The weather finally cooperated.
That was as big a storyline as any for Friday’s Family Night scrimmage at Lambeau Field, an event plagued by storm delays and cancellations in recent years.
This time it went off without a hitch, but even without any signature moments or emerging stars, the night still treated 55,605 enthusiastic fans to two touchdown drives by the No.1 offense, respectable showings by both backup quarterback Graham Harrell and the No. 1 defense, and various adventures in the kicking game.
“You’d be remiss if you don’t first acknowledge the atmosphere,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. “Incredible. It was great for our young guys.”
The first-string offense’s two drives, both against reserve defensive units, were productive. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers hit tight ends Tom Crabtree and Jermichael Finley for a pair of 24-yard receptions to set up a 4-yard TD run by James Starks. Later, a 37-yard connection to Donald Driver preceded an impressive diving catch for a 33-yard TD by Greg Jennings. Rodgers nicely avoided blitzing linebackers Jamari Lattimore and Terrell Manning to find a passing lane. The offense celebrated both scores by doing Lambeau Leaps, en masse, once in each end zone.
Meanwhile, the No. 1 defense – which played without resting veteran Charles Woodson – held up fine. It allowed a pair of first downs, one due to a missed tackle, before getting a fourth-down stop when outside linebacker Nick Perry pressured No. 3 QB B.J. Coleman. Next came a three-and-out.
“It’s coming along,” Perry said of the work-in-progress defense with a handful of new faces. “We still have a lot of work to be done, but at the end of the day, when the games come, we’re going to be ready.”
Added McCarthy, who said he was reserving judgment until he views the film: “I thought the communication was good. I want to take a closer look at the tackling.”
Harrell made a decent go of it against the No. 1 defense in a no-huddle period. Battling through some headset communication problems early on, Harrell engineered a 60-yard drive highlighted by an 11-yard completion to tight end Ryan Taylor on fourth-and-9. Jerel Worthy’s 5-yard tackle for loss of running back Du’ane Bennett and pressure from B.J. Raji on third-and-long eventually forced a field goal.
“We had the opportunity to go against the first defense, which is fun, and it’s an opportunity for us to get better,” Harrell said. “We moved the ball and did some good things, which is encouraging for us as a second unit, but we just have to get more consistent.”
For the first time in training camp, the Packers’ kicking game wasn’t consistent, and that’s not in reference to the “just for fun” kicking contest between offensive lineman T.J. Lang and defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove that Lang easily won.
Kicker Mason Crosby, who had been perfect on field goals through the first seven practices of camp, made his first three attempts of the night before suddenly missing four of his next five, all between 40 and 53 yards. McCarthy didn’t sound overly concerned, saying Crosby was adjusting to the new wind patterns resulting from the stadium renovation.
Crosby then tried a series of long ones, making kicks from 56 and 60 but missing from 60, 62 and 65.
Punter Tim Masthay, fresh off signing a contract extension, had a much better night. His first Aussie-style pooch punt went for a touchback, but after that he had punts fair-caught at the 6- and 10-yard lines, and another downed at the 1 by rookie cornerback Dion Turner. Masthay also hit one booming punt on a full swing that spiraled and turned over, carrying 60-plus yards.
“I’ve been pleased with my fundamentals, pleased with how I’m striking the ball,” Masthay said. “I want to get off to a fast start this year, because I haven’t done that my first two years. I’m a little bit antsy to get this thing rocking.”
Anxiety at the line of scrimmage led to some sloppiness for the second straight night. After 14 pre-snap penalties in Thursday night’s practice, there were seven more on Friday (four on offense, three on defense), a development McCarthy once again termed “unacceptable.”
“You’re not happy about that, particularly when it’s back-to-back nights,” he said. “We obviously have to get that right.”
Players return to the practice field on Sunday night, with three more public workouts prior to the first preseason game in San Diego.
“This is the process of training camp,” McCarthy said. “My message to the team was let’s make sure we get better and improve. We’re making progress.”
Injury update: McCarthy did not have an injury report following the scrimmage because he had yet to speak with the medical staff.
In addition to Woodson, the players who did not participate included RB Marc Tyler, FB John Kuhn, FB Jon Hoese, TE Eric Lair, LB Frank Zombo, LB Brad Jones, T Mike McCabe, DE Johnny Jones, G Jaymes Brooks, G Ray Dominguez, DT Mike Daniels, T Derek Sherrod, TE Andrew Quarless, TE D.J. Williams and WR Tori Gurley. Related link: