The Cleveland Browns defeated the Green Bay Packers 27-17 Saturday night in Cleveland. While it has no bearing on the regular season (the Packers lost to the Browns in last preseason's opener), there were winners and losers on the Packers' side of the ball. Here they are:
Winner: Randall Cobb, WR: The second round draft pick from Kentucky was electric in his first game as a professional, hauling in three passes for 60 yards and returning two kickoffs for 29 yards apiece. Cobb is built in the mold of a young Donald Driver/Percy Harvin and adds a new dimension to the Packers' offense.
Loser: Pat Lee, CB: The biggest loser of the night was Lee, who was burnt early and often. He looked slow covering both Josh Cribbs and rookie Greg Little, and the outstanding play of fellow cornerback Josh Gordy may have cost Lee a roster spot. He is most likely on the outside looking in after tonight's performance.
Winner: Morgan Burnett, SS: After missing all but four games in 2010, Burnett returned in a big way. On back-to-back plays in the first quarter, Burnett blew up an inside run on second down and made an open-field tackle on tight end Evan Moore to force a fourth down. His time was limited, but he sure made the most of it.
Loser: Second string offensive line: For the most part the starters on the offensive line were stellar, giving Aaron Rodgers plenty of time to stand in the pocket. But for as good as they were, their backups were just as bad. Marshall Newhouse (see below) looked lost at right tackle and T.J. Lang was just as bad at left tackle. The second group will need work.
Winner: Aaron Rodgers, QB: After a so-so first series, Rodgers went 5-for-5 for 74 yards and a touchdown on his second and final drive. He threw a bullet to Greg Jennings down the left sideline for a 21-yard score, capping off his night. It's safe to say Rodgers is already in mid-season form.
Winner: Derek Sherrod, OL: Not so bad, rook. In his first professional game, Sherrod switched back and forth between left tackle and left guard, and held his own. Lang looked miserable at left tackle but performed well at left guard, meaning the left guard competition is still open.
Loser: D.J. Williams, TE: It was just a single play, but it was a big one. Midway through the third quarter, the Brows came on a blitz around the right side and Williams looked inside while two linebackers went outside, causing a Matt Flynn fumble that was returned for a touchdown. He caught one ball for 18 yards but is going to need to improve his blocking before he gets serious playing time.
Winner: James Starks, RB: Ryan Grant is the starting running back, but it won't be long before the Packers are forced to give Starks 20 carries a game. The 2010 rookie ran two times for 14 yards, running with power, speed and quick feet through the hole. He has been a star in training camp and showed that the end of last season was no fluke. Starks is the real deal.
Loser: Marshall Newshouse, OT: Many Green Bay beat writers were confused to see Newhouse at right tackle, and deservedly so. The first year lineman struggled in the preseason opener and, after a solid training camp, will need to improve. He is much more suited for the left tackle position.
Winner: Ryan Taylor, TE: The seventh round draft choice from North Carolina did a little bit of everything, catching two passes for 30 yards, starting on the punt team and blocking well out of the backfield. It may be too soon to say, but Taylor has a good chance of sticking on the 53-man roster.
Loser: Tori Gurley, WR: One of the bright stars of training camp struggled Saturday night, dropping two key passes from Graham Harrell. He did catch two passes for 21 yards but the drops can not happen if he hopes to catch on the practice squad. There is still plenty of time for Gurley to improve.
Winner: Josh Gordy, CB: With cornerbacks Charles Woodson, Sam Shields, Davon House and Brandian Ross all sitting with injuries (except Woodson), Gordy made the most of his opportunity by sacking Seneca Wallace and intercepting Jarrett Brown in the second half. He also recorded a tackle and has a shot to make the 53-man roster.
Loser: Punt returners: The Packers still have not found their answer at punt returner, at least through 60 minutes of the preseason. Diondre Borel had a 23-yard punt return but Shaky Smithson had one return for just three yards and Randall Cobb went nowhere on his only return of the night.
Winner: Tim Masthay: The Packers' punter was splendid Saturday night, averaging a booming 52.2 yards on six punts, including a long of 61 yards. The weather conditions were perfect, but it's still worth noting that Masthay was excellent.
Loser: Shaky Smithson, WR/PR: A longshot to make the roster in the first place, Smithson did nothing to help his stock. He was called for offensive pass interference and a false start, returned one punt for three yards and averaged 23.7 yards on his three kick returns. He has a long way to go.
Winner: M.D. Jennings, FS: The hard-hitting rookie free agent was great Saturday night, intercepting a Seneca Wallace pass and totaling three tackles in the loss. His only shot to make the roster is to beat out Anthony Levine, who had a nice night himself.
Honorable mention winners: John Kuhn, Ricky Elmore, Mike Neal
Dishonorable mention losers: Quinn Johnson, Brandon Saine, Dimitri Nance