Packers’ preseason opener gives reason to believe ‘D’ better

Mason Crosby gets it right; Green Bay
signs ex-long snapper Brett Goode

By Chris Havel
Special to Event USA
GREEN BAY, Wis. – The notion that the Packers’ pre-season games are “meaningless” borders on silly.

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Clearly, they are very meaningful for a variety of reasons.
Green Bay’s 24-9 victory over Philadelphia Thursday in what was the pre-season opener for both teams provided several significant takeaways, beginning with the ones by the defense:
** The Packers’ defense registered four takeaways. It’s a stat to take with a grain of salt given the teams’ lack of hitting in training camp, which makes ball security dicey at the outset.
However, give the Packers’ defense credit for making several very nice plays. Safety Marwin Evans’ interception and diving catch to corral it was pretty nifty. Evans has a chance to make the Packers’ 53-man roster despite the depth at safety.
Blake Martinez, Kevin King and Ladarius Gunter all delivered strong hits to give the Eagles a case of the fumbles.
Joe Thomas appears to have had a fine off-season.
Thomas had a nice interception to go with five tackles. He gives defensive coordinator Dom Capers some options in pass defense. Furthermore, Thomas doesn’t look like a liability in run defense.
Along the defensive line, second-year pros Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry looked and played like bona fide NFL linemen. They split gaps, controlled the line of scrimmage and either made plays at the point of attack or chased hard from behind.
** Veteran Ricky Jean Francois showed up in his Packers’ debut. The cagy, strong No. 95 flashed in only a handful of plays. That is going to go down as a key acquisition.
The release of Letroy Guion sent a signal that it was time to part ways with the veteran and time for the unit to move on.
It suggests GM Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy were satisfied that they have enough up front to go a different direction. I believe it was the right call.
** Damarious Randall is in the concussion protocol and therefore can’t be interviewed. The loss of the third-year cornerback for any extended amount of time – especially if concussions become chronic (let’s pray not) – this could be very serious.
It’s in the Packers’ best interest to take it extra-slow with him.
** Mason Crosby, Derek Hart and Justin Vogel seem to have ironed out the kinks from the Family Night debacle.
That said the Packers re-signed long snapper Brett Goode to compete with Hart.
** Rookie running back Jamaal Williams showed me something on Thursday night. Williams rushed four times for 14 yards, a modest 3.5-yards-per-carry, but I really liked his vision and decisiveness between the tackles.
He wasn’t challenged in pass protection or the passing game, but he has looked good in both areas thus far in camp.
Williams appears determined to provide the “2” in the Green Bay running game’s 1-2 punch of Ty Montgomery and question mark?
Montgomery looked bad on the fumble, but otherwise I thought he had a decent night. He catches the ball easily, finds the openings in the defense naturally, and runs with power after the catch. His pass protection will improve during the balance of the pre-season and the regular season.
Montgomery’s forte is moving the chains.
He could become a short passing game nightmare for opponents.
** Bryan Bulaga and the offensive line have looked really strong during training camp. I suspect it will continue into the regular season based on the position unit’s performance to date.
Bulaga, David Bakhtiari and the rest look terrific. With the exception of Don Barclay’s ankle injury they’ve also been able to stay healthy, which is critical.
** Jeff Janis is fighting for a roster spot.
Depending on how quickly Malachi Dupre recovers from his concussion, Janis probably needs to make his move now.
Dupre is an interesting talent, while fellow rookie De’Angelo Yancey clearly has the size, speed and ability to make the tough catch. That’s a pretty sweet skill set.
Janis’ touchdown catch – and the fake-and-bake that set it up – was a thing of beauty. However, Janis still runs so-so routes and is prone to drop the easy catch.
If Janis is going to make the 53-man roster it’s quite likely going to be because of his special teams skills. And he’s only an average kick returner at that.
To be perfectly honest, I think Janis has less than a 50-50 shot to make the 53-man roster. That’s unfortunate for Janis, although I believe he’ll be in the NFL somewhere, if not Green Bay. But it’s also a testament to a really and truly deep receiving corps.