Some Clarity Following Preseason FinalePosted:Aug 31st, 2012 2:55 pm
Here's what we learned as we put a wrap on the preseason: Graham Harrell will be the Packers' #2 quarterback this season, there are eight WRs on the roster who belong in the league, the defense looks deeper-but I'm not sure how much better it is and Cedric Benson will provide us with cheers and jeers this season.
I'm still not sold on Harrell, but he played a flawless game (he had a perfect passer rating), made some solid decisions and delivered the ball on target. He was aided by nice catches, in particular Jermichael Finley who had to reach behind to grab a high ball across the middle. It was great to see Finley finally get some game action. If he can deliver on his potential, he could have the greatest impact on this offense, since teams have to pay close attention to Jennings and Nelson.
Benson's fumble (which the Pack recovered) reminds us of one of the reasons the Bengals were ready to move on. He is one of the league's most prolific fumblers, a trait Mike McCarthy is not crazy about. He will open the season as the starter, but if he puts the ball on the ground a couple of times, all bets are off.
I'm most interested to see what Ted Thompson does with the WR position. Conventional wisdom says he keeps six (vs. five a year ago) and three guys are gunning for the spot: Tori Gurley, Diondre Borel and Jarrett Boykin, who led the team with 82 yards and is Virginia Tech's all-time leading receiver. Assuming Thompson hangs on to James Jones (I would trade him) and keeps the trophy winning dancer, he will have to pick one of those three. He may try to put Boykin on the practice squad, but after teams watch tape from last night, I think someone would pluck him off the squad. He could be a #4 or #5 for a lot of teams.
My bet is Gurley makes the squad. His combination of size, hands and potential gives him the edge. After passing up offers to join active rosters last season (as did Borel), Gurley gets rewarded with the #6 spot in 2012.
Defensively, it was pretty ugly against the Chiefs, despite allowing only three points. BJ Raji went down with an ankle injury on the first play. While it doesn't appear serious as of this writing, it's a concern. The unit could not stop the run. Peyton Hillis ran like the Madden curse was over for him and Jamaal Charles was effective as well. For the record, this two-headed attack, along with a strong defense is the reason I believe the Chiefs win the AFC West this season.
It was nice to see Mike Neal finally look like a legit rotational linemen, once he serves his four game suspension. I thought the team might cut their losses with the former second rounder, but his play last night should wrap up a roster spot. The team's top two rookies have yet to show much--let's see how they look when the Capers defense is playing for real. Nick Perry may get pushed a bit by rookie Dezman Moses, who has earned a roster spot; Erik Walden has also looked good and he'll be in the mix after serving his one-game suspension.
The reality is, for a lot of the guys we watched at Lambeau, this was the last time they'll wear a n NFL uniform. Thompson will deliver the news to 20-some guys at some point later today and the Pack will have its First 53 of the 2012 season. It will undoubtedly be a bit fluid. You know a couple of guys who make the roster will be sweating until the national anthem next Sunday, knowing that Thompson could add a player via the street or trade.
The other biggest roster questions: will James Starks make the team, what will they do with Derrek Sherrod, who's the odd man out on the defensive line? Cuts are due tonight. I'll post reaction once the roster's in place.
Finally, a reminder that "Packer Preview" returns for a 17th season on KFAN, the radio home of the Vikings, on Sunday September 9th at 8am--also available at kfan.com (and iTunes shortly after 9am). And if you're heading out to the Minnesota State Fair on Saturday morning, stop by the KFAN booth to say hi. Trent Tucker and I will be live with "In the Zone" from 8am-10am.