NFL Nation: Chastin West

Justin BlackmonJerry Lai/US PresswireJustin Blackmon had 1,522 receiving yards and 18 TDs for Oklahoma State last season.
Blaine Gabbert finished last year throwing to Mike Thomas, Jarett Dillard, Chastin West and Cecil Shorts.

General manager Gene Smith was charged with giving a quarterback he traded up for last season better people to aim for.

And Smith has come through, trading up from seventh to fifth and nabbing Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon. He’ll join free agent additions Laurent Robinson and Lee Evans, a reclamation project, in trying to transform the Jacksonville passing offense.

Blackmon stands to be the team’s best receiving option since Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell.

The Jags gave up No. 7 and No. 101 in the fourth round to Tampa Bay for No. 5 and the right to add Blackmon.

Hard to find any issue at all with that.

If they find a pass-rusher next, this will be a rousing success.
We’ll wait until next week to start building the All-AFC South Team, and you’ll have a big chance to offer input there.

This week we’ll pass out hardware for individual awards.

Drum roll please:

[+] EnlargeJohnathan Joseph
Bob Levey/Getty ImagesJohnathan Joseph, new to the Texans in 2011, helped revitalize Houston's secondary.
Player of the year: Johnathan Joseph, Texans cornerback. Runner up: Brian Cushing, Texans inside linebacker.

Joseph, Cushing and Antonio Smith were the players I sorted through here, and you can make a case for any of them. While the Texans were a better defense at every level, it was the secondary that had the biggest room for improvement. Joseph’s ability to match up with a team’s best receiver eased the pressure on everyone else in the secondary and helped transform a miserable pass defense into an excellent one. In the Texans’ playoff loss in Baltimore he blanketed Ravens receiver Torrey Smith, rendering him a non-factor.

Offensive player of the year: Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars running back. Runner up: Arian Foster, Texans running back.

It’s hard to fathom that Jones-Drew was the NFL rushing champ considering that defenses could regularly key on him without fear of any real threat from the passing offense, which ranked dead last in the NFL. He showed no signs of wearing down and averaged 100 yards a game. It felt like a waste on a five-win team. Foster missed some action early with hamstring issues or he would have likely challenged Jones-Drew in rushing yards. He’s a tremendous combination of power and speed and does excellent work as a pass catcher.

Rookie of the year: J.J. Watt, Texans defensive end. Runner up: Brooks Reed, Texans outside linebacker.

Watt was installed as a starter the moment the Texans drafted him and was an impactful player from his first snap. A relentless player, he was a force against the run and the pass and played beautifully in concert with the rest of the defensive front. His ability to get his hands on balls at the line of scrimmage turned into a monumental interception return for a touchdown in the playoff win over Cincinnati. Reed filled in very well after Mario Williams was lost for the season and may actually help the team decide Williams is expendable.

Best assistant coach: Wade Phillips, Texans defensive coordinator. Runner up, Mel Tucker, Jaguars defensive coordinator.

Phillips was a factor in the personnel decisions that brought Joseph, Danieal Manning, Watt and Reed into the fold for Houston. In his first year as defensive coordinator, he injected a huge dose of confidence into the Texans defenders and wisely drew up schemes that featured guys’ strengths and marked their weaknesses. The sort of turnaround the defense made in one year is practically unheard of. In Jacksonville, Tucker was given a huge boost with new personnel, but as he took over play-calling from Jack Del Rio, he excelled.

Best position coach: Dave Ragone, Titans receivers coach. Runner up, Vance Joseph, Texans secondary coach.

Ragone had no experience working with receivers coming into this job, but did fantastic work. He deserves a great deal of credit for the vast improvement and maturation of Nate Washington and the emergence of Damian Williams as a threat and Lavelle Hawkins as a guy who did some good things with the ball in his hands. In his first season with the Texans, Joseph helped some guys regain confidence while overseeing a successful move of Glover Quin from corner to strong safety.

Executive of the year: Rick Smith, Texans general manager.

He had lots of help, but completely nailed free agency, signing Joseph and Manning rather than Nnamdi Asomugha. And the top of the draft was fantastic, with Watt and Reed. As Houston suffered injuries at running back, receiver, linebacker and even punter, the Texans showed good depth and an ability to fill in holes with quality outsiders.

Best unit: Texans offensive line. Runner up: Texans linebackers.

Led by center Chris Myers, who may be the division’s most unsung player, Houston’s offensive line blocked consistently well for the run game and protected three different quarterbacks well. Left tackle Duane Brown and right tackle Eric Winston both earned mentions on various All-Pro teams. Antoine Caldwell filled in nicely when Mike Brisiel missed time at right guard. The Texans linebackers, even without Mario Williams, did spectacular, work stuffing the run and swarming quarterbacks all season long.

Worst unit: Jaguars receivers. Runner up: Colts cornerbacks.

Mike Thomas might be a No. 2 receiver and can certainly be a good No. 3, though his play in 2011 dropped off after he got a contract extension. But Jason Hill, who started as the No. 2 guy, wound up getting cut and guys like Jarett Dillard, rookie Cecil Shorts, Chastin West and Kassim Osgood did little to show they were NFL-caliber guys. Blaine Gabbert suffered the consequences. The Colts were insufficiently stocked at corner, though Jacob Lacey bounced back well late in the season after he was benched.

Most improved: Nate Washington, Titans receiver. Runner up: Connor Barwin, Texans outside linebacker.

[+] EnlargeJohnson
Timothy T. Ludwig/US PresswireFollowing a big contract signing prior to the season, Titans RB Chris Johnson failed to play up to the high expectations.
Washington’s maturation was remarkable. An excitable guy really calmed down and settled in working under offensive coordinator Chris Palmer and Ragone and with Matt Hasselbeck. Washington figured to be better with those guys while working as the No. 2 behind Kenny Britt, but Britt was lost for the season early on and Washington wound up with a 1,000-yard season and seven touchdowns. I give him the nod because I didn’t believe he had untapped upside. That was not the case with Barwin, who the Texans have expected to be a pass-rushing force since they drafted him in 2009.

Most disappointing: Chris Johnson, Titans running back. Runner up: Marcedes Lewis, Jaguars tight end.

I don’t care what sort of defenses are offered up for Johnson. He simply did not run as hard after coming out of a holdout with a giant new contract. There were other issues, but too often he appeared to lack fire and desire. In the rare instances he wound up in a one-on-one situation he was hardly the threat he’s been in the past. If he doesn’t bounce back in 2012, the contract will turn out to be disastrous. Lewis was supposed to be transformed by his MMA training during the lockout. If it impacted him, it made him worse. Expecting another 10 touchdowns was unreasonable. Producing none was unacceptable.

Best position revamp: TIE, Jaguars safeties and Texans safeties.

Both teams were terrible at the position a year ago and despite a draft class that was incredibly thin, reshaped the spot with great results. The Texans shifted Quin from cornerback and he was very solid alongside free-agent addition Manning. The Jaguars signed Dawan Landry from Baltimore and traded for Dwight Lowery, shifting a guy who’d played mostly corner to play with Landry. Applause to both teams for fine work addressing a trouble position.

Surprise of the year: T.J. Yates, Texans quarterback.

The finish in the playoff loss to Baltimore was a big disappointment. But Yates took over a good team when Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart went down in quick succession and played beyond what could reasonably be expected from a fifth-round rookie quarterback.

Colt of the year: Pat Angerer, middle linebacker.

As Indianapolis was not mentioned here at all, we create this category for the Colts. Angerer showed himself to be a quality starter who has to be in the lineup going forward. That may mean the end of Gary Brackett, the veteran middle linebacker who was hurt in Week 1 and missed the season. Angerer is a rangy, instinctive player who’s sure to impress new general manager Ryan Grigson.

Wrap-up: Falcons 41, Jaguars 14

December, 16, 2011
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Thoughts on the Jaguars’ 41-14 loss to the Falcons at the Georgia Dome:

What it means:The Jaguars fell to 4-10 as they were completely handled in Atlanta. Sunday they’d broken through with a 41-14 home win over the Buccaneers. Four days later they lost by the same score to a team that looks to be heading into the NFC playoff field. In receivers Roddy White (10 catches, 135 yards, two touchdowns) and Julio Jones (five, 85, one) the Falcons and quarterback Matt Ryan have just the sort of weapons the Jaguars need but lack. Shahid Khan, just approved by NFL owners to purchase the Jaguars and take over Jan. 4, was in attendance and saw in person just how far off his new team is.

What I didn’t like: The Jaguars plan and play-calling looked to have no confidence in Blaine Gabbert and he showed why. Five sacks were partly on him and partly on his pass protection. But the pocket presence that’s been an issue all season wasn’t any better, and he lost two fumbles while throwing a pick (on a ball bobbled by Marcedes Lewis) and a touchdown (to Chastin West well after the game was out of reach).

Knocked out: Right tackle Guy Whimper struggled again, this time with defensive end John Abraham. Abraham knocked Whimper from the game with a knee sprain when he sacked Gabbert and forced a fumble that defensive tackle Corey Peters recovered and returned 13 yards for a third-quarter touchdown that made it 34-0. Abraham finished with 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. I don't know why the Jags wouldn't try Cameron Bradfield the rest of the season even if Whimper is healthy.

What I want to know: How Maurice Jones-Drew can gain yards when a defense has no fear of getting beat by the pass. He carried 17 times for 112 yards.

Something on special teams: For the second game in a row, special teams provided something big. Kassim Osgood blocked a punt that Zach Potter recovered and returned for a 46-yard touchdown that ensured Jacksonville wouldn’t be shutout. It was one of a handful of good moments on an ugly night.

What’s next: The Jaguars have a long break before they return to action with a trip to Nashville for a rematch with the Titans. Jacksonville beat the Titans 16-14 at EverBank Field on opening day.
Five things to look for tonight in the Jaguars game at Atlanta tonight:

Khan! He won’t take over the team until Jan., but Shahid Khan’s been approved by the league to buy the Jaguars. He will be at the Georgia Dome to watch his new team for the first time tonight, and NFL Network cameras are sure to find him. He was absolutely beaming as he participated in a news conference after approval, and he figures to start off all smiles at kickoff. But if things go badly for Jacksonville early, the expression under the mustache might change.

The defensive backs: Jacksonville is ridiculously thin in the secondary. Cornerbacks Ashton Youboty and undrafted rookie Kevin Rutland have both had some good moments. But surely Atlanta offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey and quarterback Matt Ryan see the potential to attack on the outside and win.

Points: The Jaguars hadn’t topped 20 points all season until they exploded for 41 last week in a romp against the Buccaneers. The Falcons are playing good scoring defense. In the past month they’ve given up 23, 17, 14 and 17.

The receivers: Both Mike Thomas and Cecil Shorts are out with injuries. With them, Blaine Gabbert’s got a super limited number of weapons. Without them we’ll see if newcomer Taylor Price and youngsters Jarett Dillard and Chastin West can make any plays. Mike Sheppard’s been working as the receivers coach for a couple weeks now, is he able to have a positive influence on this group?

Energy: High motor defensive end Jeremy Mincey qualifies as a tone-setter for the Jaguars. With a short turnaround and a road game, the team needs to show some hop against a team that’s primed to be a playoff entry. I’ll watch Mincey to see if he can provide the sort of early spark that could serve notice the Jaguars won’t go down easily.

Tucker and Jaguars alter staff, roster

November, 30, 2011
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Two things buzzed around the Jaguars' offense as things fell apart this season, producing a 3-8 record that got Jack Del Rio fired.

The wide receivers were insufficiently coached by the inexperienced Johnny Cox.

[+] EnlargeJacksonville's Mel Tucker
AP Photo/Rick WilsonJaguars' interim coach Mel Tucker made several moves on Wednesday.
Rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert wasn’t getting as much quality, hands on coaching from quarterback coach Mike Sheppard as he needed.

Mel Tucker’s staff move Wednesday suggests both sentiments were correct. The Jaguars’ interim coach let Cox go, and shifted Sheppard to receivers. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter will take control of the quarterbacks.

Del Rio didn’t really have a lot of options in terms of staff. His assistants only had one year remaining on their contracts. Anyone he added would have had the same, and the best assistant coaches find more security than that.

Quarterbacks coach Mike Shula jumped to Carolina in the offseason, and Del Rio shifted one of his best teaching assistants, Todd Monken, from receivers to quarterbacks. Then Monken bolted for an assistant job at Oklahoma State, and Del Rio had to shuffle again.

Now, Tucker clearly sees the potential for addition by subtraction.

The team also made roster moves at receiver. Jason Hill, who’s been in the No. 2 role all season, was released. That makes room for more playing time for Jarett Dillard, rookie Cecil Shorts and Chastin West.

The Jaguars also signed running back DuJuan Harris from their practice squad, signed cornerback Morgan Trent and put safety Courtney Greene on IR.

Perhaps Harris will have a chance to earn touches in front of the struggling backup to Maurice Jones-Drew, Deji Karim.

Greene is the 18th Jaguars to go on the list, a league high.

Quick hits: Mike Neal, Cobb practice

September, 4, 2011
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Let's account for a few Sunday afternoon newsbits in quick-hitting fashion ...

Item: The Green Bay Packers are back at practice Sunday in preparation for Thursday's season opener (!) against the New Orleans Saints.
Comment: According to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a number of injured players have returned. That list includes tight end Jermichael Finley, receiver Randall Cobb and defensive end Mike Neal. I'll have more on the start of Week 1 in a bit.

Item: The Packers slipped several valued players through waivers and signed them to their practice squad.
Comment: Receivers Tori Gurley and Chastin West, along with quarterback Graham Harrell, were all part of the practice squad Sunday. It was particularly important to keep Harrell in the program with No. 2 quarterback Matt Flynn's contract set to expire after this season.

Item: The Detroit Lions waived running back Aaron Brown and center Chris Morris. They reportedly claimed offensive lineman Jacques McClendon from the Indianapolis Colts. At the moment, the second roster spot is unfilled.
Comment:
Veteran running back Chester Taylor signed with the Arizona Cardinals, eliminating that possibility for the Lions. It's not clear if Brown's departure means another running back is on the way in, or if he was simply the least-valued player remaining on the Lions' 53-man roster. We'll keep you updated.

Item: The Minnesota Vikings claimed linebacker Xavier Adibi from the Houston Texans.
Comment: The Vikings are a 4-3 team and Adibi has mostly played inside in a 3-4 scheme, but depth was a critical issue here. Only five linebackers were on the original 53-man roster, and Adibi provides credible insurance should a starter be injured.

Green Bay Packers cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
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Check here for a complete list of the Green Bay Packers' roster moves.

Surprise move: Packers coach Mike McCarthy made clear early in camp that he hoped to find a way to keep Graham Harrell on the final roster. It's no secret that No. 2 quarterback Matt Flynn is a pending free agent, and McCarthy thought now wouldn't be a good time to part ways with another quarterback who has spent time developing in the Packers' system. Harrell rebounded from a shaky start to camp, but I guess the Packers couldn’t find a place for him on a roster that includes five tight ends and a whopping 10 linebackers. I would expect him to return on the practice squad, assuming he clears waivers.

No-brainers: It's hard not to connect Jermichael Finley's pending free agency with the high number of tight ends the Packers kept. The list included two rookies, D.J. Williams and Ryan Taylor, along with veterans Andrew Quarless and Tom Crabtree. When you have a big-time starter entering a contract year, it makes sense to ensure your future bases are covered. Meanwhile, I don't fault the Packers for limiting themselves to five receivers, and in the process cutting loose Chastin West and Tori Gurley, among others. Both could return via the practice squad, and the veteran depth they have at the position would have made it difficult for a No. 6 receiver to be active on game day. Finally, the Packers chose to keep veteran tailback Ryan Grant and release the younger Dimitri Nance. Smart move.

What's next: The Packers have already found two trade partners for their players, sending fullback Quinn Johnson to the Tennessee Titans for an undisclosed draft pick and guard Caleb Schlauderaff to the New York Jets for an undisclosed draft pick. There aren't any obvious holes on their current 53-man grouping, so the Packers' primary goal Sunday will be to get as many of their just-released players through waivers and onto the practice squad as possible.

Previewing NFC North preseason Week 4

September, 1, 2011
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Welcome to preseason Week 4, where most players you know and love will take up residence on the sideline. All four NFC North teams are in action Thursday night. I've tossed out a few talking points below and will have some postgame thoughts either late tonight or, more likely, first thing Friday morning.

Chicago Bears
Opponent:
Cleveland Browns
Location: Soldier Field
Key issues: Backup quarterback Caleb Hanie has a 55.9 passer rating this preseason, having thrown two interceptions and no touchdowns in 53 attempts. His job isn't threatened, but the Bears would like to see him finish summer on a higher note. ... Do the Bears have any pass-rushing depth other than tackle/end Amobi Okoye? This game should provide give us some definitive answers.

Detroit Lions
Opponent:
Buffalo Bills
Location: Ralph Wilson Stadium
Key issues: The Lions have built significant momentum this summer and, frankly, escaping unscathed Thursday night should be their only goal. They should take a long look at their running back depth, determine a winner in their punting derby between Nick Harris and Ryan Donahue, and get back to Detroit.

Green Bay Packers
Opponent:
Kansas City Chiefs
Location: Lambeau Field
Key issues: The Packers need to decide how many receivers and tight ends they'll keep and then make decisions accordingly. Will receiver Chastin West make the team? How about receiver/punt blocker Tori Gurley? Also, third-string quarterback Graham Harrell should get a long opportunity to lock down a roster spot.

Minnesota Vikings
Opponent:
Houston Texans
Location: Metrodome
Key issues: Rookie quarterback Christian Ponder will start. Will he earn the No. 2 job behind Donovan McNabb? Or will it be Joe Webb? We'll also get a look at the Vikings' depth, or lack thereof, behind tailback Adrian Peterson. It's interesting to note they tried to claim former Lions fullback/running back Jerome Felton. Meanwhile, second-year defensive end Everson Griffen will get a look at linebacker as the team looks for depth behind its starters.
While many of us have spent the summer watching the rise of undrafted free-agent receiver Dane Sanzenbacher with the Chicago Bears, another interesting dynamic among wide receivers has played out with the Green Bay Packers.

[+] EnlargeGreg Hardy and Matt Dodge
AP Photo/Bill KostrounOnly 12 out of 2,467 punts were blocked during the 2010 regular season.
The Packers have a deep group with five jobs seemingly locked up. Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb all presumably have made the team. There are a number of promising young players competing for a sixth spot, if there is one, and Tuesday's SportsNation chat brought to light what I thought was an interesting question.

Namely: Would you make a spot on your 53-man roster based on a player's potential to block a punt?

That's the biggest advantage that rookie Tori Gurley has over Chastin West and others. Gurley is 6-foot-4, and as Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel pointed out, had by far the longest wingspan (83.5 inches) of any receiver who tested this past winter at the NFL scouting combine. He has blocked five punts during training camp practices this summer, nearly got his hands on one in last Friday's preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts and people are actually referring to him as a Pterodactyl. (Brush up on your dinosaur biology here.)

There has to be a special reason for any team to keep a sixth receiver, even for the Packers -- who make relatively liberal use of four- and five-receiver sets. Special teams is a crucial factor, but is the potential for a blocked punt enough of an enticement?

I can see it from both angles. Last season, NFL teams combined for 2,467 punts. Out of that total, 12 were blocked. That's one block for every 205 punts. The Packers last blocked a punt in 2003. No matter how skilled Gurley might be, a blocked punt is one of the lowest-percentage plays in the NFL.

On the other hand, blocked punts are often game-changing plays. If the 53rd man on your roster makes a substantive contribution to just one victory, he's probably paid his way.

Gurley is an intriguing prospect on a number of levels. He has shown flashes as a receiver during the preseason and, as a wise man I know told me, you can't teach 6-foot-4. But the punt-blocking potential is a new one for me. I don't know if I've ever seen it at the top of a player's résumé. Stay tuned.
All NFL teams must cut their roster from 90 to 80 players by Tuesday, and the Green Bay Packers got started Sunday morning before hitting the practice field.

Among those released were a pair of recognizable names, tight end Spencer Havner and receiver Brett Swain, whose early departures speak to the depth and fierce competition at their respective positions.

All five tight ends remaining on the Packers roster, including rookies D.J. Williams and Ryan Taylor, have legitimate chances to make the final roster. The Packers also have 11 receivers left and are judging strong summer performances from youngsters Chastin West and Tori Gurley, among others.

The moves leave the Packers with a total of 83 players. Teams will be allowed to carry 80 players until Sept. 3, when the final cutdown to 53 is required.
Reviewing Friday's action at Lucas Oil Stadium:

Green Bay Packers 24, Indianapolis Colts 21

Preseason record: (2-1)

Of interest: The Packers offense opened with a three-and-out and then shifted to its increasingly intriguing no-huddle offense. It led to a total of 10 points for the starters in the first half, including Aaron Rodgers' 18-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jermichael Finley. Rodgers finished with 204 passing yards in the first half. But the Packers walked away with plenty to work on. Rodgers continued to take more hits than you would like. Left tackle Chad Clifton struggled with defensive end Dwight Freeney, contributing to a pair of sacks and also producing a holding penalty that wiped out a 20-yard touchdown pass to Chastin West. Right guard Josh Sitton gave up a sack for the second consecutive week, this time to former Chicago Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris. ... Tailback Ryan Grant managed 16 yards on six carries, an effort that will keep his competition with James Starks in play. Starks got only one carry but caught five passes for 38 yards. ... The first-team defense blitzed Colts quarterback Curtis Painter extensively but eventually gave up a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter. One came on a busted coverage by safety Morgan Burnett, while the other came with the always-shaky Jarrett Bush in man coverage. ... Coach Mike McCarthy worked hard to ensure this victory, however, ordering a 2-point conversion after Ryan Taylor's 11-yard touchdown reception with 35 seconds remaining. After a successful onside kick, place-kicker Mason Crosby atoned for an earlier miss with a 50-yard game-winner. ... Quarterback Graham Harrell's late-game heroics could go a long way toward making the team.

Local coverage: McCarthy said he never considered kicking an extra point after Taylor's touchdown to leave with a 1-point loss, according to Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. McCarthy: "I understand the mindset of kicking the extra point and going home a little healthier. That's a terrible message to send to your team, in my opinion. ... I thought it was a tremendous boost for our football team. I think anytime you win a game in that fashion, it's healthy." ... The Packers starters should have scored more points, Demovsky quotes right tackle Bryan Bulaga as saying. ... Players seemed tired at times as a result of the no huddle, but Clifton (via Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) said: "There's no excuse for it. I need to play better. Our job is to perform and perform at a high level. I didn't do that tonight. I know it wasn't one of my finest performances. I'll just have to learn from it." ... Burnett admitted he was at fault in the busted coverage that led to Reggie Wayne's 57-yard touchdown. Via Tyler Dunne of the Journal Sentinel: "That was on me all the way. I should have stayed deep in my half. It's just a routine play. I need to really work on that. I can't put too much thought in it. Just need to bounce back." ... Rodgers on his touchdown pass to Finley, via Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com: "It was two guys on the same page. It was nice to be able to have that non-verbal acknowledgement of what we're trying to do there."

Up next: Thursday against Kansas City Chiefs
Reviewing Friday's action at Lambeau Field:

Green Bay Packers 28, Arizona Cardinals 20

Preseason record: 1-1

Of interest: The first-team offense went three-and-out in its first series, punted after two first downs on its next possession but looked sharp in its third, which ended on Aaron Rodgers' 20-yard back-shoulder touchdown pass to receiver Greg Jennings. Not coincidentally, the Packers took a pre-planned no-huddle approach in that third series. Rodgers completed all five of his passes on the drive, including three consecutive to tight end Jermichael Finley. ... Overall, Finley was targeted on five passes in his preseason debut, catching four for 33 yards. ... Rodgers took three significant hits that I saw, one after Cardinals defensive lineman Calais Campbell ran right past rookie left guard Derek Sherrod. Cardinals lineman Darnell Dockett also split a double team against right guard Josh Sitton and right tackle Bryan Bulaga for a hit. ... I thought the defense created some havoc for Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb, limiting the Cardinals offense to a pair of field goals before coordinator Dom Capers began substituting. ... The defense's new (occasional) look of Ryan Pickett at nose tackle and B.J. Raji at end is interesting and worth further discussion next week. ... Safety Morgan Burnett continues to look aggressive in his return and made a nice play to break up a late Kolb pass to receiver Larry Fitzgerald. ... Fitzgerald later made one of the most incredible one-handed catches you'll ever see as he fell to the ground, setting up a field goal. ... The first look at running back/kick returner Alex Green was positive, most notably on a 25-yard screen reception. ... I don't know if Chastin West's 97-yard catch-and-run down the right sideline will help him make the team, but it sure was fun to watch. Perfect throw from quarterback Matt Flynn. ... Two injuries to keep an eye on: Receiver Randall Cobb (bruised knee) and defensive end C.J. Wilson (possible concussion).

Local coverage: Finley wanted to continue playing with the second-team offense, writes Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com. Finley: "I felt like the old '88.' I started getting revved up and heated and I was really close to telling them to keep me in. I'd have played the whole game. I'd have played with Flynn if I had to. It was just one of those things I had to get past me, and I got it past me." Tailback Ryan Grant doesn't appear to have lost a step, writes Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Packers.com has posted video of West's touchdown reception. It's also in the video that will accompany this post for a few days. Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette on Green's night: "If Green shows he can pass protect, he could be a valuable weapon as a third-down back. He's a better receiver than Brandon Jackson, who had the job last season. But if he can't pass protect -- he gave up a quarterback hit by linebacker O'Brien Schofield on Matt Flynn in the third quarter -- then he won't win that job." Sherrod probably lost any chance he has of beating out T.J. Lang for the starting job, notes Tom Silverstein of the Journal Sentinel.

Up next: Friday at Indianapolis Colts

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