5 Things We Learned: Packers at Rams
AUG 16, 2014 9:35p ET
1. Packers starting offense ready for the regular season
In Aaron Rodgers' first two drives of preseason, things couldn't have gone more smoothly. It was his first game action since Green Bay's Jan. 5 playoff loss to San Francisco, but Rodgers had the offense rolling.
Though the Rams were running a fairly basic defense, the Packers' No. 1 offense was dominant, going 166 yards in 24 plays and scoring 10 points in those two series. It would've been two touchdowns, but a Rodgers-to-Jordy-Nelson end zone connection was called back by an illegal use of hands penalty on David Bakhtiari.
Rodgers left the game having completed 11 of 13 passes for 128 yards and a passer rating of 133.3. His one touchdown pass that did count was on a play that Rodgers extended outside the pocket before finding Randall Cobb for the score.
But an offense can't be that efficient with just a great quarterback performance. Eddie Lacy was terrific in his first -- and only, so far -- drive of preseason, rushing for 25 yards in five carries and catching two passes for 22 yards. The offensive line blocked well, both in the passing game and the running game. JC Tretter passed the test in his first start working with Rodgers, looking comfortable at his new position of starting center. Cobb was very good, Jarrett Boykin caught three passes for Rodgers and all three key tight ends (Richard Rodgers, Brandon Bostick and Andrew Quarless) played a role.
Without Nelson even getting an official target, Green Bay's starting offense did everything it could to show that it's ready for the games to start counting.
2. Julius Peppers has still got it
Peppers only played 10 snaps in the Packers' preseason opener at Tennessee, but he seemed disinterested throughout his short time on the field. The Peppers that showed up in St. Louis was the player who isn't going to let a highly touted rookie offensive tackle stop him from making an impact.
Going up against Greg Robinson (the No. 2 overall pick in the 2014 draft), Peppers made his move and hit Rams starting quarterback Sam Bradford just as the ball was being released to force an incompletion.
On St. Louis' opening drive, Peppers stuffed running back Zac Stacy for a two-yard loss.
With all of the accomplishments in Peppers' 13-year career, a couple impressive plays in a preseason game aren't going to make his Hall of Fame highlight reel. But for the first time in a Packers uniform (and that includes training camp practices), Peppers looked like he could be the difference-maker that Green Bay hoped he would be when signing him this past offseason.
3. Jeff Janis can fly
Janis has been a tremendous playmaker in practice recently. However, with the seventh-round pick rookie having just overcome shingles, he was unable to play in the Packers' first preseason game. It left some to wonder whether Janis would translate that big-play ability into games.
Well, good news, Green Bay: Janis can do it in games, too. Granted, it's just a preseason game and it wasn't against the Rams' starting defense, but no rookie could ask for a better debut than what Janis had.
Late in the third quarter, Janis caught a short pass from Matt Flynn on a crossing route and took off. After sprinting 30 yards and outrunning every St. Louis player in sight, Janis was in the end zone for a touchdown.
Janis also was the second punt returner used by the Packers, being sent back four times. One went out of bounds, two were fair caught and one was returned for nine yards. Consistent, solid play like that could give Green Bay another option in that area.
At this point, word is spreading quickly enough about Janis that he has to make the Packers' regular-season active roster. There's no way Green Bay can cut him and realistically expect Janis not to get picked up by another team. He's been that good so far.
4. Derek Sherrod falls apart
In the preseason opener, head coach Mike McCarthy said that Sherrod's performance "might be the best he's played since he's been here," adding, "I thought he definitely took a step." Sherrod took a step in the wrong direction in St. Louis.
In his first drive, Sherrod was at left tackle when he was beaten twice and got Scott Tolzien crushed twice. Later in the game, Sherrod was beaten badly a third time.
The team's next offensive tackle on the depth chart, Aaron Adams, had a horrible performance, as well. The loss of Don Barclay for the season is one that the Packers may not be able to overcome. That's especially true if Sherrod doesn't drastically improve on what he did against the Rams.
5. Bubble players make a statement
McCarthy wanted to see some of the young players stand out in this game. Several did.
Picking up sacks were undrafted rookie nose tackle Mike Pennel, second-year inside linebacker Sam Barrington, first-round pick safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and undrafted rookie outside linebacker Adrian Hubbard.
Oh, yeah, and undrafted rookie outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott had three sacks. That's not a typo -- he had three sacks. To make it more remarkable, Elliott did so in a span of four plays, the last of which he also forced a fumble on.
That's not all, either. Safety Chris Banjo had an interception, albeit one that was called back by a penalty. However, the penalty had nothing to do with Banjo's effort, so he deserves full credit. Andy Mulumba had a nice run stuff in the fourth quarter. And, of course, there was the play of Janis.
Roster cuts are approaching, but all of these players made strong cases for themselves, especially bubble players like Elliott and Pennel.
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