The third week of preseason, usually treated as a “dress rehearsal,” ended in a close loss for the Packers. Though the score itself is largely inconsequential, the loss resulted from a couple glaring roster weaknesses being exposed. The kind of weaknesses that won’t disappear along with the preseason. Here’s what I learned on Saturday night.
The Hundley Show
Despite the loss, Brett Hundley had a solid performance. Hundley didn’t exactly light up the stat sheet, with a 6-yard rush TD being his only score for the night. A promising final series was ended when OL Geoff Gray sacked his own QB. But Hundley still looked the part of an NFL passer against a vaunted Broncos defense that played its starters deeper into the game than most Packers offensive starters. That’s a good thing.
Hundley is doing himself and the Packers a huge favor with each week he improves and puts out quality film against NFL-level competition. Don’t get it wrong, the Packers’ phones won’t be blowing up with trade offers after a good preseason game. However, at some point this season some team will probably need to bring in a QB. It could be due to injury, or it could be a team moving on from poor-to-mediocre QB options. At that point, they’ll review their options and hopefully Hundley will have done enough to put himself at the top of the list.
Evans Picks Up Where Lang Left Off
Jahri Evans has quietly been among Ted Thompson’s best free agent additions, and that’s saying a lot with the other four all looking to have big roles. He plugged the void at RG vacated by TJ Lang, not just in terms of skill but also attitude.
Evans was just nasty when he mauled Adam Gotsis on Ty Montgomery’s 2 yard TD. And Evans was right alongside Lane Taylor (who also seamlessly replaced an All-Pro guard on short notice and has also been excellent this preseason) in sticking up for Jamaal Williams after some late messy business. As inconsistent as the reserves have been, the starting offensive line continues to be among the best in the NFL.
Edge Depth Gets Early Test
The thin depth at OLB has been a storyline all offseason, but now it’s getting real. First Nick Perry had to exit the game with an ankle injury, then Jayrone Elliott left with a back injury. Though Fackrell has had moments as a pass rusher, and was first off the bench to replace Perry, Elliott has been more consistent especially in the run game.
Losing Perry and Elliott would leave the OLB unit in dire straits. Any lingering injuries could mean a drop-off in performance similar to Cobb/Adams in 2015 and Randall/Rollins in 2016. Reggie Gilbert continues to impress, but there is essentially nothing behind him. Johnathan Calvin looks promising, but is unlikely to contribute in his first year. Vince Biegel is still on the PUP list three weeks into preseason. The defensive line continued its dominant play, but the Packers can’t rely solely on interior pass rush.
Recently, it’s been reported Datone Jones could be released by the Vikings. His offseason comments might have rubbed some people the wrong way, but they were a far cry from the kind of harsh comments by other former Packers. It’s also been reported Ahmad Brooks has a visit scheduled with the Packers on Tuesday. If Jones and Brooks come in and play well, GM Ted Thompson will look wise for letting Jones and Julius Peppers leave in free agency. Otherwise, fair or not, Thompson might cement his reputation for neglecting a position of need despite having the opportunity to address it.
While not a Packer, Broncos DE Shelby Harris earns a mention because he was born in Milwaukee. A 7th round pick in 2014, Harris has mostly bounced around practice squads the past couple years. He looks determined to finally make an impact as he made plays all night, including a 4th down stuff in the 2nd quarter and a sack on Hundley’s final drive.
There’s only one preseason game left, then the real games start! When the Rams come to Lambeau this week, expect a hard-fought game, as the backups will all be fighting for their jobs in the last chance they have to solidify a roster spot before the squad is cut to 53 players.