In the first game of the 2019 preseason, the Green Bay Packers defeated the Houston Texans 28-26. While the result of the game is essentially meaningless, all preseason contests are important for coaching staffs in their player evaluation process. With less contact in training camp, the ability to have players tackle and play hard in the preseason is an essential opportunity. Here are my observations from the Packers vs Texans game.
Throughout the Packers roster, there were several veteran players who sat out week 1 of the preseason. That includes four projected starters on the offensive line. Left guard Lane Taylor was joined by Alex Light, Lucas Patrick, Elgton Jenkins, and Gerhard de Beer on the starting unit vs the Texans.
However, the offensive lineman who arguably stood out the most in this game was Justin McCray. He was creating space for the running backs and pass-protected pretty well. His highlight might be a key block on Dexter Williams‘ 18-yard screen reception during the 2nd quarter. That play put the Packers in field goal range when the score was 7-7. Ultimately, they scored a touchdown on that drive and gained a lead that they never gave up.
Overall it was a pretty good day for the Packers offensive line. They did a great job of keeping a clean pocket on most plays. That is evident of DeShone Kizer‘s touchdown pass below.
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) August 9, 2019
Run blocking was not always so solid. As I mentioned earlier, there were times where a running back found the space to break off big runs. However, on several plays, the running backs were left to create their own yards. Rookie Dexter Williams did a great job of gaining extra yards after contact and was constantly getting positive yardage. While he was a little too patient at times, Williams is definitely stating a great case to make the 53-man roster.
On the defensive side of the ball, the starting linemen were Montravius Adams, Tyler Lancaster and Kingsley Keke. With Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry sitting out the preseason opener, Adams was the lone regular-season starting defensive lineman who played. He was expected to set the tone, even if he was likely to be doubled by Houston offensive linemen. Surprisingly, Adams was often in 1-on-1 situations. Unfortunately, he was mostly held in check and finished the game with only 1 tackle.
During the regular season, when Clark will likely command double teams on most plays, Adams needs to be able to take advantage of that. The good news is that when he did get off his blocks, he made plays. For instance, in two consecutive plays, late in the 2nd quarter, he made a tackle on Damarea Crockett and then provided good pressure, along with Keke, to force an incompletion. However, Adams did not make much of a consistent impact from play-to-play.
Passing the Test
It was a rough week at practice for DeShone Kizer. After throwing some interceptions, he may have begun to put himself in a position to lose his hold on the backup quarterback job. However, he came out and had a great game against the Texans.
On the opening drive of the game, Kizer hit Jake Kumerow for a 14-yard reception during a 3rd-down play. The Packers began that drive backed up against the own end-zone. While they ultimately punted to end that drive, the completion to Kumerow was important as it allowed Green Bay to gain better field position to start the game. The throw itself was great as Kizer timed it perfectly on Kumerow’s crossing route. The ball was hit nicely into a tight window and, for his part, Kumerow came down with the catch, even with a defender in his back pocket. The pair later had another 15-yard connection that was similarly well-timed and accurate.
Furthermore, it was the plays that will not be in the highlight real that demonstrated Kizer’s decision making. On a 2nd-and-9 screen pass that was blown up, Kizer put the ball in the dirt knowing that things could have gone a lot worse (INT, or o-lineman downfield penalty). On the very next play, Kizer threw away the ball as a free pass rusher was gunning directly for him. He chose to prioritize protecting the football and that is a great sign.
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Perhaps Kizer’s best play was on his own touchdown, a 14-yard pass to Darrius Shepherd. Kizer demonstrated great pocket awareness and managed to scramble in order to give the receiver time. For his part, Shepard got open and made a great leap to snap the ball out of the air right on the goal-line.
For his part, Tim Boyle was accurate and efficient. He really demonstrated his arm talent on the play below.
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— Green Bay Packers (@packers) August 9, 2019
Boyle led two touchdown drives, one with a big assist from the defense. On the opening drive of the 2nd half, Chandon Sullivan intercepted a pass and returned it the Houston 3-yard line. However, it took 6 plays and a penalty before Boyle threw the 1-yard touchdown to J’Mon Moore. The receiver got some redemption after dropping a pass a few plays before.
As for Manny Wilkins, he demonstrated some ability with his legs. However, he did not complete any of his 3 pass attempts. Unless something drastic happens, the backup quarterback job belongs to Kizer and he certainly solidified that with his performance in this game.
Blake Martinez, with his role at starting middle linebacker locked-up, sat out the first preseason game. This gave several players the chance to see significant snaps at inside linebacker. Likely week 1 starter, Oren Burks, did start this game, alongside rookie Ty Summers. Unfortunately, Burks was injured on the debut defensive drive and did not return to the contest. He got off the field under his own power, but his status is to be monitored.
This was a great situation for several young linebackers looking to catch on with the 53-man roster. Curtis Bolton, James Crawford and Brady Sheldon all saw extended playing time alongside Summers. While they all made plays, one unfortunate trend was the amount of missed tackles. All four linebackers each registered at least one missed tackle during the game. Summers, who had 10 total tackles against the Texans, even missed 3 on the same drive.
These woes certainly did not end with the linebacker corps. The defensive line lost contain consistently. Joe Webb, a mobile quarterback, made them pay. He often got outside of the pocket either to find space to throw or to simply run the ball. In addition, Tyler Lancaster, the starting defensive tackle in this game, could not wrap up or take down Damarea Crockett on his 1-yard touchdown run even though he was in position to make the tackle. Lancaster did a great job of getting off of his block, but he could not finish the play.
This subtitle is not an insult towards the play of the Packers (even if the tackling needs to improve). Instead, it is an observation regarding the number of penalties that cost Green Bay in yards. The team committed 13 infractions in total, and in all three phases contributed. Their respective amounts were 6 on defense, 5 on offense and 2 on special teams. The fouls varied from false start, to holding, to too many men, to a variety of illegal blocks or formations. This is something that definitely needs to be cleaned up.
Turnover a New Leaf
New season, new coaching staff. One of the expectations of this defense was to improve upon their 30th-ranked turnover rate from last season. The Houston game was a good step in the right direction. The Packers won the turnover battle 4-1. Admiringly, they got lucky that Keke Coutee mishandled a punt, leading to an Equanimeous St. Brown recovery in the end-zone for a touchdown. A second fumble came after Taiwan Jones ran for a first down (another missed tackle). Luckily Raven Greene forced the ball out and it was recovered by Will Redmon.
However, the team certainly earned the two interceptions courtesy of Ka’Dar Hollman and Chandon Sullivan. While both defensive backs made great plays on the ball, the front-7 also provided good pressure to disrupt the timing of the throws. Below, we can see Sullivan’s interception early in the 2nd half.
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) August 9, 2019
With so many aspects in need of improvement, I figured I would end on a positive note. Hopefully, the team can turn the page and get a better overall performance in the next game.
Thank you for reading my recap of the Packers vs Texans game. Be sure to check out Full Press Coverage for more content on week 1 of the preseason.
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