SAN FRANCISCO -- We covered a lot of ground in the first regular-season week of our expanded NFL Nation coverage of the Green Bay Packers but before heading over to Candlestick Park for the much-anticipated opener against the San Francisco 49ers, here are some leftover odds and ends from the week:
The Packers aren’t likely to use starting running back Eddie Lacy as their third-down back in obvious passing situations. It’s not that they don’t trust the rookie in pass protection, but they don’t want to overwork him, especially early in the season. Fellow rookie running back Johnathan Franklin had an abysmal performance in protection during the preseason finale at Kansas City, so expect fullback John Kuhn to get the call. “If we’re worried about protection,” running backs coach Alex Van Pelt said this week, “John would be our guy.”
The Packers have not ranked better than 20th in the NFL in rushing since the 2009 season, when they ranked 14th. That’s the high-water mark for their running game since Mike McCarthy became the head coach in 2006. It’s no secret the Packers want to run the ball better. It’s why they drafted Lacy and Franklin. But until the Packers prove they can run the ball more effectively, they know teams will sit back in coverage and dare them to run. “Of course,” tight end Jermichael Finley said. “You haven’t seen (a successful running game) over the past couple of years. We’ve got Lacy. We’ve got Franklin. We’ve got names in the backfield, so you’ve got to respect it.”
Cornerback Tramon Williams insisted this week that he’s OK with the new coverage plan that calls for him to play on one side of the field rather than matching up against the opponent’s No. 1 receiver like he has done the past several seasons. Williams likely will play on the left side, while Sam Shields will play right cornerback. “It kind of works out better for the defense when you can do it that way,” Williams said. “Guys won’t know where guys are on the field. Certain things like that, when you know guys are matching, you know where he’s going to be on the field. Quarterbacks tend to know where to go with the ball, so I think it’s going to work out better.” When asked whether he will miss the challenge of matching up, Williams said: “No, not really. I think it’s going to be better for me to make more plays.”
One of kicker Mason Crosby’s issues during his slump last season was his tempo on his approach to the ball. That was one of the strengths of Crosby’s main training-camp competitor, Giorgio Tavecchio. “Giorgio had very good rhythm and tempo on his kicks,” special-teams coach Shawn Slocum said. “I think Mason seeing that daily was a positive thing for him.”
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers enters the season with a streak of 144 consecutive regular-season passes without an interception. It’s the longest active streak in the NFL. However, Rodgers did throw an interception in the playoff loss at San Francisco in January.
Unlike many teams that name captains for the entire season, the Packers will continue their tradition under McCarthy of selecting different offensive, defensive and special-teams captains each week.
And in case you missed it, my game prediction was part of this week’s Double Coverage section.