GREEN BAY — At one time, it looked like just another NFL preseason opener.
You know, a game where the starters play a series or two, then lollygag on the sideline for the rest of the night while a bunch of no-names try to get noticed.
Of course, that was before bad things started happening to the Green Bay Packers in training camp. First, kicker Mason Crosby and reserve quarterback B.J. Coleman bombed in the Family Night scrimmage. Then the Packers signed one of the NFL’s biggest flops, Vince Young, off the street and added him to the mix at quarterback. Finally, left tackle Bryan Bulaga went down with a season-ending knee injury and a run of injuries thinned the ranks at wide receiver, running back and cornerback.
When the smoke cleared, the Packers’ exhibition opener against the Arizona Cardinals on Friday night at Lambeau Field had a surprising sense of urgency. Suddenly, there were things worried Packers fans wanted to see.
They didn’t get a lot of answers in the Packers’ 17-0 loss to the Cardinals, and the ones they got weren’t necessarily good.
How did rookie David Bakhtiari fare as Bulaga’s replacement?
Bakhtiari was the least of the Packers’ worries, even against Arizona’s unpredictable defense. Playing the entire first half, he looked very fluid in pass protection. Cardinals end Matt Shaughnessy, a former University of Wisconsin athlete, beat Bakhtiari on a running play in the opening series, but the fourth-round draft pick recovered nicely and was solid the rest of the half.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for right tackle Marshall Newhouse, who was whipped cleanly for a sack by old pro John Abraham. Quarterback Graham Harrell fumbled on the play and Arizona recovered.
Could Crosby redeem himself or would he open the door even further for rookie Giorgio Tevecchio?
Packers coach Mike McCarthy eschewed a field goal from the 1-yard line in the first half, prompting some in the press box to joke that he had zero confidence in Crosby. The Packers’ anemic offense didn’t yield a field goal opportunity after that, leaving the kicking derby to resume next week.
Could the Packers move the ball on the ground?
Eddie Lacy, the wide-bodied rookie who was so impressive on Family Night, sat out with a hamstring injury. Since incumbent starter DuJuan Harris has yet to practice, it was an opportunity for oft-injured James Starks to show off. Starks ran hard, but his numbers — 38 yards on 12 carries — looked suspiciously like the Packers’ rushing totals from last season.
Despite showing good quickness, rookie Johnathan Franklin didn’t look like a back who will make a living running between the tackles. He made some nifty moves on a screen pass but might have gained more than 9 yards had he not bobbled the ball before hauling it in. Overall, the Packers averaged an all-too-familiar 2.8 yards per carry through three quarters and 3.1 overall.
Would the Packers’ past two first-round draft picks add explosiveness to the pass rush?
Defensive end Datone Jones, the team’s top pick in the April draft, lasted one play before heading to the sideline with an ankle injury. Before you start making comparisons to Justin Harrell and Mike Neal, you should know that the injury didn’t appear to be serious as Jones was later seen laughing on the sideline.
Meanwhile, outside linebacker Nick Perry, the 2012 first-round pick who missed much of last season with a wrist injury, looked explosive in blowing up a Cardinals run on the opening drive. Still, the Packers mounted little pass rush until linebacker Robert Francois sacked Drew Stanton late in the half.
Could the cornerbacks hold up with starter Tramon Williams and nickel back Casey Hayward sidelined?
In a word, no. Oft-injured Davon House showed a lack of awareness on two deep balls, one a 38-yard touchdown pass, the other a 36-yard completion. Micah Hyde, an impressive rookie, was beaten for a short touchdown on a fade pattern.
With only James Jones available from last year’s top five wide receivers, who would step forward?
Veterans Jeremy Ross and Jarrett Boykin made some possession-type catches, but if any receiver made a splash, it was smallish Tyrone Walker, an undrafted rookie from Illinois State. A reception machine in camp practices, Walker looked very quick on a 22-yard catch in the first half and finished with five catches for 41 yards.
Could Young challenge Harrell or Coleman to become one of Aaron Rodgers’ backups?
Harrell opened the door a bit with two first-half turnovers — the interception was his fault, the fumble wasn’t — and it was telling that Young, after only four days of practice, played before Coleman. Young has looked lost in practice, but he completed his first pass to Alex Gillett for 7 yards and a first down. He struggled to locate receivers after that, however, and showed he’s got a long way to go to make the team.