The Green Bay Packers find themselves with a 1-2 preseason record as the team prepares for their fourth preseason game against the New Orleans Saints. With the preseason’s primary function being to fine tune the team and make decisions on the final roster, the overall standings in the preseason do not hold much merit.
Because backups have gotten a majority of the Packers’ snaps this preseason, the overall performance of the team (for the most part) does not necessarily reflect how Green Bay will play in the regular season. But it is still worth noting how poorly both the defense and special teams have performed at times during the preseason.
It is still not quite time to hit the panic button on the Packers defensive and special teams units, but their performances should be an area of concern with just under two weeks until the regular season opener.
First, the defense’s performance against the Eagles stands out as particularly worrisome. While many of the Packers’ primary defenders saw limited game action, the bulk of Philadelphia’s scoring game early in the game against the team’s main unit.
Chip Kelly is known for his unique and fast-paced offense, and Green Bay played a basic defense for most of the game. Some of the defense’s struggles can therefore be attributed to not using schemes that they might use when the season begins. But some individual performances were subpar, and that could be concerning.
Sam Barrington, who is still projected to be one of the starting inside linebackers, was awful in pass coverage. The Philadelphia quarterbacks completed all five passes thrown at Barrington, including two touchdowns. The Packers were counting on having their inside linebackers be better in pass coverage, and an individual performance that poor could carry over into the regular season.
The pass defense as a whole struggled against the Eagles. Starting quarterback Sam Bradford did not throw an incompletion, completing all ten of his passes including three touchdowns. For the defense to go an entire quarter without even forcing an incompletion is a bad sign for the unit, regardless of whether or not it was the preseason.
The special teams is also an area that needs vast improvement before the season begins. Again, aspects like punt and kickoff coverage should improve no matter what once a permanent special teams unit is established following final roster cuts. After all, those players who struggle on special teams coverage are the ones who are likely to be cut before Saturday’s deadline.
But while it is also not wise to panic over the special teams’ struggles thus far, it is still something that should concern Green Bay. The issues were apparent from the opening kickoff, when Philadelphia had a kick return of 67 yards.
Tim Masthay has continued to be one of the team’s weakest links. He averaged less than 38 yards per punt against the Eagles and failed to kick a ball more than 40 yards. Mason Crosby missed a 51-yard field goal off the right upright. The Packers also committed eight penalties on special teams, which constantly gave the Eagles good starting field position and often pinned Green Bay deep in its own territory.
Once again, the performance and record of the team as a whole does not have much of a bearing on how the regular season will play out. Green Bay could very well see vast improvement on both defense and special teams once the best 53 players are the only ones who take the field.
The Packers are still one of the teams to beat in the NFL, regardless of the injuries and subpar play that have plagued parts of the team thus far. It is not time to panic about how Green Bay has looked after three preseason games.
But it is also not as easy as simply disregarding the Packers’ struggles on defense and special teams. Adjustments do need to be made, and the team should be concerned about some of the individual performances that they have seen so far. Packer fans need to trust that the coaching staff and players will make the necessary adjustments to be ready for Week 1.——————
Sean Blashe is a Packers fan who grew up in Bears territory and is currently a journalism and history major at Marquette University. Sean is a writer with PackersTalk.com and you can follow him on twitter at @SeanBlashe .