The Green Bay Packers started their 2018 preseason with a bang as they defeated the Tennessee Titans by a score of 17-31 last week. Yesterday, the Packers were able to build on that success by defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers, 34-51.
Needless to say, Green Bay’s offense was clicking throughout the course of the contest as the team scored at least one touchdown with three separate quarterbacks. It was Green Bay’s defense, however, that made an impact on the game less than 20 seconds into the first quarter when Tramon Williams intercepted the first pass of the game for a touchdown.
Although it is just a preseason game, there are several things that the Packers can take away from this game that can help the team succeed in the regular season.
1. Josh Jackson looks like an absolute steal from this past NFL Draft
With the 45th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Packers selected cornerback Josh Jackson from the University of Iowa. Jackson was projected to be a first round pick in most mock drafts but surprisingly fell into the middle of the second round before the Packers scooped him up. Jackson made his presence known in this contest and looked like one of the best players on the field in multiple facets of the game.
On defense, Jackson’s ball skills and vision were on full display and the Packers reaped the benefits in the third quarter. Jackson intercepted a pass from Pittsburgh quarterback Joshua Dobbs and took it back 22 yards for a touchdown. Jackson had a knack for intercepting opposing quarterbacks in college, including three interceptions in one game against Ohio State last season. Although Jackson will most likely enter the season in the starting lineup, his versatility and his game-changing ability give the Packers extra incentive to provide him with more snaps as the season progresses.
On special teams, Jackson only had one punt return. He made the most of it, however, and took it for 41 yards in the third quarter. Currently, Trevor Davis is listed as the team’s punt returner on the depth chart, but one can expect Jackson to compete for the job moving forward. Davis has not played so far this preseason due to a lingering hamstring injury, which gives Jackson an even better shot at taking over the starting job.
2. The Packers have a solid group of backup quarterbacks
Although this positive will only become important if Aaron Rodgers gets injured again, it is always good for a team to have quality backups that can step in and keep the team playing at a relatively high level. Second-string quarterback Brett Hundley looked good as he used his mobility to extend plays and even generate points. Hundley completed 66.6% of his passes and had a rushing touchdown in the second quarter.
Meanwhile, third-string quarterback DeShone Kizer looked even better in the team’s second preseason game. Kizer completed 58.3% of his passes for 149 yards and two touchdowns. Kizer was responsible for the best offensive play of the night when he connected with receiver Jake Kumerow for an 82-yard touchdown in the third quarter. Both quarterbacks looked like capable starters if Rodgers’ health becomes a problem once more in 2018, as either quarterback can potentially step in to salvage Green Bay’s season.
3. Green Bay has serious issues in the running game
In a game where one team scores over 50 points, one has to assume that that team had to have been efficient through the air and the ground. That was not the case for the Packers on Thursday night. Although the quarterbacks played well, the running backs were awful against the Steelers. Four separate Green Bay running backs carried the ball in the team’s second preseason game and none of them averaged more than 3.2 yards per carry.
Ty Montgomery was awful yesterday and averaged 2.5 yards per carry with his four running attempts. To make matters worse, he also lost a fumble on a kickoff in the first quarter. Montgomery was expected to make a big leap last season but proceeded to struggle due to injuries. This season was supposed to be a chance for Montgomery to prove that he is truly capable of being a starting NFL running back.
Backup running back Jamaal Williams was also extremely inefficient and he received even fewer touches than Ty Montgomery. Williams only got two touches on the ground and rushed for a total of two yards. As a starter for a portion of the 2017 regular season, Williams needs to do more with his touches. Plain and simple. Williams was expected to be a quality running back out of BYU in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. The fact that he only got two rushing attempts should suggest that Green Bay’s coaching staff does not especially trust Williams and his lackluster performance in the second preseason game will definitely not help him get more touches moving forward.
The only running back who looked halfway decent was rookie Joel Bouagnon. Despite being undrafted, he definitely looked like the best running back to receive carries yesterday. Bouagnon had 13 carries against the Steelers and had a total of 41 rushing yards. Although 3.2 yards per carry is unimpressive, it was still better than all the other running backs. He entered the preseason with slim chances of actually making the roster, but his chances definitely improved due to the ineptitude of all the other running backs on Green Bay’s roster last night.