The Packers-Titans game in week 1 of the preseason featured a LOT of one thing: rain. Conditions were incredibly messy, except for when Clipboard Jesus (Charlie Whitehurst) told Noah to move his ark back in the second quarter. Watching four quarters of this was almost impossible. The second half yielded no incredible revelations. Hopefully next week's game is drier and we can judge the players a bit more accurately.
You cannot underestimate the importance of good weather when playing football. The first quarter alone featured two muffed punts, one muffed kickoff and at least three fumbles. Always look at the forecast when debating your fantasy starters for the week.
The weather can give and take - not only will it cause muffed punts and fumbled snaps, but there were an incredible amount of dropped passes and errant throws. In ugly conditions, everyone's stats drop significantly, unless you're LeSean McCoy in a foot of snow.
OffenseStarks ran well in the preseason opener. Mark Zaleski / AP
No surprises on the starting offensive line - Bakhtiari, Sitton, Tretter, Lang, Bulaga. Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy and Jordy Nelson sat out, giving more time to Matt Flynn, James Starks and several wide receivers.
Starks showed quickness getting around the edge on his first run. He had good footwork and high knees, essential for running in this weather. It worked incredibly well, as the team steamrolled the Titans' starting defense for a touchdown on the opening drive. The offensive line opened holes in Titans' 3-4 front on several occasions. Starks repeatedly sliped away from tacklers, probably benefiting from the wet jersey and loads of arm tackles. On his touchdown run, Starks looked powerful, with a huge stride.
I've always liked how Starks runs, but his durability has been the question. Last year, he showed that a reduced workload kept him healthy all year, and it looks like he will keep that momentum going.
Matt Flynn took quite a few safe, short throws which we can't fault him for in that rain. The one deep throw he made was behind the receiver (Myles White) and should have been intercepted. He dumped it off to DuJuan Harris and Richard Rodgers, both resulting in intermediate gains and first downs. Showing some experience, Flynn also took the ball down and ran with it when he had to.
Scott Tolzien also took off when necessary in the first half, superman-diving forward for extra yards. Mike McCarthy may want to bring in a Brewer for some help in that area. DuJuan Harris also had a nice run in which he juked a safety, broke his arm tackle and burst away. I like his acceleration a lot, and think he'll play in nicely as a change of pace back.
On the Titans' first drive, Peppers started at outside linebacker. He and Clay Matthews played both sides (weak and strong), giving different looks to the offense. On one run, Peppers got north on his rush, and Shonne Green cruised up the middle for a decent gain. Seeing his penetration, I'm dying to see him blow up a sweep or QB rolling out.Peppers got penetration against the Titans. Mark Zaleski / AP
However, on Greene's TD run, Peppers got upfield and again Greene ran up the middle. Peppers turned his body around instead of trying to slide back left, and the Titans tackle got in his way. Greene had an alley all the way to the end zone. Mistakes like that need to be erased prior to the regular season if the Packers plan on using Peppers in more than just passing scenarios.
The league's emphasis on defensive holding is going to cause frustration and long games. The slightest contact on a third down incompletion by Casey Hayward received a penalty that resulted in a first down for the Titans. Calls like that are going to anger fans and defensive backs, as they are sometimes judgement calls that won't have enforceable evidence.
Ha-Ha Clinton Dix needs to tackle better. On a Dexter McCluster run up the middle, the small back bounced off Clinton-Dix and stayed upright for another eight yards. There is no excuse for poor tackling, especially on a smaller back. Clinton-Dix needs to wrap up.
Funny note: Clipboard Jesus lined up w/out buckling his chinstrap. C'mon man. Unfunny note: Mike Neal got juked by Whitehurst, and who evaded a sack twice. On the same play. Neal will be kicking himself for that one - again, the defense needs to wrap up.
DuJuan Harris returned the opening kick 40+ yards. I found it interesting to see him back there because he was the week 1 starter last year. As promising as the first run was, he muffed the 2nd kick return and lost the fumble. The weather just wasn't going to make it easy for special teams experiments. Next victim: Davante Adams.
Adams muffed his first punt return. Another interesting choice back there, as he hasn't fielded them much in practice. However, after dropping it, Adams stayed composed, tapped the ball away from a gunner, and picked up a few yards to save the situation. He then muffed his second punt as well, but the ball just went through his arms. You can't blame weather on poor form. He didn't follow the ball into his hands. I wouldn't mind Adams as the primary returner, preventing Cobb from taking more hard hits than he already does.
The Packers ended up losing 20-16, as the fourth-stringers let Zach Mettenberger drive 71 yards on three throws, setting up a Jackie Battle touchdown late in the fourth.