There’s just no mistaking how important a player tight end Jermichael Finley is going to be for the Packers’ offense this season.
It keeps showing up in practice, then in the Packers’ Family Night scrimmage, and again Saturday night against Seattle. The third-year pro had four catches for 48 yards in only two series of play and was just too much for the Seahawks’ starting defense on a night that included an 11-yard touchdown pass on a wide open post pattern.
One sign of how good quarterback Aaron Rodgers feels about throwing to Finley is his use of the tight end on third downs. On the Packers’ first third down of the night, for instance, Rodgers hit Finley for a 12-yard catch on cornerback Kelly Jennings to convert a third-and-8 deep in Seattle territory that set up a touchdown from the 1.
On the Packers’ long touchdown drive on their second possession, Finley had three receptions, including a 12-yard slant against cornerback Marcus Trufant, which was on a third-and-5,and the 11-yard touchdown, which was on a third-and-six. Finley’s been doing this all camp, so it looks like he’s going to be Rodgers’ favorite target on third downs, where he provides a big, athletic target.
With starting Charles Woodson given the night off for rest and Al Harris still on the physically unable to perform list while recovering from knee surgery, the Packers wanted a good look at Brandon Underwood and Pat Lee at cornerback against Seattle’s starters – Underwood replaced Woodson in the starting lineup; Lee was the nickel back and played extensively.
The two have had decent training camps, but Seahawks’ quarterback Matt Hasselbeck had plenty of success picking on Underwood and really the entire secondary on two first-half touchdown drives out of five possessions.
On the Seahawks’ second series, Hasselbeck hit wide open receiver Mike Williams for a 17-yard gain when Underwood didn’t get deep enough on his zone drop that helped set up a Seahawks’ touchdown. Then on Seattle’s next series, receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh beat Underwood for an easy six-yard gain that converted a 3rd-and-4 play when Underwood backed too far off.
That was part of a tough series overall for the defensive backs. The play after that third-down conversion, starting cornerback Tramon Williams was called for a 14-yard interference penalty when his feet got tangled with Houshmandzadeh. And two plays later, Jarrett Bush, playing as the dime cornerback, was called for a five-yard illegal-contact penalty on tight end John Carlson.
Lee had a better time as the third cornerback, where on Seattle’s first possession he had solid coverage on a third-down incompletion when Hasselbeck overthrew Carlson. But Lee also allowed a 21-yard catch by Houshmandzadeh in the second quarter.
Did you notice?
♦ Undrafted rookie Sam Shields has had major issues catching the ball as a punt returner and moved way down the depth chart after muffing a catch last week against Cleveland, but he showed valuable special-teams ability against Seattle on Saturday night. Shields excelled as a gunner on the punt team in college at the University of Miami, and in his first game action in that role Saturday dropped rookie return man Golden Tate for no gain on the Packers’ only punt of the first half.
♦ Backup right tackle Breno Giacomini had a rough night as a pass protector and a bad penalty at the end of the first half. Giacomini was beaten cleanly twice on pass plays, once by defensive end Nick Reed for a sack in the second quarter, and again on the next play by linebacker Aaron Curry, who forced quarterback Matt Flynn to bolt the pocket quickly. Giacomini then inexplicably had a false start on the final play of the first half when Flynn tried to spike the ball with a second or two remaining so the Packers could try a field goal from the Seahawks’ 23. The penalty meant a 10-second clock run off that ended the half.
♦ Receiver Brett Swain hit the ground hard on the punt cover where Shields made the tackle but only had the wind knocked out of him and returned to the game.