Packers’ backup QBs, WRs soar in opener

By Chris Havel
Special to Event USA

Kumerow grabs passes, Rodgers’ attention; Valdes-Scantling also looks good in debut

GREEN BAY, Wis. –    When Aaron Rodgers talks his receivers listen.


After Rodgers criticized several for a poor effort in Tuesday’s practice, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Jake Kumerow starred in the Packers’ 31-17 preseason win over Tennessee.
Valdes-Scantling caught five passes for 101 yards and a nifty back-end zone touchdown grab. He also caught a 51-yard bomb in Thursday’s preseason opener at Lambeau Field.
Kumerow, who has received rave reviews from Rodgers, had three catches for 76 yards and a 52-yard touchdown grab.
Equanimeous St. Brown added four catches for 61 yards, including a clever move on a 28-yard reception.
Even J’Mon Moore showed the ability to get open. Now, Moore needs to catch it after a two-drop night that included what would’ve been a 40-yard plus reception from Tim Boyle.
Davante Adams, who had a 57-yard catch, was in mid-season form while Geronimo Allison made several tough catches.
Now, the young receivers must build on it.
Packers’ head coach Mike McCarthy, his staff and the backup quarterbacks did an excellent job of providing the inexperienced receivers with opportunities to make plays.
The pass protection was good enough and the quarterbacks’ accuracy was impressive. Passes rarely sailed over receivers’ heads or bounced at their feet. Plays were there to be made.
Valdes-Scantling, Kumerow and Moore each had seven targets. St. Brown had six and holdover DeAngelo Yancey had five.
It provides the coaches with ample opportunity to correctly evaluate the receivers behind Adams and Randall Cobb, who sat out to rest his surgically-repaired ankle.
Brett Hundley started at quarterback and showed improvement from a year ago. He hit 9 of 14 passes for 108 yards with one touchdown and an interception. His 57-yard bomb to Adams was the highlight. It was a perfectly thrown deep ball, something that Hundley had struggled with last season.
Hundley moved OK in the pocket, but he still tends to have his eyes on would-be pass rushers as opposed to would-be receivers.
Kizer, the No. 3 for now, completed 9 of 18 for 134 yards in his Packers’ debut. His pocket awareness is much better than Hundley’s, and he appears comfortable in a new offense.
Boyle (7-of-15, 130 yards, two touchdowns) was sharp. He throws the best deep ball of the three backups and looks to have taken advantage of his time in the system this offseason.
Thus far, it seems first-year GM Brian Gutekunst and his scouts have upgraded the depth at receiver and quarterback.
The offensive line’s lack of depth remains a concern, however.
Kyle Murphy started at left tackle and battled through it. Meantime, veteran Byron Bell struggled a bit at right tackle and Jason Spriggs was a non-factor there.
The good news is David Bakhtiari (ankle) practiced Sunday in a very limited role. Clearly, the Packers’ plan is to have him ready for the Sept. 9 season opener.
Bryan Bulaga continues to rehab his knee but also expects to be ready for the opener.
Defensively, it’s difficult to make any meaningful assessments in terms of the big picture. New defensive coordinator Mike Pettine rarely blitzed and lined up without most of his starters.
The Titans threw 37 passes, combined for a 92.5 quarterback rating and were sacked just once.
Obviously, that’s not good enough, but it’s early.
Several individuals did stand out.
Montravius Adams, the second-year defensive tackle from Auburn, was very active. He held the point of attack, recognized and reacted, and chased down plays from the back side.
It was a good start.
Oren Burks made six tackles, including several in the open field, and fellow linebacker Ahmad Thomas also flashed. Reggie Gilbert continued to show pass-rush ability, while defensive end Kendall Donnerson made a nice play to force a fumble.
Now, it’s on to preseason Week 2 and another Thursday night home game, this time against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
On Sunday, Rodgers took reps with the No. 1 offense. It might be a clue that he’ll play some against the Steelers. It’ll be interesting to see how the snaps are divided among the receivers.
The Steelers, who have legit Super Bowl aspirations, should give the Packers a good gauge on both sides of the football.