Green Bay Packers

What I’ve Learned Through Two Preseason Games

Photo credit: Wm. Glasheen USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

You can’t read too much into a couple of preseason games. But with the Packers giving most of their starters some snaps, here’s what has stood out to me:

Jordan Love is ready. Sure, after holding a clipboard for three years, you’d expect him to be more than ready. But in five or six series through two games, he’s shown poise, calmness, sound decision-making, the trademark strong arm, and a few duds. He’ll have his ups and downs like any first-year starter, but he looks the part of a young QB ready to lead his team.

Rookie backup Sean Clifford has also impressed, and I’m no longer clamoring for an experienced guy to back up Love. He looks like a guy who can step in if needed and keep the team afloat.

To no one’s surprise, the offensive line looks strong and deep, especially at tackle. Zach Tom looks like the second coming of Bryan Bulaga at right tackle and has the chops to fill in anywhere on the line if needed. We all assumed Yosh Nijman would man the left tackle spot until David Bakhtiari was ready. But the Pack gave second-year guy Rasheed Walker the start against the New England Patriots’ first-stringers, and he was the team’s highest-graded lineman. The former seventh-round pick from Penn State looks the part.

There are still some concerns about the depth in the line’s interior — it would be nice to see either Sean Rhyan or Royce Newman provide some assurance as the third guard. And center Josh Myers’ errant snap Saturday night cannot happen. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Tom take over there at some point, with Nijman or Walker stepping in at RT.

The roster decisions at the back end of the wide receiver group will be very interesting. The top four are set (Watson, Doubs, Reed, and Toure). But undrafted rookie Malik Heath out of Ole Miss (five targets, five catches, and 75 yards against the Pats) has to make this team. On Saturday night, he was winning against Christian Gonzalez, New England’s first-round corner. He looks every bit the part of an NFL receiver.

Heath is competing against two drafted guys who have had difficulty staying healthy, along with Bo Melton, who’s also nursing an injury. My guess is that the Packers keep six, with Heath and fifth-round pick Dontayvion Wicks securing the final two spots. Seventh-rounder Grant DuBose has promise, but he will likely land on the practice squad with Melton.

I really hope Luke Musgrave can stay healthy, which has been an issue throughout his college career. The Packers clearly have big plans for the uber-athletic tight end who has a chance to give the offense something they haven’t had since Jermichael Finley. The dude knows how to get open and can run away from people — and the Packers are moving him all over to identify mismatches.

On defense, one rookie has stood out. I’d like to say it’s first-round pick Lukas Van Ness, but no, it’s sixth-rounder Karl Brooks out of Bowling Green. You couldn’t miss him, showing quick feet and uncommon strength on Saturday night. He dominated the line of scrimmage and had more gasp plays than we’ve seen from Devonte Wyatt (unfortunately). With the inexperience around Kenny Clark up front, Brooks will get a chance to earn snaps very quickly. Fellow rookie Colby Wooden has also looked good. Brian Gutekunst may have hit on a couple of Day 3 gems on the D-line.

As for Van Ness, I thought he looked a little more comfortable in his second game. It’s way too early to panic that we haven’t seen any splash plays yet. Those have been reserved for second-year rusher JJ Enagbare. He had some nice moments last year and was a beast against the Pats. The Packers have listed Enagbare behind Van Ness on the depth chart, but he’s far more ready to contribute to the defense than the rookie.

The biggest concern remains the starting safety spot opposite Darnell Savage. No one has stepped up and claimed it, and the team is giving four or five guys a chance to step up. If I’m Gutey, I’m scanning the waiver wire when cuts happen or even entertaining a trade and dangling a guy like Nijman to a tackle-needy team (no, not the New York Jets).

Kicker Anders Carlson had a strong night, making his two PATs and crushing a 52-yarder at the end of the first half that would’ve been good from 62. It might be a bit of a roller coaster ride, but that’s what you often get with a rookie kicker. The team has resisted bringing in any competition, and Carlson showed why on Saturday.

According to PFF, the Packers’ offense and defense have been the best-performing units in the league in the preseason. That translates to strong quarterback play and a potentially deep, competitive roster. All good signs as we inch closer to a mysterious new era in Titletown.

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Photo credit: Wm. Glasheen USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

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