Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley does a Lambeau Leap after scoring a touchdown Saturday during the Packers' Family Night scrimmage at Lambeau Field. Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette
If nothing else, the Green Bay Packers’ Family Night scrimmage provided a preview of how important Jermichael Finley has become to their offense.
The Packers’ third-year tight end was the best playmaker on the field against both the Packers’ No. 2 defense in normal scrimmage situations and the defensive starters in a two-minute drill. He finished with four receptions for a 13.8-yard average and one touchdown in relatively limited playing time, and was by far the standout player on the night.
“You can throw the ball up to him and he just knows how to get it,” safety Charlie Peprah said. “A matchup nightmare. So I’m glad he’s on our team. There’s not too many people like him. He’s big enough where it’s hard for safeties to cover him, but he’s still quick enough where he’s a mismatch for linebackers.
“If he keeps on developing and being a professional he’ll be a superstar in this league.”
The Packers’ starting offense was on the field for only three series – twice it started with the ball on its own 20 against the No. 2 defense, and then later a two-minute drill from its own 35 against the starting defense.
On the second series, Finley had two receptions on which his 6-foot-5 and 247-pound frame overwhelmed the 5-10, 198-pound safety Derrick Martin. The first was a 14-yard reception that converted a third down, the second was a 14-yard touchdown pass.
Later in the two-minute, he had an 11-yard reception on which he ran over cornerback Brandon Underwood to get out of bounds and stop the clock, and a 16-yarder against Bishop on the next snap to move the ball to the defense’s 33. If this night was any indication, Finley could become a go-to receiver on third downs because he provides quarterback Aaron Rodgers with a huge, athletic target who can get to balls no one else on the field can.
“Obviously he has a big body,” cornerback Tramon Williams said. “From what I saw the cornerbacks and safeties had great coverage on him, but he’s got a big body, athletic guy. What can you do? We’ve got a great quarterback putting the ball in the right spots. It’s tough against him.
And with that receiving corps – I just want to wait for the season. You don’t want to get too excited but I see a lot there.”
Though Finley had a big night, the Packers’ No. 1 offense produced only the one touchdown in three tries. Finley’s touchdown came on the second of its two series against the No. 2 defense, and when it faced the starting defense in two-minute, it moved into scoring position but couldn’t put the ball in the end zone after having a second-and-1 at the 5.
That marked the fourth time in training camp that the starters have faced off in two-minute, with the offense needing a touchdown, and the defense has won all four. But Williams said the two-minute is skewed in the defense’s favor in practice.
“If you go back and do the statistics from last year I think we stopped ’em a lot also,” Williams said, “they only won, you probably can count it on one hand. It’s one of those things, we play against them every day so we know our offense and we know the receivers, so it’s tough on them. It’s one of those deals you know the receivers, some sets you see you know what they’re going to do. It’s repetition we see every day.”
Rodgers finished the night 9 of 14 passing for 127 yards and a touchdown, which is a passer rating of 117.3 points.
“The two-minute was a major emphasis going into last season, we definitely answered that bell,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “I’d definitely rank Aaron one of the better two-minute quarterbacks I’ve coached, even though it’s early in his career. I’ve had an opportunity to work with him on a daily basis, I’m very confident in him handling two-minute situations.”
The Packers’ starting defense only played three series also and wasn’t challenged by quarterback Matt Flynn and the No. 2 offense. Both of Flynn’s regular series against the starters ended in three-and-outs, with cornerback Brandon Underwood ending the second with an third-down interception that he returned for about a 30-yard touchdown.
In the two-minute against the starting offense, linebacker A.J. Hawk blew up a third-and-one run by halfback Ryan Grant for a four-yard loss, to the 9. Rodgers’ fourth-down pass to Charles Dillon, an undrafted rookie who is a long-shot to make the team, was incomplete.
“The No. 1 defense played extremely well,” McCarthy said. “Go out and create three and outs, that’s exactly what you’re looking for.”