NFL Preseason Preview - Kansas City (1-2) at Green Bay (1-2)
By Scott Garbarini, NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - It may not count in the standings, but the Green Bay
Packers will have a chance to atone for their only loss of the 2011 regular
season when the reigning NFC North champions host the Kansas City Chiefs in
the final warm-up for both teams from Lambeau Field.
The lone blemish on the splendid 15-1 record the Packers took into last year's
playoffs came at the hands of the Chiefs, with Kansas City delivering a 19-14
upset at Arrowhead Stadium in Week 15. The contest was the Chiefs' first
outing under then-interim head coach Romeo Crennel, who was elevated to the
permanent post after the club won two of its final three bouts.
Green Bay may need to get off to a quick start to avenge last season's loss,
with head coach Mike McCarthy planning to play his regulars for only a brief
period in the first quarter. 2011 NFL Most Valuable Player Aaron Rodgers
likely will be out after the opening series before giving way to backup Graham
While the final outcome may be essentially meaningless, Thursday's matchup is
an important one for Harrell. The former practice-squad player began camp as
the overwhelming favorite to take over for the departed Matt Flynn as Rodgers'
main understudy, but he hasn't performed well in the preseason, leading to
speculation that the Packers could target an available veteran in the days
leading up to the Sept. 9 regular-season opener against San Francisco.
Harrell went just 5-of-12 for 26 yards and took three sacks in relief of
Rodgers in last week's 27-13 victory at Cincinnati. Over Green Bay's three
games, he's completed slightly over 50 percent (32-of-63) of his throws for
261 yards with two interceptions and only one touchdown.
Rodgers' overall numbers haven't been particularly good either, but he did
engineer a pair of first-half touchdown drives against the Bengals and capped
both possessions with scoring runs. The standout signal-caller led all players
with 52 rushing yards on six scrambles in addition to the two touchdowns.
As a passer, Rodgers finished 12-of-22 for 154 yards and was intercepted once.
Running back Cedric Benson had an impressive debut in a Packers uniform during
last week's triumph. The ex-Bengal, signed by Green Bay midway through
training camp, gained 38 yards on only six rushes and added a 10-yard
Wide receiver Greg Jennings caught two of Rodgers' passes for 37 yards in his
first preseason action of the year, having missed Green Bay's first two tests
with a concussion. Tight end Jermichael Finley (thigh, personal) has yet to
appear in a game this summer, but is expected to get in some work on Thursday.
Notable Packers who definitely won't play include running back James Starks
(toe), defensive end Ryan Pickett (calf) and cornerback Davon House
(shoulder). Starting inside linebacker Desmond Bishop (torn hamstring) was
placed on season-ending injured reserve on Monday.
Crennel will take the same approach as McCarthy for this game, with the
starters receiving limited reps before being pulled. The extra snaps could
come in handy after the Chiefs were blown out at home by Seattle this past
Kansas City struggled in all phases in its 44-14 trouncing by the Seahawks.
The defense allowed 189 rushing yards as well as two touchdown passes by
Seattle rookie Russell Wilson, starting quarterback Matt Cassel had an
interception returned 75 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter and the
special teams permitted a 92-yard punt return score to Golden Tate.
There were a few good performances on the Chiefs' side, however. Undrafted
rookie running back Nate Eachus rushed for 98 yards and a touchdown on only 10
carries, slot receiver Dexter McCluster came up with seven catches for 61
yards and a score and top running back Jamaal Charles amassed 32 yards on six
Cassel stayed in the game until late in the third quarter and ended with 168
yards on 19-of-34 passing with one touchdown and the aforementioned pick.
Kansas City will be without several defensive starters for Thursday's tilt as
they attempt to get healthy for the team's Week 1 opener against Atlanta.
Cornerback Brandon Flowers remains sidelined with a heel problem, while end
Glenn Dorsey (knee), free safety Kendrick Lewis (shoulder) and nose tackle
Anthony Toribio (ankle) are currently banged up.
Rookie Dontari Poe, the Chiefs' first-round selection in April's draft, will
take over for Toribio.
The Packers edged the Chiefs by a 20-19 count at Lambeau Field in last year's
preseason closer, evening the overall series at 6-6-1.