The second Packers preseason game is in the books. This is the time when camp narratives begin to change. Fears about depth at certain positions might turn out to be unfounded. Other positions that were thought of as a strength might get exposed. Let’s take a dive into what I learned on Saturday night.
The Secondary is Taking Shape
With Davon House and Damarious Randall out, one might think the CB depth would have been tested. However, some younger players stepped up to the occasion and shined, even with Washington’s starting offense playing deep into the second quarter. Kevin King, Quentin Rollins, and Josh Hawkins started the nickel and all three made the most of it. King, who missed OTAs due to Washington’s quarterly schedule, showed marked improvement from the first game where he struggled with tackling. Rollins showed he can make plays near the line of scrimmage, like when he shot into the backfield for a TFL. Josh Hawkins made the most noise of them all, leading the team in tackles with 7 (5 solo) and 3 passes broken up.
Beyond his box score, Hawkins just looked good. Undrafted free agent Lenzy Pipkins also had a good night, building on a solid performance in week 1 against Philadelphia. There were no INTs on the night, so there’s room for improvement, but it was promising to see the defense able to get off the field. Honorable mention to Safety Marwin Evans who helped out the CBs with another fantastic performance.
The Offensive Line is Just Fine
Even after the departures of T.J. Lang and JC Tretter, offensive line looked like a position of strength going into camp. However, the second-team unit continued to struggle against Washington on Saturday, with almost no bright spots. The young RBs had no room to breathe, and were on the ground far too often. Jason Spriggs has been the most disappointing performer, partially because of his 2nd round pedigree, but largely because he just looks bad. It’s still early to judge, but Spriggs looks like he made no improvement from last year.
The most concerning part might be that he struggled against all kinds of pass rush moves. Lucas Patrick and Justin McCray underperformed after earning praise during camp. Kyle Murphy seemed to hold his own at RT, so the former 6th round pick has the opportunity to challenge Spriggs as the backup swing tackle. The unit seemed to sorely miss Don Barclay, which is not an encouraging sign.
We Do Have Pass Rushers
After the Packers lost Julius Peppers and Datone Jones, edge rusher looked like the position of most need. They were replaced by one 4th-round draft pick who is currently on the PUP list. However, the trio of Kyler Fackrell, Jayrone Elliott, and Reggie Gilbert seem determined to challenge the notion thar OLB is the biggest liability on the Packers roster. Former undrafted free agent Gilbert spent 2016 on the practice squad as he transitioned from college DE to NFL OLB after a solid training camp. Expect him to make a strong push for a spot on the 53-man roster.
Only Gilbert notched a sack, but the other two looked better able to match up against NFL linemen than last week. Fackrell and Elliott might have shown improvement, but they need to turn potential into results sooner than later. The OLBs were helped immensely on the inside by Kenny Clark, who notched only one tackle but was constantly in the QB’s face.
The young RBs finally got their snaps on Saturday. Unfortunately, the second- and third-string OL didn’t let them do much with the carries. Aaron Jones had the highest average among RBs with 14 yards on 3 carries, but his 4 receptions only netted 11 yards. One was a successful TD pitch, but the others were screens that were blown up because of poor timing along the line. Jamaal Williams and Devante Mays had poor averages, but the tape looked promising. Williams especially seemed able to grind out extra yardage, even if he got almost no yards before contact. Khalif Phillips ended with 7 touches, likely taking many 3rd- and 4th-string snaps that would have been shared with William Stanback.
If Trevor Davis makes the 53 and doesn’t muff another punt, then his performance against Washington will be mostly forgotten. But he never looked comfortable trying to catch that punt, and he looked shaken on his next catch. His troubles might give bubble players like Max McCaffrey more looks as PR. For a player fighting for a spot in a deep crowd, especially one who had this issue in regular season last year, there’s no room for a repeat of that moment.
Bonus Honorable Mention
Brett Hundley looked great. That’s all.