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Green Bay’s loss not all bad: No points, but no injuries, either Plus Bakhtiaria passed with an A
By CHRIS HAVEL
For a night, at least, the Green Bay Packers’ placekickers weren’t outperformed by the competition.
That and David Bakhtiari’s sharp debut at left tackle were two of a surprisingly high number of highlights in an otherwise mundane event. The Packers’ 17-0 loss to Arizona on Friday night at Lambeau Field was short on drama, which isn’t all bad in the preseason.
The Packers’ play could have been crisper on several fronts, but they did have a number of notable individual performances. In addition, the Packers managed to avoid any significant injuries, which is priceless.
Furthermore, the much-debated kicking competition between the Packers’ incumbent, Mason Crosby, and challenger Giorgio Tavecchio, never materialized. Technically, Crosby has the upper foot given his touchback on the game-opening kickoff. After that, the Packers’ kickers weren’t called upon to kick off, attempt a point-after touchdown, or even try a field goal.
Meantime, the Cardinals’ Jay Feely and Will Batson were awful. They went a combined 1-for-4 on field goal attempts, reminding Packers fans that it can always be worse.
Here are several observations in the wake of the preseason opener:
James Starks’ 12-for-38 evening was encouraging, but the feeling here is that it’s more about the Packers’ improvement in the run game than it is about Starks. I found myself seeing Starks hit holes and imagining what a healthy Eddie Lacy would have done.
Rookie running back Johnathan Franklin is going to be a contributor this season. He plays smart, fast and decisive for a rookie. His hands are exceptional, his toughness surprising and his balance impressive.
Another rookie, Bakhtiari, continued to play in the preseason game the same as he has played during training camp. He was Velcro when contacted by pass rushers, and he played an amazingly clean game.
If he was intimidated, he didn’t show it.
“It was a good first game-like scenario,” Bakhtiari said. “I’m happy where I was but there’s room to improve. I didn’t feel overwhelmed, that’s probably the best way to put it.”
Asked if he had pre-game jitters, Bakhtiari said. “To be honest, I think I probably had more jitters in college than I did for this game. Like I’ve been preaching earlier this week, I’ve just kind of been trying to keep a level head and keep a calm mind about it – just playing my game and just playing left tackle.”
The Packers’ opening drive covered 86 yards in 12 plays. It was at once exciting and disappointing. It included strong running plays, a nice balance of play-calling, clean pass protection and big plays. Aaron Rodgers’ 50-yard completion to James Jones was a beauty. It reminded everyone that Rodgers-to-Jones is the Packers’ go-to passing combination. It was last year, and it’s going to be again this year.
The disappointment came when the drive fizzled at the Arizona 1.
With first-and-goal at the 6, Starks busted off left tackle for 4 yards. After two incomplete passes, Starks was stuffed after a 1-yard gain on fourth down.
The Packers’ offense managed just 137 yards on 54 plays the rest of the game. Graham Harrell connected on 12 of 19 for 76 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. He was sacked twice, including one that resulted in a fumble and turnover.
Vince Young’s talent is obvious. So is his potential. Barring an unforeseen setback, Young has a great opportunity to open the regular season as Rodgers’ backup.
The Packers’ defensive secondary was out of sync and out of position way too much, especially after the first unit departed. The sight of Davon House wondering around the secondary like an accidental tourist was mind-boggling. That can’t happen. The coaches need to tighten it up. Good coverage on 9 of 10 plays isn’t good enough.