Larry McCarren: Picking up the Pieces after Browns Game
Now that it's history, the important thing about the Packers 35-10 loss to the Browns is how it relates to what happens on September 9th and beyond. After all, the point of the whole exercise is to get ready for the regular season.
-We know the Packers offense, the one that will be playing start to finish once the games start counting, will be good, potentially great. Aaron Rodgers' throw, Jordy Nelson's TD catch, the protection, that one play speaks volumes.
-Potential wrench in the offensive works, an injury to either starting offensive tackle. Evan Dietrich-Smith can be counted on for dependable depth inside, but on the edges there's nothing but question marks at best. Don't think Herb Taylor is the answer, don't think Andrew Datko is ready, and don't think Reggie Wells has the "feet" to play outside. Derek Sherrod is still waiting to be cleared to practice for the first time.
-On an even more pessimistic note, an injury to Rodgers would be a season-changer. He's that much better than anyone else, Packers or otherwise. The jury is still out on Graham Harrell. To be fair, he's been working behind an offensive line where 4 of the 5 players may not make the final roster. He's also throwing to the second and third wave of receivers. That having been said, he still has missed some open targets. When the protection is decent and the receiver open, the ball's got to be there a very high percentage of the time. It hasn't been.
-Pass rush, as in better than last season, also falls into the yet to be determined category. With the drafting of Nick Perry, Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels, the Packers have taken steps to improve it but actual improvement wasn't evident in the Browns' game. No sacks, just 4 hits on the QB, none of which coming courtesy the aforementioned newcomers. Daniels was playing in his first game, Perry and Worthy their second, and Rome wasn't built in a day. Is allowing just two weeks for construction asking too much? Probably, but the Packers can't put the start of the regular season on hold. Bottom line, these young players have to develop to the point where they can beat starting caliber offensive linemen one on one, it's as simple as that.
-The back end of the Packers defense is certainly heading in the right direction. Jerron McMillian opened some eyes with his aggressiveness and Casey Hayward was solid in his starting assignment at right corner. Jarrett Bush isn't known for his coverage skills but looked good on the corner vs. the Browns. Add the much improved play of Davon House to established veterans like Woodson, Williams and Burnett, and Dom Capers can really open the playbook.
-There may be a couple of anomalies in the bunch but the Packers have 8 turnovers in their first two preseason games and that's entirely too many regardless of circumstance. They've never been a generous team under Mike McCarthy, it's just not part of the current culture, and if there's one preseason problem that you can bet the ranch on getting fixed, it's turnovers. Guarantees on backup quarterbacks and tackles, and an improved pass rush, are a little tougher to come by.