4 Downs With Dougherty: Davis shows speed
Every week I’ll share four observations from the Packers' game the previous day. Here they are after the Packers’ 34-27 win over Detroit.
First down: Trevor Davis no doubt needs refining and had a bad drop Sunday, but the rookie showed that at least he can add an element of straight-line speed that the Packers’ receiving corps lacks when it plays its usual three-receiver group of Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams. Davis, who at the NFL scouting combine ran the 40 in 4.42 seconds, got behind the Lions’ secondary for a big play after quarterback Aaron Rodgers broke the pocket on the first play of the second quarter. Davis didn’t catch Rodgers’ heave that was thrown on the run, but he was open and was rewarded with a pass interference call when he was tripped up by cornerback Nevin Lawson. I’m not convinced the penalty was the right call, but either way Davis outran everyone. If he does that a few more times, defenses will take notice.
Second down: I still think cornerback Damarious Randall will be a good player even though for the second straight week he gave up multiple big plays. But two other plays jumped out to me that have to be a concern to the Packers, at least if I saw them correctly. Twice in zone coverage early in the fourth quarter, Randall left what appeared to be his man to jump a route in front of him, and on both, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford’s throws went over Randall’s head for completions to the man that it looked like he should have been covering in the first place, including a 19-yarder on a second-and-20 play. I’m sure Randall is trying to use his instincts to make big plays, but he has to do his own assignment first.
Third down: Jordy Nelson made his first big plays since coming off anterior cruciate ligament surgery last year, but the thing he has to feel best about is that most of his six-catch, 101-yard performance came against a top, ascending cornerback in Darius Slay. Slay generally covered Nelson no matter where the receiver lined up.
Fourth down: I know what coach Mike McCarthy’s response would be, but I still wonder why the Packers used two-tight-end personnel so much after Jared Cook left the game in the second quarter with an ankle injury. Justin Perillo, the No. 3 tight end, played 17 snaps, and most if not all of those came with another tight end on the field. My guess is that McCarthy would say the two-tight-end package was a big part of the game plan that the team had practiced all week, and he didn’t want to abandon it. But without Cook that package loses a big element of speed, so I wonder if it wouldn’t have been better to go with more three- and four-receiver sets. Against four receivers, for instance, the Lions would have had to go with their dime package, which removes another run defender (linebacker) for a cover man (cornerback), so even if there aren’t as many good blockers on the field, there also aren’t as many defenders who are good against the run.