Just as Friday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers was important for quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who made his exhibition debut after sitting out the last two weeks, it held similar value for tight end Jared Cook, a street free agent signed by the Green Bay Packers during the offseason.
On paper — and in the drills at the NFL scouting combine — Cook demonstrates the kind of athletic superiority not possessed by Richard Rodgers. His practice performances have been quite impressive.
But prior to Friday, which in itself was a brief linkup, Cook and Aaron Rodgers had yet to play together in an actual game. And their slight overlap against the 49ers was the first and only preparation for the regular-season opener. (Rodgers is highly unlikely to play against the Kansas City Chiefs.)
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So when Rodgers connected with Cook for a third-down conversion in the first quarter, with Cook using his speed to beat a linebacker, the connection held greater significance than the simple completion documented in the game book. It was the official beginning of what the Packers hope to be a fruitful partnership.
While Rodgers enjoyed a short cameo, Cook was a mainstay throughout the first half. He caught four passes for 59 yards, both of which led the Packers at the conclusion of his playing time, and was particularly effective on slant routes over the middle of the field.
With fullback Aaron Ripkowski sidelined by a knee injury, coach Mike McCarthy also turned to Cook in a backfield role. It’s a spot that was frequented by Richard Rodgers at times last season and an important part of the Packers’ offense.
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The Packers saw the best and worst of wide receiver Davante Adams against the 49ers.
Late in the first half, quarterback Joe Callahan ran a bootleg to his left — one of several nice bootlegs throughout the game — and heaved a well-thrown ball some 45 yards to Adams at the goal line. Adams, who had separated from his defender, jumped to make a catch that would have scored a touchdown.
The ball bounced off his hands incomplete. Another dropped pass.
A few plays later, Adams bounced back. He made a tremendously difficult catch on a slant route in traffic, absorbing contact and grasping the ball through multiple limbs.
Still, Adams wasn’t the only player who struggled with drops Friday night. Cornerback Sam Shields, who saw so many potential interceptions fall incomplete during the playoff loss to Arizona last season, nearly intercepted Colin Kaepernick on the first possession of the second quarter. The ball ricocheted off his fingers on a play he could have — and should have — made.
The final culprit was rookie Trevor Davis, who nearly caught another well-thrown deep ball by Callahan along the sideline. The speedy Davis blew past his defender on a double move, but the ball went through his fingers and hit the turf. With a dive he might have made the catch.
BITS AND PIECES
» It took until the closing seconds of the first half, but tight end Richard Rodgers finally made his first catch of the exhibition season on a pass over the middle from Callahan. Rodgers had gone nearly 10 quarters without a catch until that point.
» With second-year linebacker Jake Ryan inactive due to a hamstring injury, Sam Barrington and rookie Blake Martinez took plenty of reps together against the 49ers. Martinez, who has been wearing the communication device for the Packers, played well in the first half and flashed physicality. Barrington continues to re-acclimate himself after beginning training camp on the PUP list. With Ryan’s injury, the Barrington-Martinez combo might get the start in the season opener.
» Safety Chris Banjo and outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott suffered hamstring injuries in the first half Friday night. Rookie offensive lineman Jason Spriggs wore a club on his right hand in the second half after playing the first two quarters without it. Running back John Crockett appeared to hurt his left arm in the third quarter.
The Packers' next public practice is Monday at 12:15 p.m.