Sunday, August 10, 2014

Let it Rain: Green Bay Packers lose to Tennessee Titans in rainstorm

James Starks taking one into the end zone in the first quarter (Joe Robbins/Getty Images North America)

It was most certainly a soggy night in Nashville, and the Packers may have made some of the best decisions about tonight's game before it even started. They placed a healthy scratch on key starters, Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, and Jordy Nelson. After seeing Don Barclay and Jared Abbrederis go down for the season with ACL injuries, the Packers knew this game was about finding players in the lower portions of their 90 man roster. With those three men, they know exactly what to expect and their performance did not need to be evaluated in the swamp like conditions in Tennessee this evening.
But the Packers did start off with the ball, and their offensive line and the backup running back James Starks looked dominant from the very beginning. On the opening drive, Starks recorded 49 of the 64 offensive yards to score the game's opening touchdown. The other plays on the opening drive were a 5 yard scramble by Flynn, and a 10 yard completion to rookie tight end Richard Rodgers. The other thing to pick up here is that Rodgers got the start at tight end over returning tight ends Andrew Quarless and Brandon Bostick. This is big news since most people still had Rodgers behind both players.

Then the starting defense came in and forced a three and out with an incompletetion from Jake Locker to Justin Hunter, a player that is definitely getting good buzz early in training camp for the Titans.

One Packer that certainly is hoping for a better second game is rookie wide receiver Davante Adams. He was being used as the primary punt returner and muffed the first two punts in his direction. He will probably be taken off of special teams very quickly, which means the Packers may need to use another roster spot for someone more developmental instead of using Adams for punt returner and wide receiver. Micah Hyde, who returned some punts last year, had one fair catch but muffed another punt himself later in the game too. On Adams second muffed punt of the game he was unable to recover it this time and it went to the Titans, where Shonn Greene took it in for a 13 yard touchdown run on the next play, but the Titans would miss the extra point, making it a 7-6 lead for the Packers. Adams might have outperformed Jarrett Boykin as a receiver still though, getting 2 catches for 22 yards while Boykin got called for offensive pass interference in the second quarter.

One player that certainly looked uncomfortable in the game was Matt Flynn, who is battling Scott Tolzien for Rodger's backup spot. Flynn fumbled the ball at one point, and finished 5/10 passing for only 49 yards. Flynn is going to need to perform better in later preseason games, because this performance was pretty abysmal for a quarterback that helped save the Packers season last year. That's also because Tolzien played a better game as well, throwing 8/12 for 128 yards. Flynn doesn't have the arm strength that Tolzien has, but he has more experience, but Tolzien could definitely take advantage in further preseason games and definitely had the upper hand in this game against the Titans.

Undrafted rookie running Rajion Neal looked pretty good in his action as well tonight. He had 5 rushes for 39 yards and one touchdown as well. He did not play a lot, but when he was in, he looked like he could be the replacement the Packers desperately need due to the absence of Jonathan Franklin with his unexpected retirement from football this Summer. Neal looked much better than the other undrafted rookie, LaDarius Perkins. Perkins had 10 carries and managed only 18 yards.

The Packers were able to force two turnovers in this game off of rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger. First, they had Jumal Rolle get a strip sack of the quarterback, which was recovered by rookie linebacker Jake Doughty from Utah State. Then the second one came when Jackie Battle couldn't grab the pass from Mettenberger. The ball shot up in the air and linebacker Korey Jones grabbed the ball and returned it for a few yards. Jackie Battle would have the last laugh though as he would score the game winning touchdown the next time the Titans had the ball.

The Packers obviously didn't play their best game, but they didn't even play most of their best players. But it's great to see that they stayed healthy and continued to improve, and maybe one of these young diamonds in the rough will shine brightly for the Packers in the future.

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