Aaron Nagler and Pete Dougherty give their take on the Packers' first preseason game, a 17-11 victory over the Browns. (Aug. 12, 2016)
Blocking will be a major factor in deciding the Green Bay Packers’ third tight end job, but Justin Perillo’s reliable hands and knack for getting open might make him the early favorite.
Perillo provided quarterback Joe Callahan a safety blanket Friday night in the first half of the Packers' preseason opener against the Cleveland Browns. He led all receivers with five catches for 52 yards, converting multiple third-down situations into first downs.
He was especially effective in the Packers' two-minute drill before halftime. Callahan completed 8-of-10 passes for 68 yards on the touchdown drive, with Perillo hauling in three catches for 25 yards. It’s no surprise Callahan found Perillo for 15 yards when the Packers faced third-and-7 near midfield.
That’s because Perillo has earned the trust of his quarterbacks with consistency in the passing game. He doesn’t look like an imposing figure on the field, standing 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds. He also rarely makes plays after the catch.
As a possession target, no pass catchers have been better in Packers camp.
“Justin is a guy that just works,” first-year tight ends coach Brian Angelichio said earlier this week. “He works hard. He’s pretty solid in everything. He’s reliable, which is important for any player. You’re reliable, you’re dependable, your teammates can count on you, you’re gonna know your assignment, you’re going to be in the right spot. Usually, guys that do that and work hard, the ball can find them and good things will happen.”
The Packers need a solid blocker to fill their No. 3 tight end job, compensating for deficiencies with Richard Rodgers and Jared Cook. It remains to be seen whether Perillo can block well enough. He also wasn’t the only tight end who made plays against the Browns. Kennard Backman, a sixth-round pick last year, had two catches for 20 yards.
Regardless, Perillo has been better since the start of camp. If he continues, the third tight end job might be his.
After he returns from a four-game suspension to start the year, Demetri Goodson should have a job waiting for him on the 53-man roster for one major reason.
The third-year cornerback is expected to be one of the Packers' best special-teams players. On Friday night, it didn’t work out that way.
Goodson’s 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness after hitting Browns punt returner Raheem Mostert out of bounds made an already short field even shorter. The Browns got the football at the Packers' 10-yard line, and needed only one play to punch it into the end zone.
On that play, Browns receiver Rashard Higgins beat Goodson for the touchdown.
It was two poor plays in succession near the end of the third quarter. Not nearly enough to cost Goodson a job. But for a player already in trouble because of violating the NFL’s policy against performance-enhancing drugs, on-field mistakes are even more glaring.
Bits and pieces
» With a small sample size, it was a solid debut for running back Eddie Lacy. He opened the game with four straight runs, gaining 24 yards. His most impressive was an 11-yard run on third-and-1, most of which came after contact. With no shortage of scrutiny this offseason, Lacy could have used a solid opener. Averaging six yards per carry certainly helps
» Safety Morgan Burnett was a healthy scratch from Friday’s game, allowing backup Micah Hyde to start. It worked out well for the Packers. With the Browns marching on their first drive, Hyde dove to intercept quarterback Robert Griffin III’s pass at the 1-yard line. It was perhaps the Packers' most impressive defensive play of the night.
» Fresh off signing a new contract that will make him one of the NFL’s highest-paid kickers, Mason Crosby has not disappointed in camp. Crosby made two field goals Friday night, both from 54 yards. He has made 33-of-36 field goals (including practices) since camp opened, and two of his misses were blocked. Exactly what you’d expect from a kicker averaging $4 million annually.
» It was surprising to see fourth-round rookie defensive end Dean Lowry start Friday’s game, especially because it meant first-round rookie defensive tackle Kenny Clark didn’t. Lowry played end in the Packers' base 3-4 defense, with Mike Daniels at the other end and Letroy Guion at nose tackle. The Packers quickly switched to their preferred nickel package with Daniels and Guion as interior rushers, but Clark and Lowry shared a handful of series together as interior rushers in the nickel. The rookies’ acclimation to nickel will be critical for them to get early snaps..
» Three safeties were recorded in the game, two by the Packers in the second half. Linebacker Reggie Gilbert chased Browns rookie quarterback Cody Kessler out of the end zone, and defensive tackle Christian Ringo later sacked Kessler in the end zone.
Quote of the night
Coach Mike McCarthy on Lacy: "It's important to run the football, as we know, but this is the time of year where you have to get the reps. We want to come out and run the football and really have it be a focus throughout the preseason."
The Packers next practice on Sunday at 12:15 p.m.