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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 game.
"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 football."
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.
08/14 17:21:01 ET