Halfway through the 2012 Pre-Season, the Green Bay Packers backups are just not moving forward. The 35-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns at Lambeau had a lot of folks asking if we should be worried about this team. The only way I would be alarmed is if the starting units on offense and defense took a seperate plane to Cincinnati next week and it went down. The front liners on both sides are like a big engine, offensively, they're missing some plugs and points (Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley), defensively, there's a couple of new parts (Nick Perry, D.J. Smith). It's bit weezy right now but once it turns over and starts humming, it should be fine. The depth however, is another story.
It took only four plays for the defense to take it away (Charles Woodson strip, Casey Hayward recovery) and the offense to score (a third and 7, 20 yard TD from Aaron Rodgers to Jordy Nelson). When the ones were done at the end of the quarter, Green Bay led 7-6 because Phil Dawson need three tries to nail a 53 yard field goal and Randall Cobb was loose with the bean and Mike McCarthy challenged the already reviewable turnover that tacked on 15 unsportsmanlike yards to the play. Cleveland went nowhere but got three more on the board. The rest of the night had the defense surrender 20 points and the offense give the Browns 9. With backup Graham Harrell at the controls, the offense managed a mere four first downs and 103 net yards and only three points. Harrell finished 12 of 24 for 100 yards with two interceptions, good for a passer rating of 26.4. He was directly involved in those aforementioned nine points, getting picked for six by David Sims, after Ryan Taylor stumbled to the turf, and the safety, intentionally grounding the ball in the end zone. Sure looked like a bad call with a Brownie draped on his arm but that doesn't dimish the fact Harrell still hasn't caught up to the NFL game speed. He needed several throws to get zeroed in, finally hitting Jarrett Boykin for more than half his yardage on back to back plays when the game was essentially over. Field position hurt Graham as well, 20 of his snaps were taken from inside his own 20 yard line. Harrell has directed 17 series in two games, not couting the one play, hail mary interception before the half, and the offense has gone three and out 11 times. Complicating matters is the second string offensive line, it's not pretty. They couldn't open holes and they couldn't adjust to stunts, forcing Harrell to be the team's second leading rusher on the night with 23 yards, one fewer than the leading rusher, Rodgers with 24. The three healthy running backs had 22 yards on 13 carries. Hurry up Cedric Benson. The starting defense really only yielded one significant play, a 19 yard pass from rookie Brandon Weeden to Josh Gordon against Hayward. The second unit allowed a 24 yard strike on third and 6 from the 25 when Nick Perry got a little lost in coverage, Hardesty scored on the next snap. Then the Browns moved 40 yards in 12 plays over 6 minutes to flip field position in the second quarter. The ensuing punt was pinned at the one, Harrell couldn't push it out of there and the Browns got back in Dawson's range again. In the second half, the Browns put up a 14 play, 75 yard, 7:22 march for a touchdown and nearly finished the night with a 15 play drive that took 8 of the last 9 minutes off the clock. The defensive group couldn't get off the field.
There were a couple of bright snaps. Jerron McMillian was solid as a safety in the box, aggressively getting to ballcarriers. Jarrett Boykin made a pair of nice grabs back to back in the 4th quarter field goal drive and Otis Merrill took a kickoff back 60 yards with good blocking.
The team now gets two days off. The starters know they'll get most of the work in Cincinnati next Thursday night, the back-ups have three more practices and a limited number of snaps against the Bengals to prove why they belong or General Manager Ted Thompson is going to put in some extra time looking over other team's cuts, while he's cutting his.