Last week I spoke of tempering my excitement and keeping things at a "McCarthy-like" even keel. Well, after whipping the Super Bowl runner-up Arizona Cardinals in the first half to the tune of 38-10, that's pretty darn hard to do. But I'm still going to try. So once again, let's take a calm, rational look at this past week's winners and losers.
Jeremy Kapinos: With his only camp competition (Durant Brooks) sidelined with a hip-flexor injury, Kapinos went into preseason game 3 as the Packers #1 punter. Kapinos had two punting opportunities in the game (thanks to the Brian Brohm-led second team offense) and did well. His punts covered 52 and 56 yards, respectively, with good hang time.
While many people, (including myself) have been writing that the Packers would be scanning the waiver wire after the final team cuts for another punter, perhaps that was never an option. Here's what Mike McCarthy had to say in a Sunday press conference when asked if Jeremy Kapinos had won the punting job "Kapinos has the ball. It's his responsibility to keep it. He's battled through this competition. I thought he kicked well in the game... I have no interest in going through what we went through last year. We'll learn from that experience, and I think it's a great opportunity that he's handled very well so far."
The key phrase in there, of course, is the "I have no interest in going through what we went through last year". That is an obvious reference to last preseason when the Packers cut punter Jon Ryan and brought in Derrick Frost with disastrous results. So it sounds like McCarthy is happy enough with Kapinos to award him the punting job.
While I am a huge believer that winning the field position battle leads to winning in general, if the Green Bay offense is really as good as they've shown, then I'm fine with Jeremy Kapinos. The Packers won't be using him that much, anyway.
Brian Brohm: Nobody has been a bigger critic of Brian Brohm than this writer. While I still don't think he'll ever be more than a backup QB in the NFL, I have to give some credit where credit is due. Brohm has actually shown some signs of improvement over the first three preseason games.
In those three games, his QB rating has improved from 0 to 51 to 104.2. Now, I still don't think he has an accurate enough arm to be successful in the NFL, even if he does get his head straightened out. I still think that comparatively, Matt Flynn was a steal as a seventh round draft pick. And I still want the Packers to get an experienced backup QB on their roster (as I have ranted about before).
But if there's one thing I strive for, it's to be fair. Last week I put Brian Brohm on my 'winners" list as a bit of a joke, noting how he had improved from a 0 rating to a 51 rating. But this week, I actually mean it. I'm taking him off the "favorite whipping boy" list - at least for this week.
Aaron Rodgers: Duh.... OK, so this is an obvious choice, but let me explain. Rodgers makes my list not for his TDs, not for his leadership and not for the results - THOSE are obvious. Rodgers is making my winners list for two less-obvious reasons.
In analyzing Aaron Rodgers play last year, there were three things I thought he needed to improve on. The first one was leadership on the field - and Rodgers showed me that was taken care of in the first two preseason games. The other two things were footwork in the pocket and accuracy on deep passes.
Too often last year, Rodgers took sacks that could have been avoided. He would often turn right into the path of a rusher. Other times, he seemingly couldn't decide what to do and got 'frozen" in the pocket as it collapsed around him. The Aaron Rodgers we saw against the Cardinals looked like a completely different player. He did an absolutely fantastic job of moving in the pocket and avoiding rushers, all while still going through his progressions. On the long pass to Driver, a fast-rushing Cardinal defender had him dead to rights, but a quick side-step in the right direction avoided the sack and gave him time to hit Driver down the field.
Speaking of the long completion to Donald Driver, that brings me to my third Rodgers observation. There was really only one pass that Aaron Rodgers had trouble throwing last season - the bomb. His long passes did not have enough air under them, consequently, he under-threw some wide-open receivers and made it easier for DBs to break up some of those passes.
His pass to Driver had plenty of height, allowing Driver to shield the defender from the ball with his body, letting the ball to drop safely into his hands. On the touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson, there was no defender to worry about. In the past, Rodgers might have under-thrown Nelson, allowing the DB to get back into the play. Last night, he led him perfectly. Nelson never had to break stride, resulting in the easy touchdown.
Charles Woodson: Triple Duh... In my opinion, the individual star of the game. Yes, even over Aaron Rodgers. For the last year, whenever I was asked who the Packer's best defensive player was, I always answered Charles Woodson. For the past month, whenever I was asked by some fan which Packer defender they should take for their fantasy football team, I have always answered Charles Woodson.
And let me say this one final time: Charles Woodson is NOT "getting old". I have seen this written multiple times by bloggers and professional sportswriters alike. Charles Woodson has played 11 seasons in the NFL and is 32 years old. He is an incredible athlete, keeps himself in outstanding shape and has shown NO signs of a drop-off. If anything, he seems to be getting better. Charles Woodson can easily play another 4-5 years at a very high level and probably a few more years after that, if he chooses. So the next guy who writes about how Woodson is not getting any younger and we need to have a replacement for him ready - well, they will feel my wrath.
Ruvell Martin: OK, so this really isn't very fair, but hey, it wasn't easy finding "losers" in this game. Martin was pressed into holding for field goal attempts and was pretty awful at it. In his defense, he is only the "emergency" holder, but I think the Packers need to look elsewhere in case of emergency.
Martin also was guilty of a mistake near the end of the game, but it's one you can almost forgive. He recovered the Cardinals onside kick, saw a lane to the goal line and ran it in for a touchdown. A natural reaction, for sure, but the right play would have been to fall on the ball. By scoring the TD, Martin gave the Cardinals the ball back with an opportunity to go win the game. Falling on the ball would allow the Packers to just run out the clock to win the game. Lets just say I'm glad it happened in preseason.
The rest of the NFC North: Ignoring the Detroit Lions (for this season, at least), what do you think the Bears and Vikings were thinking as they gathered around their TVs Friday night? I'm sure they were curious to see what all the fuss was about with the Packers. After all, this team was 6-10 last year, right? So what do you think was going through their minds as they watched Aaron Rodgers and the Packers first team offense embarrass the Super Bowl runner-up Cardinals? After seeing the Packers put up 38 points by halftime, surely only two words entered their minds: Oh s***!
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