GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Five things to take away from the Green Bay Packers' 28-20 preseason victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Friday night.
1. Passing game still a work in progress. New Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb went to Larry Fitzgerald five times on Friday night, with just one of those landing in his new receiver's hands. The first attempt, an incompletion, was a bit long down the right sideline as Fitzgerald got tangled with Charles Woodson. The second drew an 18-yard pass-interference call on Tramon Williams. It was clear the timing wasn't quite there on two others, as defensive backs had time to recover and contest the ball.
On the one completion, Fitzgerald made one of the more spectacular catches you'll see, making a diving one-handed grab across the middle, trapping the ball between his biceps and forearm to keep it off the ground. But even on that play, there was a bit of a miscommunication -- Kolb thought Fitzgerald was going one way, Fitzgerald went the other, and the receiver simply made up for it with his athleticism. No matter what, it's clear these guys have a ways to go.
2. Pace-setting Packers. Green Bay has gotten off to slow starts in both preseason games, and on each occasion, coach Mike McCarthy sent his offense into hurry-up mode to shake off the cobwebs. It worked in Cleveland. It worked Friday night against the Cardinals. Running the two-minute drill on their first possession of the second quarter, the Packers went 72 yards in eight plays.
Aaron Rodgers was a perfect 5-for-5 along the way, just as he was in a similar situation against Cleveland. Combine those two drives, and Rodgers is 10-for-10 for 131 yards and two touchdowns. And both drives were capped by the kind of back-shoulder throws to Greg Jennings that can only be executed with a quarterback and receiver operating mentally at the same high level. So much for the Packers not holding those player-only workouts during the lockout.
3. Slow starts for Super Bowl champs. The flip side is that the Packers did get off to another uneven start. The defense (sans Clay Matthews) had trouble getting off the field on third down, and Arizona registered a pair of early field goals. The Packers' offensive line yielded a pair of early sacks to Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett. Eventually, Green Bay got things tightened up, but not until experiencing a repeat to last week's slow start in Cleveland. The Packers acknowledged it's something to look at and clean up.
"We have to be able to start fast, and put the pressure on them, put the pressure on their defense to stop us and allow our defense to pin their ears back, get after the quarterback," Jennings told me. "We shouldn't come out here, especially in front on our own crowd, with a start like that."
4. The big loss for Cardinals. There was some good for Arizona to take away, notably the first-unit offense moving the ball effectively behind Kolb and the defensive front getting the upper hand on Green Bay's offensive line. But the Cardinals suffered a sizable blow, as rookie RB Ryan Williams could be out for the season with an injury to his lower right knee and leg. While Beanie Wells looked fine, the Cardinals were counting on Williams to be the "zoom" to the big man's "boom" after dealing Tim Hightower earlier this summer. Now, Arizona's safety net at tailback is gone. Expect the club to go looking on the veteran market, perhaps at an experienced hand like Clinton Portis.
5. Flynn a factor. Yes, Matt Flynn's stat line (5-for-6 for 141 yards and two touchdowns) was inflated by the 97-yard touchdown pass to receiver Chastin West. And yes, a large chunk of those 97 yards were compiled after the catch as a result of West outrunning everyone down the right sideline. But that ball from Flynn was on the money, and there was more to like about him on Friday than just that one toss. Flynn led two touchdown drives, looked in command in the two-minute offense before the half and even more settled in situations thereafter. All you have to do is watch him move his head (reading the defense and going through his progressions) to see how in control he is in McCarthy's offense. Combine that with his success stepping in for Rodgers in primetime against New England last December, and Flynn's making a real case for getting a chance to start somewhere in 2012.