by Troy A. Sparks
Green Bay – After two weeks of training camp and hearing the Super Bowl hype up in Green Bay, I wanted to see if the Packers were ready.
Let’s say that against the Cleveland Browns last Saturday at Lambeau Field, the team needs work.
But hey, that’s what the preseason is all about.
There’s still time to get the wrinkles out and see who will be on the opening day roster on Sept. 12.
The Browns scored 14 points in the first quarter while some fans were still in line at the concession stand.
This year’s edition of the Midwest Shrine Game was the dress rehearsal for the Green and Gold.
It didn’t look too good for the team that wants to be the NFC champs.
Although it was preseason, the new and improved defense of the Packers shouldn’t give up a touchdown to an opponent on their opening drive, especially if it’s for 80 yards in 11 plays.
“The Browns drove the ball downfield on us the first series,” cornerback Charles Woodson said. “We had those type of games last year, and we can’t allow that to happen again this year. There’s some things we’re going to have to fix. Defensively, we’re not at all happy with how we played.”
And when the Packers got the ball the first time, it was a turnover that helped Cleveland take a two touchdown lead.
“In a real game, that could turn out to be too late,” Woodson said. “You don’t want to go down 14 points, letting a team just run up and down the field on you. We have to correct the first two series.”
Added head coach Mike McCarthy: “The Browns’ offense was very productive. Obviously, I was not happy with the way the team started the football game, period. That was more of a reflection of myself, and we’ll make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
Running back Ryan Grant got the ball and tucked it under his arm. The ball was stripped by a Cleveland defensive lineman and they recovered the loose ball.
Some Packer fans probably held their breaths, thinking, “Here we go again.”
I thought Grant should’ve held the ball with two hands, since he went up the middle and through traffic.
We know what the running backs should be working on, and that’s ball security.
Usually, Grant is sure-handed because in 291 previous times in the regular season, he didn’t lose the ball.
That fumble didn’t count because it’s not the regular season.
And that means that running back coach Edgar Bennett will be preaching to his position players how important it is to hold onto the ball.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw short passes on the Packers’ second drive before hitting receiver Greg Jennings for a TD pass from 25 yards. He engineered another scoring drive in the second quarter for the Packers before calling it a day.
“The offense got into a good rhythm and started hitting some plays downfield,” he said. “Guys made some great efforts, the line did a good job protecting, and I made a couple of passes.”
How about Rodgers completing 10 straight passes in the half? It’s too early to tell if the Packers have a potent offense.
“A lot of positive things on offense on their second and third drives, and I’m sure we’ll be able to build off it,” McCarthy said. “It shows just kind of where you are as a football team. These are good things that you can learn from because this is the time of year you want it to happen.”
As McCarthy said, you might as well get the cobwebs out of the way now. In less than a month, everyone plays for real.
The 27-21 Green Bay loss wasn’t that important at this juncture. Getting their starters out of the game by halftime with any major injuries was more important. What was also important was to give playing time to those who are trying to impress the coaching staff.
Any effort from the second-stringers on will be good, but there are only so many spots on the 53-man roster.
More Feeder Programs Needed
I am a big supporter of youth programs in football. When I saw a young lady put signs in the grass to advertise the Junior Cougars football program, I was curious. The Junior Cougars is a feeder program for Custer High School. We need more of the city schools with football programs to operate feeder programs to teach the younger players in the 6th-8th grade the system and boost their interest in playing the game. The suburbs run feeder programs, why can’t the city schools do the same?