NFL Preseason Preview - Cleveland (1-0) at Green Bay (0-1)
By Scott Garbarini, NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - The Green Bay Packers' normally lethal offense wasn't
anywhere near its 2011 form in the team's first outing of this preseason.
Aaron Rodgers and company will be aiming for a much improved result when the
defending NFC North champions make their 2012 Lambeau Field debut with a
showdown with the Cleveland Browns.
The Packers averaged a league-best 35 points per game and ranked third overall
in both total offense and passing yards during last year's banner 15-1 regular
season, with Rodgers the runaway winner of the NFL's Most Valuable Player
Award after throwing for 4,643 yards and a franchise-record 45 touchdowns. He
and the unit were mostly out of sync in last week's 21-13 loss at San Diego,
however, with the first team turning the ball over twice in its three
possessions and going three-and-out on the other.
Rodgers completed just 2-of-8 passes for 16 yards and was intercepted once
while also losing a fumble. As a team, Green Bay had four giveaways for the
"We have a lot of work to do. That's evident," a frustrated Packers head coach
Mike McCarthy said afterward. The way we handled the football to start the
game, I'm not happy about that. We need to spend some time on handling the
Rodgers was without both top wide receiver Greg Jennings, who missed the
opener with concussions and will likely be held out another week as well.
Running back James Starks is also not expected to dress for Thursday's tilt
after sustaining a turf toe injury against the Chargers.
The injury news is even worse for Green Bay on the defensive end. Linebacker
Desmond Bishop, the club's top tackler in 2011, suffered a torn hamstring in
the first quarter of last week's loss and could miss the entire regular
season. Second-year defensive back Davon House, the favorite to start at right
cornerback, is expected to be sidelined for the rest of the preseason after
dislocating his shoulder in the San Diego game.
Sophomore D.J. Smith will man Bishop's spot in the interim, with rookie
second-round pick Casey Hayward now atop the depth chart at right corner.
The Packers were able to bolster the running back corps by signing three-time
1,000-yard rusher Cedric Benson on Sunday, though the seven-year veteran
probably won't be ready to contribute this week.
Graham Harrell, elevated to the primary backup quarterback role following Matt
Flynn's free-agent departure in the offseason, had a decent performance in
relief of Rodgers, hitting on 15-of-27 throws for 135 yards and hooking up
with Randall Cobb for a three-yard touchdown pass late in the first half.
Green Bay has been mentioned as a potential suitor for Colt McCoy, now the No.
2 signal-caller in Cleveland after the Browns' first-round selection of
Brandon Weeden in April's draft. The possible trade candidate was a sharp 6-
of-8 for 88 yards while adding a 20-yard scramble after following Weeden in
Friday's 19-17 victory at Detroit.
Seneca Wallace threw a 12-yard touchdown strike to rookie fullback Brad
Smelley midway through the third quarter to help Cleveland rally from a 14-3
deficit, while fourth-stringer Thaddeus Lewis directed a pair of late scoring
drives that accounted for the game's last 10 points.
Weeden had a somewhat shaky pro debut, completing only 3-of-9 passes for 62
yards with an interception and a lost fumble while operating the first three
possessions. The 28-year-old remains entrenched as the starter, however, and
is tabbed to work the first half of Thursday's test.
He won't have the services of prized rookie running back Trent Richardson for
a second straight week, though, with the No. 3 overall pick of this past draft
out for all of the preseason following a recent knee scope. In addition, wide
receiver Mohamed Massaquoi may not suit up on Thursday after being concussed
against the Lions, with 2012 second-round supplemental choice Josh Gordon
moving into the starting lineup if he can't go.
Rodgers will get to face a depleted Cleveland defense in which linebackers
D'Qwell Jackson (shoulder) and Chris Gocong (torn Achilles), tackle Phil
Taylor (torn pectoral), nickel back Dimitri Patterson (ankle) and end Frostee
Rucker (leg) are all either out or questionable for the contest. Tackle Ahtyba
Rubin, who didn't play last week while mending from pelvic surgery, does
appear on track to participate, however.
These teams will be squaring off in the postseason for a fourth straight year.
Cleveland has won the past two matchups to take a 13-10 lead in the overall
preseason series, following up a 27-24 triumph at Lambeau Field in 2010 with a
27-17 home verdict last August.