Backup QBs DeShone Kizer, Tim Boyle solid in Packers' preseason opener
GREEN BAY - At the start of training camp, Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said the four preseason games would be the ultimate proving ground for backup quarterbacks DeShone Kizer and Tim Boyle, more than shared reps on the practice field.
With Aaron Rodgers in a T-shirt watching along with all but two listed starters on the Packers’ first depth chart, Kizer and Boyle put together perhaps their best efforts of training camp in leading the Packers to a 28-26 exhibition victory over the Houston Texans on Thursday night at Lambeau Field.
The pair started off unevenly in their opening series but eventually settled into the flow of the offense by working off play-action calls that helped hold the Texans defense for a beat and opening up throwing lanes.
“More than anything else was the command — that’s what we were looking for,” Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said of Kizer and Boyle. “I thought they commanded the huddle. I thought, it seemed to me that the communication was on point. We didn’t have any delay of games. I thought we got up to the line just like I’ve been talking about with urgency, and I just thought the operation was clean. They did a nice job executing when the plays were there.”
Kizer, who has called this one of the most important preseasons of his young career, overcame a shaky start to finish the first half with a 75-yard touchdown drive that gave the Packers a 14-10 halftime lead.
“It really solidified the confidence that this quarterback room really has in the system,” Kizer said. “I think that every guy who played in tonight’s game looked comfortable out there, was able to rip it and really be themselves, which is exactly what this system is set up for.”
With only starting left guard Lane Taylor and wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling joining him to open the game, it took three series before Kizer’s group would score a touchdown — but he did not turn the ball over and flipped the field on his second possession for a JK Scott punt.
It was hidden yardage that resulted in a score, as Texans punt returner Keke Coutee misjudged Scott’s kick and the ball bounced off him, allowing Packers receiver Equanimeous St. Brown to recover the ball in the end zone for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
“That was awesome, that big turnover that was a touchdown, and I felt that it got us going a little bit and gave us some juice and gave us some momentum,” LaFleur said.
Kizer then directed a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that gave the Packers a 14-7 lead, highlighted by a 23-yard completion on third-and-7 to Robert Tonyan, a 2-yard run on third down when he challenged a defender head-on to extend the drive, and then capping it with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Darrius Shepherd.
Kizer finished the night going 8-for-13 for 102 yards and a 111.7 rating, spreading the ball to seven different receivers.
Going forward, as Gutekunst and LaFleur continue their evaluation of Kizer, the head coach wants to see that consistency move to the practice field.
“It’s consistency on a daily basis,” LaFleur said. “Not just in a game, but in practice. It’s one game. I thought he did a nice job tonight, but it’s got to be each and every day.”
Tim Boyle got the second half for the Packers and was handed the ball at the Houston 3-yard line thanks to a Packers interception, but the offense needed seven plays and a Houston penalty to score.
In that run of plays, LaFleur challenged for a defensive pass interference call on a third-down incompletion in the end zone, but the non-call was upheld.
Following a Texans penalty on fourth down in the end zone, Boyle hit J’Mon Moore for a 1-yard touchdown pass and a 21-10 Packers lead. On his next series, Boyle connected with Allen Lazard for a leaping 27-yard score, capping a 77-yard scoring drive that was aided by 45 yards of Texans penalties to put the Packers up 28-10.
Boyle, who had not played in a game since the 2018 preseason finale, went 3-for-5 for 40 yards and two touchdowns for a 125.0 rating before being pulled for Manny Wilkins.
“When 40 percent of your passes are touchdowns, that’s a good day,” Boyle said. “I only threw five passes technically, but it was a good day to be out there, and the play-calling was great. We just had fun out there and everything was clicking.”
Houston would add three scoring drives in the fourth quarter to make it a 28-26 final.
Defensively, the Packers relied mostly on rookies and young players as well with eight of 11 starters on the depth chart not dressing. Unfortunately for Green Bay, one of those starters who did play, inside linebacker Oren Burks, injured his left shoulder early in the game.
Burks, a third-round choice out of Vanderbilt a year ago, injured that same shoulder in the third preseason game last season. LaFleur did not have an update on Burks’ status.
Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine joined LaFleur to call plays from the sideline, and his group produced two first-half turnovers. Rookie corner Ka’Dar Hollman slid in front of Texans receiver Vyncint Smith for an interception, and second-year safety Raven Greene forced a fumble that was recovered by Will Redmond.
The Packers had 26 players who did not dress for the game.
“It really came down to the opportunity to play against the Texans in practice. We gave those guys the majority of the reps, the ones, and I felt they got the necessary work in throughout the week, and I didn’t want to put them at risk,” LaFleur said.
Packers make roster moves
Before the game, the Packers waived/injured linebacker Kendall Donnerson (hamstring) and released running back Corey Grant. They also signed veteran safety Ibraheim Campbell and immediately placed him on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.
Donnerson, a seventh-round pick out of Southeast Missouri State last season, injured his hamstring on the first day of training camp. If no one claims him, he will revert to the Packers’ injured reserve list. Grant was signed July 26, was given a $60,000 signing bonus and practiced every day he was with the club.
Campbell played three games with the Packers last season before tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in Week 13, ending his season. The fifth-year veteran was a fourth-round pick of the Cleveland Browns in 2015 when current Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine was the head coach.