Finally we make it to the last preseason game of 2014, with all the uncertainty and desperation that tends to surface as the back half of the roster tries to do whatever they can to make the 53-man roster. This week’s Best and Worst is a reflection of the unusual aspect of the game, with a long list of players hoping to make an impression on a coaching staff - if not Green Bay’s, than any other team in the league.
Once again, the wide receiver had a big play offensively, including a SportsCenter-worthy catch on a 4th & 3 for a 33 yard catch and run for a touchdown from Scott Tolzien. However, his big contributions were on Special Teams - he didn’t make any obvious mistakes as punt returner, including some tough catches where he had to take it on the run. Also, he set-up the final touchdown of the game with a 61 yard kickoff return late in the 3rd quarter. Many people thought he had done enough already this offseason to force Green Bay to keep him on the 53-man roster, but after this game, it was pretty obvious that Janis would never make it through waivers back to the Packers.
The player known as Sackmaster (among other things) continued terrorizing offensive lineman, including this time Kansas City players that actually have some experience playing in the NFL. The result was the same, however - whenever Elliott seems to have a good play, you can almost bank on him having another big play right after. This time, in the Chief’s second offensive drive, he drew a holding penalty as the offensive lineman hung on for dear life to keep him away from the quarterback - on the very next play, Elliott blew into the backfield for the sack denied him on the previous play. He did seem to have a small injury later in the game that kept him off the field, but obviously it wasn’t serious. Just as obvious, Green Bay couldn’t afford to let him go in the final round of cuts, as there are too many teams desperate for linebacker play in the NFL that would have snatched him up off of waivers.
All offseason it’s seemed as if Scott Tolzien had closed the gap between himself and Matt Flynn that existed last season, and once again in this game the two of them played neck and neck. Over the course of the preseason it became apparent that the backup quarterbacks for Green Bay are currently playing better than most of the other backup quarterbacks in the league. Quite obviously many teams would have loved to take a look at Tolzien - in fact, on a lot of teams he could potentially have competed for a starting job. Because of that, it seemed a given to me during most of training camp that the real quarterback question was if the Packers kept Matt Flynn or not. Scott Tolzien merely strengthened his hold on a roster spot.
Having to put Khyri Thornton on Injured Reserve is really a blessing in disguise for both the Green Bay Packers and Thornton himself. Before he was injured, he had a pretty forgettable game, including several times when he missed what should have been an easy tackle for a loss. Being around the team but unable to play should motivate him to soak up as much information as possible this season. Hopefully next year he can come back and make the impact you’d like to see from a 3rd-round pick.
Matt Flynn’s Deep Ball
It seems to be generally accepted throughout the league that Matt Flynn just doesn’t have the arm strength to accurately throw the deep ball, and that theory was in full display this game. Several times there were throws downfield that sailed out of bounds where the open receiver had no chance to make the catch. He also under-threw wide open receivers on more than one occasion, but was bailed out when the receivers (Jeff Janis in particular), adjusted back to the ball and drew a pass interference penalty. While that could be considered as good as a completion, it was also apparent (especially on the Janis throw), that if the pass had another 10 yards on it, Janis could have run underneath it and strolled into the endzone. Matt Flynn’s knowledge of the system and ability to move the offense is worth having on the roster, but he’s definitely not as athletically gifted as Tolzien.
And once again, Penalties
I’d feel bad about picking the same thing in the Worst category for the past 3 weeks in the row, except they came against the Packers in the worst possible times (not surprisingly, the Chiefs could say the same thing). There was an offsides in the Kansas City touchdown drive in the 2nd Quarter that helped to keep the Chiefs moving the ball - Andrew Quarless’ offensive pass interference penalty that forced a punt - then two plays in the 3rd quarter when Adrian Hubbard drew a roughing the passer call on a hit to the head, followed by a picture-perfect interception by Jumal Rolle that was called back because of an illegal blow to the head by Andy Mulumba. These were just a few examples, and while many of them were committed by the bottom of the roster (or players no longer on the roster), it’s a trend that is concerning as we move into the regular season.
Thus ends our final preseason game and the time to really focus on the Seattle Seahawks begins. Overall it was a very enjoyable preseason schedule, even though these games can be sloppy at times, and nothing happened to make fans worry too much about the Packers’ chances in the upcoming season. It’s time to wipe the slate and get ready for Thursday night!