It came a week later than he’d hoped, but rookie running back Alex Green made his first impression count.
The third-round draft pick from Hawaii missed the Packers’ preseason opener last week with a quad injury. Healthy for Friday night’s contest against Arizona, he showed both elusiveness and power on a second-quarter scoring drive in Green Bay’s 28-20 victory in front of 67,688 at Lambeau Field.
With quarterback Matt Flynn running a successful two-minute drill at the end of the first half for the second straight week, Green took a screen pass to the right, spun away from one tackler, made another miss and gained 25 yards in all down to the Arizona 2.
He failed on his first attempt to score, on an outside run to the left, but when he got another chance between the tackles he powered in easily for a touchdown that gave the Packers a 14-6 halftime lead.
“Alex did a great job,” Flynn said. “He probably did more than I did on that one. Great vision on the screen, and he capped it off.”
Green got some more work in the second half and finished with a pedestrian 8 rushing yards on six carries, but he handled his assignments in pass-protection and also returned a kickoff 28 yards. Most important, he made the two eye-opening plays that give him something to build on as his rookie preseason continues.
“My thoughts were to play as hard as I can, as fast as I can, and make the least mistakes possible,” Green said. “I missed a week, so it kind of set me back, but it gave me time to get in the playbook a little bit longer and get things settled down a little bit.
“I’m ready to get out there next week and play again.”
Receiver Chastin West probably can’t wait, either. He stated his case for a roster spot in a deep receiving corps.
After two short catches in the third quarter, West electrified the Lambeau crowd with an impressive 97-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown that gave the Packers a 21-20 lead early in the fourth. West ran right by his own former college teammate from Fresno State, Desia Dunn, at the line of scrimmage and Flynn hit him in stride as he raced untouched for his first NFL score.
“That was a fun one right there,” Flynn said. “Chastin has had a great camp and he showed it tonight. He showed some speed we didn’t know he had.”
“My speed kicks in after the 40-yard dash,” West said when told of Flynn’s remark. “I’m a 400 runner. That’s my answer to that.
“I just tried to run like somebody was chasing me.”
West stayed productive as the fourth period wore on, catching two more passes from No. 3 QB Graham Harrell, including a 10-yarder on which he had his helmet ripped off near the sideline. West’s 19-yard grab moments later got the Packers into the red zone and set up a TD pass to Kerry Taylor for Green Bay’s final points on the night.
“You just have to make the plays that are given to you,” said West, who finished with five catches for 134 yards. “There’s a lot of really, really good receivers on this team. I’m just trying to find my niche, trying to find my spot. I’m going to work hard to do that, and I have to do everything possible to change the minds of the guys upstairs.”
The first-team offense sputtered early, but like last week in Cleveland, a switch to the no-huddle jump-started the unit. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was just 4 of 7 for 35 yards on two scoreless series but went 5 of 5 for 62 yards in the no-huddle, including three straight completions to tight end Jermichael Finley for a total of 30 yards.
Running back Ryan Grant broke off his two-best runs of the preseason thus far, for 9 and 7 yards, and Rodgers finished the drive with a 20-yard TD pass to Greg Jennings on a back-shoulder throw very similar to the duo’s scoring connection in Cleveland.
Green Bay’s first-team defense was of the bend-but-don’t-break variety, surrendering two long drives after an early three-and-out, but the 11- and 13-play marches resulted in just field goals.
A 12-yard sack by Ryan Pickett helped stall Arizona’s first scoring drive, and a near-interception of Kevin Kolb by Nick Collins almost ended the second. Jay Feely’s 53-yard kick was good by plenty for an early 6-0 Cardinals lead.
“Next time I’ve got to come up with it,” Collins said of the potential turnover. “The quarterback was just staring his guy down.”
Feely tried another long one on the final play of the first half, but his 59-yard try came up well short.
The frustrating part for the Packers was the Cardinals’ success running the ball. Beanie Wells had gains of 6, 7, 10, 9 and 4 yards on those two field goal drives and posted 11 carries for 44 yards in all. The Cardinals may have run the ball even more if not for a slew of offensive penalties that put them in more difficult down-and-distance situations.
The starting defense wasn’t gashed, but the unit knows there’s room for improvement heading into Week 3 of the preseason and a matchup with the Indianapolis Colts on the road.
“We’re going to get the snaps of a regular-season game, and we’re going to try to knock all the rust out for that game and hit the regular season running,” cornerback Tramon Williams said. “Hopefully we can get that done.”
The Packers lost their lead in the third quarter, as undrafted rookie Diondre Borel fumbled a kickoff return and the offense went three-and-out. Arizona took advantage of both possessions to drive for touchdowns and move ahead 20-14.
After Green Bay’s touchdowns by West and Taylor, the Packers had to fend off one more scoring chance by the Cardinals, and undrafted rookie cornerback Brandian Ross intercepted Richard Bartel’s pass in the end zone to preserve the eight-point lead.
The Packers reported just two injuries from the game. Defensive end C.J. Wilson, starting in place of the injured Mike Neal, was taken to the locker room in the second quarter for concussion testing, and rookie receiver Randall Cobb sustained a bruised knee.