Green Bay Packers defensive back Davon House (31) breaks up a pass intended for San Diego Chargers wide receiver Malcom Floyd (80) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012, in San Diego. / Denis Poroy/AP
Several of the Green Bay Packersí young defensive backs stood out in their preseason opener at San Diego on Thursday night, starting with cornerback Davon House.
House is one of those second-year players who make the biggest improvements in the offseason. Last year he was injured early and didnít play much the rest of the season, but I thought his play Thursday night was really sharp. He was the bright spot of their defense and has a great shot at winning that starting job at cornerback opposite Tramon Williams, assuming his injured shoulder isnít a major concern.
The Packers are looking for better tackling out of their defensive backs, and in the second quarter House had a series where he made three tackles in a row, including one where he shot into the backfield and dropped Chargers halfback Curtis Brinkley for a three-yard loss. The only ball thrown Houseís way, he broke up the pass, a deep ball along the sidelines to 6-foot-5 Malcolm Floyd. The Chargers didnít throw his way after that.
Second-round draft pick Casey Hayward looks really sharp at cornerback, too. His coverage was good, he broke up a pass over the middle to Vincent Brown in the second quarter. Hayward is young and going to get better.
Jerron McMillian, a fourth-round pick, played a lot too, as the dime cornerback with the No. 1 defense, and at safety with the No. 2s. He missed an open-field tackle on Vincent Brownís 27-yard touchdown catch and missed a couple tackles on run fits. He was overly aggressive at times. But heís an aggressive kid, he wants to tackle. His first game in the NFL, sometimes those things happen, but he was there. I think heís going to be OK, heíll break down, come to balance and make some plays.
Thereís going to be some growing pains with some of those guys, and they struggled with their tackling every now and then. But theyíre going to get their shots to play. With Charles Woodson getting the night off to ensure heís healthy, Jarrett Bush played the slot cornerback in the nickel defense, and he struggled in coverage. He takes too many chances. Bush has the physical skills but makes too many mental mistakes.
Perry's motor needs charging
First-round draft pick Nick Perry played well at outside linebacker on the first series and had an impressive sack of Philip Rivers but then he faded as the game went on.
It was Perryís first preseason game, and I was surprised at his strong play early because you didnít see much of that in camp. But the one time he had success in one-on-one drills in practice against right tackle Bryan Bulaga was with a power move, bull-rushing him. Perryís sack against the Chargers also came on a bull rush against a backup left tackle, Damik Scafe.
Perry is a powerful player, I donít think anyone would ever question his lower-body strength and ability to attack a man. But to be an effective pass rusher in the NFL you have to have more than a power move. Teams can stop that. Perry will make some plays using his power, but to be consistent down in and down out, to be a super pass rusher, heíll have to use his hands more.
He made some plays in the running game too, but he has to keep that motor going the entire game.
The hole at left tackle
The Packers have a problem at backup left tackle.
Starter Marshall Newhouse didnít play because of a concussion, and backup Derek Sherrod still hasnít practiced in training camp because of that broken leg from last season. Thursday night showed that if Newhouseís concussion problems flare up again or if Bulaga goes down, they Packers are going to be hamstrung because Herb Taylor is not the answer at backup tackle.
An injury to Newhouse or Bulaga will change the Packers offense. Theyíll have to play more with two tight ends, and theyíll have to use one of them to help block that outside linebacker or defensive end rather than to get down field. That will change the dynamic of their offense.
Newhouse has to stay healthy. If Bulaga were to go down, youíre looking at the same problem as Thursday night, just on the other side of the line. Taylor doesnít use his hands, and that first-round draft pick of the Chargers, Melvin Ingram, took it to him, especially on the play where Ingramís hard hit on Rodgers forced a bad throw that was intercepted. Taylor gets bull rushed, he gets beat to the corner, there isnít one thing he can hang his hat on.
And seventh-round pick Andrew Datko didnít use his hands or feet. The Packers seemed pretty excited to have Datko, but I donít see it so far. Heíll probably grade out OK run blocking, but pass blocking heís been a liability in the first two weeks of practice and then the game.
• Second-round draft pick Jerel Worthy is quick in the interior of the defensive line, but heís going to have to be more than quick, he has to hold up against the run a little bit. There were times he was out of position and got stood up by an offensive lineman.
• Backup quarterback Graham Harrell got better as the game went along. If Rodgers gets hurt, Harrell can get you through a game, but long term, if he had to play multiple games, I donít know if heís the answer at this point in his career. I know the Packers are a draft-and-develop team, but there probably are going to be some decent quarterbacks on the waiver wire after final cuts that could help them in a game or two. But I donít know that the Packers would pull the trigger on that.
• Third-string quarterback B.J. Coleman, a seventh-round draft pick, is a little erratic with his throwing accuracy, but he has a cannon arm and he showed some pocket poise. Heís not ready yet, but he stands tall in the pocket and doesnít get happy feet and leave the pocket right away. Heís a big guy, so maybe heís not as scared as a smaller guy would be.
ó Green Bay Press-Gazette correspondent Eric Baranczyk played football at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and later served as an assistant coach. He provides period evaluations of the Packers.