is so bad that it is nearly impossible to run the offense when he's in. Gets beat nearly every play. This has to be a big concern with no noticeable replacement.

Zachary Jacobson's picture

He had some bad reps the last two weeks, but he's also had some good ones that have flown under the radar. He was drafted to be available when he's needed (and he is), not to be the next Bakhtiari.

Nick Perry's picture

Common Zach, Spriggs is absolutely terrible. He's being beat like a drum by guys who won't even be in the league once week one rolls around. If he's the best the Packers can hope to put on the field if Bakhtiari or Bulaga is injured, then the Packers have a HUGE weakness past the starting 5. Losing Tretter and Lang was obviously tough, Lang less so with Evans being signed. But the Packers better start looking for a viable tackle in the event one the "B" brothers are injured. He's makes Marshall Newhouse look like an All Pro.

Zachary Jacobson's picture

Actually, a year ago today he held his own against Khalil Mack. Like I said, they drafted him for depth purposes. Especially after that 2015 season where seemingly every offensive lineman was hurt. When it comes to protecting the cornerstone of your franchise, I think Spriggs was an important pick to make. Let's just hold off on casting him off as a "poor pick."

Savage57's picture

They traded up to take Spriggs in the 2nd and stood pat to take Bahk in the 4th, so let's blast some big holes in that mental cowpie about him not being drafted to be the next Bahktiari.

From hereon out Spriggs will be known as "The Big Gate". And I will send the Packers some forks. He looks nothing like a NFL tackle.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Not to worry, we play Denver next week.

I put my semi-defense of Spriggs in the blog article, but yes, he wasn't pretty. He did have some plays where he performed perfectly adequately. I assume that Bakh will play every snap that AR plays.

MITM's picture

Hated the Spriggs pick when it happened, hate it even more now. I really wanted Deion Jones or Sua Cravens and was positive when we traded up thats who it was gonna be.

Tundraboy's picture

Breaking Tackles, Making Tackles, Ball Security.

Mantra for year. Sure beats pad levels.

Mojo's picture

Tackling was much better. Rodgers was Rodgers. They played it smart and most of his passes were of the short variety.

D overall looked good, but still very little pressure.

Running game again lacked much of anything, but neither of our two opponents have shown anything, so maybe it's more a function of preseason schemes.

Biggest injury would be to Lowry, but it didn't look too bad as he walked off fairly well. With Adams out we can't afford to lose him.

Hill is just fun to watch. Heard he was scatter-armed, but he does have some velocity. Don't know if can throw a touch-pass either, haven't really seen it. But the team moves the ball when he's in and his teammates respond well to him.

lucky953's picture

Improved secondary play, even with Randall and House out. Got some guys who can hit, and give receivers something to think about. Feeling confident it will not be "sieve city" this season.

flackcatcher's picture

While it was vanilla on both sides, Rodgers was up against Washington 1st string defense. He made it look so easy. Caught Washington 12 man on field. Defense knows they have to get off field. and yet... Rodgers is scary good. Surprised that Washington kept their 1st string on field during first half. Know that they had a really bad game last week, but a head coaches job is to eval his talent first, and win second during the preseason. Packer2 and 3th string defense against their first for most of 1st, I am sure Ted and Mike are fine with that. Makes for great survival evaluation. All and all, this was an very good preseason game for the packers.

flackcatcher's picture

...makes for great visual evaluation... but given the way the NFL handles cuts, maybe survival is more accurate.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

There might be a reason for Washington's #1s playing so long. Cousins is dealing with having two new wide receivers. The #1 WR is Pryor, a FA. Pryor's back-up, Brian Quick is also a FA, and Quick's back-up is a rookie. The #2 WR is Doctson, who missed his entire rookie year due to injury. His back-up, K. Thompson, is a rookie. Thompson's back-up is a fringe player who spent much (PS, released, then re-signed to the PS) of 2016 on Washington's PS. The only WR Cousins is familiar with out there is the midget, Crowder. Crowder's back-up has averaged 13 Rec per year over the last 3 years. Plus their #1 TE, Jordan Reed, hasn't even practiced this year and might end up on the PUP, so they have to get Niles Paul, who has been seriously injured for the last two years, ready. Cousins is familiar with TE Vernon Davis - IDK how much he played due to his age (and they can ill afford another injury at TE).

If Washington's offense looked choppy and out of rhythm, not to mention terrible, there are plenty of reasons for it.

Jonathan Spader's picture

Great points Reynoldo. At least they let Cousins have a break after he finally scored a TD.

LayingTheLawe's picture

The starters looked good. Rodgers with a td pass to Bennett, Adams, Cobb and Nelson all with catches. And out they go. Just want you want to see. The first line D continues to just stuff the run and made the Skins look bad until the backups went in. Perine ran over the scrubs later but he's going to be the starting back in Washington soon so that's not a big deal.

None of the backups did much to make any big moves on the depth chart other than Taysom Hill who definitely provided a spark when he came in.

Unless I missed something Janis was the deep return man on every kickoff, so if they aren't even trying out anyone else back there his job is safe and we need to stop talking about it.

The problems areas were a lack of any pass pressure and the backup line was woeful.

I listened to the game on the internet so I got to listen to Wayne and Larry and it sounded like a lot of Packer fans cheering whenever anything happened. Packer fans are everywhere!

flackcatcher's picture

I think your right. We know the core WR three. I thought Janis was a near lock due to his ST play.(Made another game saving tackle early first on Vogels non-hang time punt. Got there in under 5 seconds and made the tackle. amazing) Allison is safe, both his play on offense and special teams proved his value to this team. Beyond that, it's foggy. ( But, BUT, what about Davis. Catch the damm ball on punt returns, then we can talk)

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I agree on Vogel's poor hang time on all but 1 (?) punt, and on Davis. Also that the top 3 WRs are clear. Allison was the gunner on one punt. I watched the blocker zip by him and then cut in front of Allison, screening Allison from the PR. King was the gunner on two punts, IIRC. On one, he beat two guys down the field, maintained his lane and then pincered in, forcing the PR to run into several waiting packers in the middle of the field. It won't show up on the stat sheet, but it was well done. On the other punt, King let the defender run in front and screen him off.

L's picture

"...last week when Hill went 4/5 on an 82-yard drive that ended in a touchdown to rookie receiver DeAngelo Yancey with nine seconds left in the game."

He threw it to Clark not Yancey, did he not?

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Yes, it was a back-shoulder throw to Michael Clark for the TD. Yancey had the long reception earlier in the drive (Hill's pass was slightly under thrown making it a contested catch that Yancey won).

jeremyjjbrown's picture

Hope Lowry's knee is not too bad.

Nick Perry's picture

That's what I'm holding my breath about too. Lowry, Clark, and Daniels MUST stay injury free this season. Those 3 make up a hell of a DL. I also have a feeling the Packers are going to be counting on them to contribute to the pass rush because right now they don't have much of one. I understand you can't fix EVERY need in the off season, but this is starting to get scary. Very bummed about Frackrell so far, but still optimistic he'll do something this season. Hopefully Biegel is back to practice next week and can hopefully play before the preseason is over.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

Let's face it, Nick: Our pass rush looks flat out horrible, and far too dependent on blitzing.

As for Lowry, I wouldn't play him another snap this preseason. He's a sure-fire stud with nothing to prove, so keep him healthy.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

From your lips to God's ears, Jeremy.

Lphill's picture

Also 3 Packers being evaluated for concussions , Gunter and two reserve linebackers Matthews is one I don't know the other name.

fthisJack's picture

Jordan Tripp.

sheppercheeser's picture

I'm a big fan of McCaffery, hope he makes it on the team, since I don't think he'd last long on PS. Also, when Hill came in, the whole demeanor of the team changed- what a sparkplug he was (at least in this game).

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

At this point, I'd have to think both McCaffrey and Janis are locks.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Lots of guys played well in this game. I'll mention Hawkins, Gunter, Marwin Evans, Clark, and Pipkens. Joe Thomas and Whitehead had trouble with wheel routes. (Thomas wasn't as good in coverage last year as I'd thought he'd be - I hope this isn't a pattern). Brice had some plays including a big hit to force an incompletion, and others like Lowry, Donatello Brown, made some plays as well.

On offense, I'll mention Janis, A. Jones, Hundley, Allison, Hill, and Mays. Davis had a nice pass reception. Max had a nice PR, did a good job running up to catch a short punt and save yards on another, and made good decisions. He looks very natural catching punts. The OL didn't look very good. Spriggs had some real whiffs, and although he mixed in a few decent things, it still wasn't pretty. Bulaga looked off as well. I haven't really been mentioning obvious starters, but this is Bulaga's 2nd straight sub par outing.

Hundley threw some real nice passes. One knock on him is failure to recognize and process defensive looks (true to varying degrees for all young QBs). I have to wonder whether AR would have realized that guy on the corner would be unblocked, and either move the RB to his left, audibled, or gone to his hot read. And what's with the delay of game?

RobinsonDavis's picture

The last two games we have heard and seen Janis make some nice catches, on some nice routes, but Hundley deserves credit for the passes as well. The deep pass to Janis in this game was perfect! Janis had a half step, fought off the hand grab by the defender and concentrated on the catch. The timing between these two appears exceptional currently.

fthisJack's picture

there were a lot of guys that played well on both O and D. its going to be the hardest year ever to cut to 53. i hope they can stash some of these guys on IR otherwise they are going to lose several of them.
it looks like they may have to keep 3 QB's. the way Hill is playing someone will snap him up in a heartbeat. running back cuts will be tough and i thought Kalif Philips looked good in this game. CB.....who do you cut??? i like Pipkens, Hawkins, Brown. i think Goodson may finally be on the street. WR..... i really hope they can stash a couple of these guys on IR otherwise they will be gone. i think they keep 7. Nelson, Cobb, Adams, Janis, Davis, Allison, McCaffrey, and Clark......and when Allison comes off his suspension...then what? keep 8?

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

I think we can get Brown to the practice squad. McCaffrey, Janis, and Davis have to be considered locks at this point.

Ibleedgreenmore's picture

I think Calahan is not going to be here. Hill not only jumped over 3 but might be a good two. Hill just makes thing happen, I know its early but he will not last on the PS from what I have seen.

Since '61's picture

A good look from our starters on both offense and defense. Rodgers looks ready to go. Hundley and Hill have had good preseason efforts so far. Callahan had his second poor showing. Spriggs is becoming a concern. Hopefully Lowry will be OK. I never like to see all these injuries during preseason games. Hopefully a quick recovery for all of our players. Our RBs made a good impression last night even though the backup OLs looked mediocre at best. As for the defense, it was good to see Hawkins make the most of his opportunity. However my big question is where is the pass rush? Looks like MM needs to focus on the pass rush this week. While blocking and tackling improved both still need work. Get healthy guys. Thanks, Since '61

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

As it stands, our pass rush will be far too blitz-dependent this year, leaving gaping holes in coverage. Maybe if our Front 7 stays VERY healthy, we'll be okay.

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