GREEN BAY – Backup quarterback Brett Hundley re-injuring his ankle was the only step back the Packers took on Thursday night.
Most everything else in the 20-12 preseason victory over the Raiders at Lambeau Field was a “step in the right direction,” according to Head Coach Mike McCarthy.
It started with the running game, as Eddie Lacy built on his strong start to the preseason with nine carries for 45 yards on a 14-play, game-opening TD drive engineered by Hundley. Lacy broke off a 20-yard run on his first carry of the game and kept pounding away, eventually scoring on a 1-yard run up and over the pile.
“Our run-blocking unit did a great job, giving Eddie clean looks,” McCarthy said. “I thought Eddie ran very well and did a good job finishing runs. It was a very good start to the game. It’s what we were looking for.”
So was the play of Hundley until his third series, when he aggravated his ankle injury after an impressive 31-yard completion to Davante Adams on a back-shoulder sideline throw.
Joe Callahan took over but couldn’t finish that drive with points, as the Packers went for it on fourth-and-1 from the Oakland 25 and Callahan threw incomplete. He bounced back to lead a TD drive on the opening possession of the second half, scrambling out of trouble and completing passes to three different receivers. John Crockett finished it with a 10-yard scoring run.
The plan was for Hundley to play most if not all of the first half. His development in Year 2 has hit another potential roadblock, though McCarthy said the initial thought was the ankle isn’t hurt as badly as the first time.
“I don’t have a timeline,” McCarthy said. “We’ll see how he is in the morning.”
The defense did its part, holding the Raiders in check as Oakland starting QB Derek Carr played the entire first half. The Packers surrendered just four first downs, 73 total yards and a field goal in the first two quarters.
The unit likely would have shut the Raiders out if not for an ill-advised personal foul on Datone Jones that preceded the only significant play by Oakland’s starters, a 20-yard pass to Amari Cooper.
“We improved as a team, especially on defense tonight,” McCarthy said. “I don’t think we went out there and won any scheme contests. It was about execution and fundamentals.”
The most notable defensive play came from second-year cornerback Damarious Randall, who effectively tracked a deep ball to Cooper and made a leaping interception. Cooper gave Randall trouble in the two teams’ regular-season meeting last December and had beaten him earlier in the game on that 20-yard go route.
“Big-time play,” McCarthy said. “It shows you what kind of athlete he is. I thought our guys really keyed on the ball better today than we did last week. We contested more throws and definitely had more hats around the football.”
The Packers moved forward in the injury department and with off-the-field news as well.
Receiver Jordy Nelson, activated from the physically unable to perform list for Wednesday’s practice, put on his full uniform and went through pregame warmups.
McCarthy said he expects Nelson’s focus this next week in practice will be on individual drills after missing a full year of action.
“Anytime a guy comes off PUP, especially after what he’s been through, it’s a good day,” McCarthy said. “He looks good in his uniform.”
It was also reported that Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers, facing a possible suspension should they not cooperate with the NFL’s PED investigation, were going to talk to the league, though no other details have been divulged.
“I’m glad the process is moving forward,” McCarthy said. “As an organization, we support Clay and Julius. We’re looking to get this resolved as soon as possible.”
The punting competition may not be settled soon. Tim Masthay (3 punts, 45.7 gross average) and Peter Mortell (2-57.0) both had solid nights. A protection breakdown led to Masthay’s final punt of the night being blocked and recovered for a touchdown, but that was not on the punter.
“I think that’s heating up,” McCarthy said of the competition. “We’ll continue to split the reps and let Tim and Peter battle it out.”