Welcome to the first installment of Lessons Learned. Check in after each game all season long to hear my takeaways from the games and the season as a whole. Before I begin the first installment, I’d like to remind readers that there are limitations to any preseason observations. Schemes aren’t fully installed, starters don’t always play. You can’t judge a player or team’s abilities solely on games that don’t count. Having said that, here are some lessons from Thursday night’s game that are more likely to carry over to Sunday afternoons.
Special Teams Looking Strong
Rookie punter Justin Vogel and second year receiver Trevor Davis headlined a new-look special teams unit against the Eagles. Vogal could be the Packers first exciting punter in ages. He avoided the pattern of an errant shank between good punts that emerged in practice.
Trevor Davis came into this game with a point to prove. Having already showed his determination with the mix tape he sent Ron Zook, he flashed big play ability with an fantastic punt return for a touchdown. He was assisted with some great blocks by Jordan Tripp and Marwin Evans, two budding ST aces, and the unit as a whole showed promising cohesion on that play. But it was Davis’ smooth cuts and incredible breakaway speed that sealed the TD.
Hundley Looks Legit
It was tough to tell with occasional lapses in protection, a nonexistent run game, and some untimely drops. Hundley didn’t help his case with some unfortunate mistakes, most notably throwing a pick right into a linebacker’s hands after a Packers fumble recovery. But if they can get some momentum on the ground and the OL lineups start to gel, Hundley is going to make some real noise over the next three weeks.
Stiff Competition at Cornerback
Seldom mentioned Donatello Brown is a player to keep an eye on. He was tagged by a couple scouts as a notable Packers UDFA during the offseason, but quickly fell to the background with 23, 24, 36, 31, 20, and even 27 getting most of the attention at the CB position. With such a tight competition among several CBs who have several chips on their shoulders, it was always going to be an uphill climb for Brown and the other undrafted rookies.
However, in the first exhibition game of the year, Brown looked the part of the typical undrafted rookie who forces his way onto the Packers’ roster with consistently strong performances in preseason. He also has a compelling “journey to the NFL” story, sitting out of college for 2 years before getting another chance at his dream. If Brown keeps up his physical play and tight coverage, adds a couple takeaways, and shows promise on special teams, he’ll give the front office some difficult decisions at cut-down time. The CBs ahead of him largely did not help their cases last night.
The quarterbacks behind Hundley looked pretty good in limited action. Callahan started strong with some impressive throws and looked solid overall, despite an easily-preventable strip sack. The Packers recovered the fumble, but that lack of ball security will not fly in the NFL. Taysom Hill surprised some with a good arm and accuracy to go with his undeniable athleticism, but he also seemed to take a couple unnecessary risks as a runner. With an extensive history of injuries derailing his career, Hill should be a lot more careful with his health.