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By CHRIS HAVEL
Green Bay’s offense hits it running in 17-11 victory
The Packers accomplished several goals in their 17-11 victory over Cleveland in the preseason opener Sunday night at Lambeau Field.
First, and foremost, Green Bay’s offense was able to get plenty of solid reps in the running game.
The offensive line started slowly in front of quarterback Joe Callahan, but after finding its legs helped to sustain several lengthy drives. That allowed the much-discussed Eddie Lacy to bang away in an obviously better-conditioned body.
Lacy looked strong, which is to say, he looked a lot like his old self. He was feisty, he showed burst and he appeared to be having fun. Lacy is at his best when he’s smiling while defenders are following like bowling pins.
The change in Lacy wasn’t dramatic but it was necessary. His weight is irrelevant so long as his conditioning is good.No problem there.
Lacy finished with four carries for 24 yards and a long run of 11 yards. It’s a good step toward putting his weight behind him.
For his part, Callahan looked like a kid with potential. He completed 16 of 23 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown. He looked confident in the two-minute drill just before the end of the first half.
Callahan’s footwork looked good, too.
It’s clear that the Packers’ quarterbacks, including rookies Marquise Williams and Callahan, are getting good coaching. Williams is a nice-looking athlete with a strong arm.
Both should be earning money on a practice squad. The bigger question is this: Who will be the Packers’ No. 3 back? Right now Callahan is the leader in the clubhouse.
Elsewhere on offense, tight end Justin Perillo came up with five catches for 52 yards. It was a rinse and repeat of what Perillo’s been doing during practice at training camp.
Perillo has excellent hands. He also has a knack for getting open and is a willing if not overly skilled special teams’ player. Right now he appears to be the solid No. 3 tight end.
Jared Cook, who was acquired in free agency, has been the real deal thus far. Cook’s size and speed enables him to threaten defenses in the middle of the field and deep in the seams.
Whatever questions may have existed regarding Cook’s hands seem to be off-base. Cook catches it easily and is fairly agile while trying to pile up yards after the catch. He’s also a large and seemingly reliable target in the red zone.
It’s early but I can’t see any downside to Cook.
Ty Montgomery, the second-year receiver, finally has been able to return to practice. It didn’t take him long to remind everyone how smooth he is and how much potential he possesses. Montgomery should be the No. 3 or No. 4 receiver. Also expect him to line up in the backfield ala Randall Cobb.
Jared Abbrederis, the pride of Wisconsin, continues to earn a spot on the 53-man roster. He runs crisp routes. He catches the football with ease. He even showed to be a nifty punt returner.
Abbrederis’ greatest obstacle is staying healthy. So far, it appears he has put the time while rehabbing his knee, etc., to good use by becoming stronger.
When I watch Abbrederis I think: What’s not to like?
In an interesting story with a hometown angle, Peter Mortell appears to be giving Tim Masthay a battle at punter. Masthay has the edge because he’s such a reliable holder for kicker Mason Crosby, who nailed a pair of 54-yarders.
However, Mortell has walloped some long punts and his talent is fairly obvious. If he makes the 53-man it won’t be because he is from Green Bay. He’s got a chance.
Defensively, coordinator Dom Capers certainly has an array of toys to choose from. It all starts up front with rookie Kenny Clark, who simply goes about his business.
The pass rush showed flashes, the young linebackers played with instinct and the secondary looked its same old strong self.
Now, the Packers have to prepare for the quick turnaround and Thursday night’s game against the Raiders at Lambeau Field.
My sense is the Packers are just now finding their stride. When Mike McCarthy decides to work in the starters the Packers should hit it running, both figuratively and literally.
Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games. Also check out our new Podcast: Between the Lines for more Packers insights. New episodes every Wednesday.