By now every Packers fan the world over has heard about the likely loss of Pro Bowl receiver Jordy Nelson for the entire 2015 season. While cheeseheads are still going through the fandom grieving process, the team must already be moving on, analyzing tape on Sunday’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers and preparing for Saturday’s match-up with the Philadelphia Eagles. Lost in the story of Nelson are a number of story lines from yesterday’s game, less important than the loss of Nelson but important to the team nonetheless.
Question Marks at Left Tackle
While there is no reason to believe that starting LT David Bakhtiari will not be ready to go come Week 1 of the regular season, the poor performance of back-up LT Don Barclay is certainly a cause for serious concern. Barclay has been downright terrible in pass protection in both of the Packers’ preseason games thus far, giving up multiple sacks and allowing pressure on nearly every passing down. Called holds have seemingly been his only way of slowing down his man.
Even if Bakhtiari is ready for the regular season opener, it’s certainly discouraging to think that the team is one sprained ankle, concussion, or stepped-on toe from seeing Barclay protect the MVP’s backside in real games. Perhaps it’s time for the team to give Jeremy Vujnovich a shot with the 1st or 2nd team. At this moment, the team doesn’t appear to have a lot of answers other than to hope beyond hope that Bakhtiari stays healthy.
— Aaron Nagler (@AaronNagler) August 23, 2015
Mathsay’s Punting Woes Continue
Tim Mathsay’s punting ability notably declined last season and the unfortunate trend seems to be continuing this preseason. Free agent Cody Mandell was brought in for competition, but was cut by the team early in training camp. It’s too bad that the team was not able to bring in a player that could push Mathsay a bit more. It’s unclear what is happening with Mathsay, but he’s proving himself to be a liability for the defense, forcing them into short-field situations which, of course, only make things more difficult. The loss of Nelson puts even more pressure on Dom Capers and the defense this year. They’re going to need all the help that the supposedly revamped special teams can give them with field position.
Rollins and Hundley Take Steps Backwards
Rookies Quentin Rollins and Brett Hundley both had solid performances in their NFL debuts last week, but neither could build on those performances against the Steelers. Rollins was facing a better crop of WRs and Hundley found himself under even more pressure than last week with the 3rd string offensive line really struggling in pass protection. Of course you want to see young players finding some consistency in real action, but rookies will have performances like this. They are still two players to be excited about.
Ladarius Gunter Continues Dominance
Unlike Rollins and Hundley, undrafted rookie CB Gunter showed up to play yesterday. He’s simply been unstoppable in both preseason games. While I’d still like to see a team test Gunter’s speed with some deep fly routes, he appears to be not only a lock for making the team, but also making a serious push for significant playing time this year.
Jayrone Elliott is No Vic So’oto 2.0
OLB Jayrone Elliott shined last preason, with a knack for getting into the backfield and disrupting plays. That ability has continued early on in 2015 without so much as a hiccup. On one play in the 2nd quarter, Elliott showed an absolutely sick spin move and nearly sacked Pittsburgh QB Bruce Gradkowski. Having Elliott around will certainly give the Packers some much needed depth on passing downs, giving Capers even more options, especially for his exotic blitzing schemes like the infamous NASCAR package.
Ripkowski a Special Teams Monster
Rookie Aaron Ripkowski now has 4 tackles on special teams in just two games. With the special teams an area of emphasis for head coach Mike McCarthy, Ripkowski looks more and more likely to make the team if only for his special teams prowess alone.
Alonzo Harris a Bruiser But Lacks the Hands of Rajion Neal
Like Eddie Lacy, Alonzo Harris is a powerful back. That strength was on display as he picked up a 2 point conversion in the 2nd quarter.
However, pass catching back Rajion Neal certainly has the upper hand (pun intended) in the area of receiving ability as Harris made two pretty ugly drops in the game as wel
Richard Rodgers Poised for Break Out Year
Second year tight end Richard Rodgers may not be as athletically gifted as Jermichael Finley was, but he makes up for anything he lacks with shear consistency. The guy just does everything well and, at least early into his career, has some really sure hands. He will definitely be a safety net for QB Aaron Rodgers, especially with security blanket Jordy Nelson sidelined for the year.
Damarious Randall Gets into the Mix
It was nice to see Randall showing a little bit of why the Packers took him with their first overall pick. He showed some nice leaping ability and hands to go up and get an interception in this one.
Haha Needs to Needs to Find Consistency in Tackling
Second year first round safety Haha Clinton-Dix continues to look great after a solid rookie year. However, one glaring exception is his tackling. Clinton-Dix has not always shown great technique, greeting a ballcarrier yesterday with his patented lowered head followed by a big whiff.
Ha Ha's patented head-duck https://t.co/8HWQo131qm
— Aaron Nagler (@AaronNagler) August 24, 2015
However, the following two plays from the 2nd quarter show that Clinton-Dix can sometimes be a solid tackler. As with many second year players, he simply needs to work on consistency (and keeping his head up)——————
Taylor O\'Neill is a Packer fan born and raised in Oshkosh, WI. He currently lives in Florida and is pursuing his PhD. Taylor is a writer with PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TaylorONeill87 for more Packer news.