Last October, the Rams cut the Packers' lead to a touchdown with under 9 minutes to go. Sitting at 3-3, the Rams had found a higher degree of early season success than they had in more years than you have fingers on one hand unless you have a really weird hand.
Ten plays and 80 yards later, the lead was again two touchdowns and the Rams were without response.
Until this weekend.
Oh, you won a meaningful early mid-season contest? Well how but you suck on these preseason peas when we win on Saturday, Green Bay. Oh you guys are a such a great franchise? THEN QUIT HIDING YOUR OWNER BEHIND A SHROUD OF LIMITED STOCK. Who is he? What's his name? How come we've never heard of him/her/it?
Well, Saturday, you're gonna get get a heapin' spoonful of revenge. And revenge is a dish best served in the later weeks of summer. Suckers.
I watched a replay of your game against the Cardinals over the weekend. What was your takeaway from the game? Any concerns from the goalline stand while Rodgers was still in? Were you expecting the no huddle on that first drive? Any thoughts on what you saw from Arizona that Rams fans would be interested in?
Not a whole lot can be discerned from an opening preseason game, but it looks like Mike McCarthy made the right call to shift rookie tackle David Bakhtiari over to the left side while leaving Marshall Newhouse and Don Barclay to battle it out at the other bookend. While Newhouse held down the blindside for the past two years, Bakhtiari demonstrated better tenacity and consistency and is likely the team's best healthy tackle.
As for the opening series, the no-huddle has been a preseason fixture since 2011. Like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers possesses a higher level understanding of the offense and can do more in the no-huddle than most quarterbacks. McCarthy has commented in the past that he likes to do this in the preseason to simulate urgency, and I think it works. The starting offense looked in sync that entire drive and probably did score on James Starks' goal line.
Finally, it's hard not to watch this year's Cardinals and not be immediately struck by how much better the quarterback play is. I don't expect that comes as a surprise to Rams fans, as last year's starters Kevin Kolb and John Skelton are both marooned as backups behind Mark Sanchez and Andy Dalton respectively. Carson Palmer still takes too many risks downfield, but when he's complimented with strong receivers like Larry Fitzgerald, he'll do more good than harm. Drew Stanton also played well last week, but it's too early to say whether he's improved.
Onto Saturday's game. I think the big question mark looming over the Packers might be the personnel changes, some by decision, some by injury. Obviously with the injuries to Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, this isn't a fair estimate of your starting offense come week one. How did you feel about the performances from the depth out wide? And David Bakhtiari looked pretty solid in place of Bryan Bulaga. Were you pleased with his first NFL showing?
The wide receivers played well. Most will point to James Jones' 50-yard reception as the highpoint of the first preseason game, but he wasn't the only receiver to stand out. Undrafted rookie Tyrone Walker demonstrated some slippery quickness on his five receptions, and may make the final roster. Jarrett Boykin, an UDFA receiver from a year ago, was able to get behind All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson and drew a DPI call. Obviously, you want to see the offense with Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson, but the starters looked sharp without them. The one glaring hole from the Arizona game was the lack of an effective ground game, but the Packers played without Eddie Lacy. Lacy may miss the game in St. Louis as well, so that remains an open question.
As I touched upon earlier, Bakhtiari looked great in his first game action. He's already developed an effective slide step to handle edge rushers like the Rams' Chris Long, and Bakhtiari gets to the second level in the run blocking. That said, there's still a lot of work to do and many questions to be answered. Can Bakhtiari be left on an island or will he regularly require help? How will he handle more complex defensive schemes like the 49ers' Justin Smith/Aldon Smith pass rushing stunts? Will his size (6-4 and 295 pounds) allow him to hold up for an entire season? Most of these won't be answered in the preseason, but we'll be keeping a close eye on him for clues.
One of the more disappointing groups on Friday were the cornerbacks. It sure looked like a poor group without Tramon Williams out there. Any cause for concern with that unit, or do you think it was just a bad performance and the group as a whole should put in better showings?
Not only was Tramon Williams absent, but star slot corner Casey Hayward missed the game as well. I think there is cause for concern, but not because of the way the corners played last week. Williams has been sidelined for over a week with a knee injury while Hayward has yet to practice in training camp. Once both return, the defensive backfield should straighten out, but when that happens is unknown.
What's the take on the Packers' season at this point? The preseason is a bit of a different exercise for you guys; having a QB like Aaron Rodgers changes the whole approach. How worried are you about the injury list with the season opener in San Francisco less than a month away?
While injuries are certainly a part of football, the Packers have been hit harder than almost anyone this preseason. Losing your left tackle is always a huge loss, but it's underscored by the fact that Green Bay flipped its entire offensive line to aid in Bryan Bulaga's transition to the left side. Similarly, after letting Greg Jennings walk in the offseason, the absence of Cobb and Nelson is amplified.
That said, this isn't a crushing blow. All of the important cogs on the injury list save Bulaga will be back before week 1. While Ted Thompson has always kept the Packers young, this is an experienced team that doesn't need too much preseason preparation. As long as the injured players return when they're expected and there aren't more major injuries, the Packers should be ready to go for San Francisco.
Somewhat off topic, what's with Greg Jennings as of late? I think there's something to the idea that the Packers are a brand that's big enough to carry this as a story where the Rams aren't. How much solace is there among the fan base that the franchise is once again in a position that can warrant a storyline to get this out of hand?
There are many theories regarding Greg Jennings' critical remarks about the Packers and Aaron Rodgers. Personally, I suspect that he felt insulted by the lack of a hard push to retain his services. While most players understand the business of the NFL – and I suspect Jennings is one of them – it doesn't make being let go any easier. Jennings was an integral component of the Packers' Super Bowl championship three years ago, and he likely assumed he was untouchable as in pertains to Thompson's cost-cutting measures. However, that didn't turn out to be the case, and he departed for a division rival. Rodgers is the poster child for Green Bay's current regime, so he's a natural target for a disgruntled former employee like Jennings.
As for the storyline, I don't think it's the value of the Packers' brand that generated attention. Rather, Jennings' signing with the Vikings was another entry in a long history of Packers travelling to the Twin Cities. Had Jennings signed with, say, the Tennessee Titans, I doubt that his subsequent remarks would have garnered much interest outside Green Bay.