GREEN BAY – As Family Night Scrimmages go, Friday night’s 12th installment was about as uneventful as it gets.
The weather was perfect, so no one had to scramble to safety as thunderstorms rolled through. There was no Kaesviharnesque out-of-nowhere players stealing the show. The fans were as into it as ever. And the only people dropping into Lambeau Field unannounced were the members of the U.S. Army parachuting unit before kickoff.
“I think the work was excellent,” Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy said afterward. “And I think we'd be remiss if we did not mention the atmosphere."
Yes, all that was true. But in terms of being able to draw many – or any – conclusions from the affair, good luck. Practices at Ray Nitschke Field are more revealing than what went on before an announced sellout crowd of 55,605.
In fact, McCarthy pulled the plug on what would have been a live-tackling, scrimmage-ending 2-minute drill pitting the No. 1 offense against the No. 1 defense, choosing instead to end the scrimmage with offensive and defensive linemen doing their best Mason Crosby imitations. The winner: Left guard T.J. Lang.
“I think that was good from 50, honestly, watching the replay,” Lang joked. “We didn’t know Coach was going to do that until right before.”
While quarterback Aaron Rodgers was OK with scrapping the final period – “We took enough reps tonight, I wasn’t too disappointed,” he said – the reigning NFL MVP did get plenty of work and looked sharp. Unofficially, since the team did not keep stats for the scrimmage, Rodgers went 7 for 9 for 150 yards and one touchdown – a 33-yarder to Greg Jennings on which Jennings made a phenomenal sliding catch on low throw against tight coverage – against the No. 2 defense. The other offensive touchdown came on a 4-yard James Starks run.
“We moved the ball the way we wanted to. I was throwing it the way I wanted to. I missed a couple I probably should’ve hit,” Rodgers said. “But we’ve got so many playmakers, you put it anywhere around these guys … the one to Greg was an incredible catch. It’s nice having those kind of weapons when you’re just a little bit off.”
The only bad news? A spate of pre-snap penalties – continuing a trend from Thursday night’s practice – and the departure of starting left tackle Marshall Newhouse, whose injury was unclear afterward because McCarthy had yet to get an injury report from trainer Pepper Burruss before addressing reporters.
With Newhouse out and 2011 first-round pick Derek Sherrod yet to pass his physical after the severe broken leg he suffered last December, the backup tackle options are currently journeyman Herb Taylor, who caught on with the team late last season, and rookie seventh-round pick Andrew Datko, who has struggled in camp. The second- and third-stringers playing in front of backup quarterback Graham Harrell did not look particularly stellar, either.
"I'm not paid to be patient, but I am paid to be realistic, and in my experience, the line is usually one of the last groups to come (around). Especially when you get into live action,” McCarthy said. “So competing against our defense on a daily basis, particularly in installation practices, is great experience for them. But it's difficult. There's a lot of movement, so it may take a little longer than we like.
“This is a bit of a different experience for us, because usually we're trying to get our No. 1 line in order. With the fact that we've been able to stay true to five guys on the first line, I think it'll help the second group. But we definitely have work to do there."
In truth, there’s still plenty of work to do everywhere in advance of the team’s preseason opener next Thursday night at San Diego and the regular-season opener against San Francisco on Sept. 9 at Lambeau Field. But for one night, a non-descript scrimmage and largely uneventful family-friendly outing wasn’t the worst thing in the world.
“It went all right. Obviously, there’s a lot of things we can do better and we’ll watch film and improve,” said Harrell, who shared time with No. 3 quarterback B.J. Coleman and did not lead the backups to any points against the No. 1 defense. “It showed us that we have a lot of room to improve. Hopefully we can do that.”
Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today,” and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.