GREEN BAY – Rajion Neal is taking nothing for granted, but he sure made a strong bid for the Packers’ No. 3 running back job on Saturday night.
Getting his largest chunk of preseason playing time yet, Neal racked up 84 yards from scrimmage (23 rushing, 61 receiving) and a touchdown in Green Bay’s 39-26 loss to Philadelphia at Lambeau Field.
“I don’t know. I don’t know,” Neal said when asked if he won the competition with rookies John Crockett and Alonzo Harris, the latter of whom sat out this game with a hand injury. “I would like to say I maybe took a step towards helping myself that way, but I couldn’t give you that definite answer.”
Catching passes has been Neal’s forte since arriving in Green Bay last year as an undrafted rookie from Tennessee, and he really showcased his stuff against the Eagles.
On one second-quarter drive, he got the offense going with an 18-yard gain on a screen. Seven plays later, he took another screen on third-and-10 and darted and weaved his way 36 yards for a touchdown.
“I had a lot of help from the guys up front,” said Neal, who also had a 14-yard rush for his longest carry. “Those boys were getting out there, throwing their bodies around and giving me great opportunities to get up the field.”
Neal scored a preseason TD last year in the opener, but injured his knee later in the game, ending his bid for a roster spot. He had a huge smile as he discussed finding the end zone again, recalling all the green space he saw in front of him after making the catch.
“When I turned around, I just saw bodies dropping, so I was like, ‘Boy, come on,’” he said. “They did all that for me.”
Neal’s production was a big help to another No. 3, rookie quarterback Brett Hundley, who got the start with a healthy Aaron Rodgers resting and Scott Tolzien missing the week of practice due to a concussion.
Admitting he had plenty of pre-game jitters, Hundley got off to a rough start against the Eagles’ No. 1 defense, throwing a pick-six on his second pass of the game.
He shook that off, though, and engineered two TD drives before halftime, with the screen to Neal coming with a minute left in the first half.
“Just short memory,” Hundley said of how he bounced back so quickly. “That’s obviously a trait of a lot of quarterbacks in this league. That’s something you have to have, a short memory.
“Nothing’s perfect, not on the field, not off. You really have to learn to brush off a play, say, “Alright, they got us on that one,’ come back and play some more football.”
Hundley added another touchdown drive in the third quarter and finished 22 of 31 for 315 yards, with two TD passes and the one interception. His passer rating was 111.6, potentially earning his place as the third QB on the active roster, as opposed to the practice squad.
“I felt really comfortable out there today,” said Hundley, who also had three scrambles for 15 yards. “Had some fun, throwing it around a little bit, running around, finally, a little bit, and had a good time.”
Not so with the Packers’ first-string defense, though. With the entire starting unit taking the field together for the first time in the preseason, the Packers gave up two quick touchdowns to the Eagles and their fast-paced offense.
“They made their plays,” safety Morgan Burnett said. “It’s tough. You don’t want any offense to score touchdowns on you, but you can learn from it. And I keep saying it because we will watch the film and we will learn from it and we will grow together from this.”
As a sub or two entered and nickel back Micah Hyde left with a neck injury, it didn’t get any better. With first Sam Bradford and then Mark Sanchez at QB, the Eagles produced five touchdowns on six first-half drives, piling up 21 first downs and 325 yards of offense.
“I don’t think we’re angry. A little disappointed,” cornerback Casey Hayward said. “One game is not going to define us, especially in preseason.”
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