Friday night, the Green Bay Packers kicked off the 2023 Season in Cincinnati against the Bengals in week one of the preseason. The number one offense got it started, then Clifford and company continued the scoring while the defense stayed solid and forced multiple turnovers all in a great first win over the Bengals. There were a lot of things that happened in the game, so let’s recap them, and talk about some positives, then some negatives.
Recap – First Half
It was a nice eighty-six-degree and partly cloudy night in Cincinnati as the Packers received the ball on the opening kickoff. With that, Jordan Love, and the number one offense headlined by a bunch of young, but potential filled weapons headed out onto the field. While both teams didn’t have every starter in, the majority were for the first few drives for both sides. The Packers ended up punting after Love underthrew Christian Watson on a fade, and then missed a wide-open Luke Musgrave on a crosser.
The first drive highlight would be a first-down reception from Musgrave, but that still led to a punt. That meant it was time to see the Packer defense and what they could do to start off the preseason. Keisean Nixon started the game about as good as you can off a blitz and getting to Bengal quarterback, Jake Browning for a sack. The defense would force a three-and-out on the first drive of that game. That’s when it really seemed to click for the number one offense starting from the Cincinnati forty-three-yard line. With receptions from Watson, Romeo Doubs, Musgrave, and Jayden Reed, on the drive, Doubs would make a nice catch in the far left side of the end zone on a nicely placed ball from Love for the first Green Bay touchdown of the preseason.
Cincinnati would answer with a 38-yard field goal despite some nice plays from rookie cornerback, Carrington Valentine to make it 7-3 Packers late first quarter. That would end the night for Jordan Love, and quite a few of the first-team guys as Love finished 7/10, with 46 yards passing, and one touchdown, which all contributed to an overall rating of 112.9. To start off the next drive, and what would be most of the game from that point on, rookie quarterback, Sean Clifford would enter the game to make his debut. Clifford led a great first drive headlined by big receptions from Reed, and Samori Toure that took them 79 yards on eight plays leading Green Bay into the end zone again off a Tyler Goodson one-yard touchdown run to make it 14-3 Packers in the early second quarter.
McPherson would hit another field goal on the next Bengals drive this time from 51 yards out, to make it 14-6. This point in the game is where Sean Clifford would have to show just how calm he is because, on third down, Sean Rhyan got beat right off the snap, and with a defensive lineman from the Bengals in his face, Clifford released the ball late, leading to an interception and a touchdown from Bengals cornerback, Tycen Anderson. While Clifford didn’t turn the ball over on the ensuing drive for Green Bay, they would however turn it over on downs. Cincinnati kept rolling with the quarterback they started the game with and went down to hit another field goal.
Clifford on the next drive would throw another interception but this one was wrestled away from his target. Carrington Valentine made up for it two plays later with his first career interception and took it all the way back to the Green Bay thirty-four-yard line. Clifford threw a great ball the next play to Dontayvion Wicks who did the rest and took it for 47 yards down to the Cincinnati nineteen-yard-line. Clifford would answer later with a five-yard strike to tight end Tyler Davis for the score to make it 21-16 Packers at the half.
Recap – Second Half
Coming out of the locker room, the Packer defense would stay strong, forcing a three and out again. The offense also came out sloppy with a holding that would ultimately force a three and out of their own, giving the ball back to the Bengals. Three plays into the next Bengals drive, UDFA edge, Brenton Cox Jr., would get his hand on the ball disrupting the pass, and Dallin Leavitt would be the one to benefit from it, intercepting the second ball for Green Bay on the night.
While the next drive for Clifford would go nowhere, rookie kicker Anders Carlson would come in and drill a 45-yard field goal down the middle to increase the lead to eight. After McPherson would answer with yet another field goal, the score would read 24-19 Packers in the late third quarter. The next drive would be a Malik Heath showcase after a big return from Samori Toure to the Bengals forty-seven-yard-line as he started it off with a twelve-yard reception on the first play. Down at the Cincinnati thirty-five, Clifford ran the option to the side of Heath, who would stick on his block and drive the cornerback all the way out of bounds, which not only sprung Clifford for thirteen yards but also upset the corner causing him to retaliate and smack Heath across the helmet, causing another fifteen yards on the unnecessary roughness penalty.
The next play, UDFA running back out of Fort Valley State, Emanuel Wilson would get his big night started with an eleven-yard touchdown run that was sprung by key blocks from fullback Henry Pearson, and wide receiver Bo Melton. The next three drives would result in a Bengals punt, a Packers punt, and a Bengals punt again which would ultimately end Sean Clifford’s night. Clifford finished with one touchdown and two interceptions in an overall very entertaining debut. With USFL MVP, Alex McGough stepping into the game, the first play was a handoff back to Wilson. Wilson, who would send the Packer fans into a frenzy, took the carry eighty yards down the right sideline and win the foot race for the touchdown, his second of the night.
After a Bengals punt, McGough sack and fumble, and a turnover on downs, the Packers would kneel out the last minute and forty-five seconds to take the win by a final score of 36-19 over the Cincinnati Bengals.
With the recap out of the way, let’s take a look at the good takeaways from every phase, as well as who truly boosted themselves.
The Number One Offense Got Open And Moved The Ball
The number one offense showed a lot, especially on the second drive. Even on the first drive, Watson and Musgrave both got open, but on the second drive, everyone continued to get consistently open. That was a great thing to see from the potential-filled, young offensive core. Love had a very nice night going 7/10, and Romeo Doubs capped off the nice night for the first team with a contested reception for a touchdown. Overall, no turnovers, and a touchdown in two drives is a positive start for this offense, who will look to continue that against the New England Patriots in joint practices, as well as in their next game.
The Defense Did Not Give Up A Touchdown
The saying bend, never break, was the case for the Green Bay defense last night. It didn’t matter who subbed in, if there was a big play given up, someone else answered with a big play of their own. Overall, the first-team defense minus Rashan Gary, Eric Stokes, and Jaire Alexander looked great as they were flying around making plays. As the phases continued into substitutions, it seemed other than a few miscommunications, which will happen especially in preseason, that the defense overall had a great night. Take out the pick-six, the defense forced two interceptions by Valentine and Leavitt while only giving up twelve points.
Who Boosted their stock
This list contains guys who really stood out last night, from the first team to the third team, these guys jumped out at people in a positive way last night.
Quarterback, Jordan Love
Love had an overall great showing, while it wasn’t much, ten throws is a better sample size than none. With those ten throws, leading a touchdown drive is a big positive for the first-team offense and that’s why Love lands here.
Wide Receiver, Romeo Doubs
While seeing limited action, just as a lot of the first team did, Doubs made the most of it hauling in two receptions for twenty-one yards, and a touchdown. His ability to get open, while also playing in sync with Watson showed last night and he lands himself on this list with the highlight catch of the first team.
Running Back, Emanuel Wilson
Originally, I had listed Wilson as a player to watch in my last article due to what I saw in camp during the live tackle period. Wilson proved himself last night though by starting off his night with a nice eleven-yard touchdown run. He then would cement himself as one of the players of the game with an eight-yard touchdown run the very next time he touched the ball. Wilson would go on to finish with six carries, for 111 yards, and two touchdowns. He makes this list after a great performance, and he will look to continue that next game when the Packers return home to Lambeau to take on the Patriots.
Wide Receiver, Malik Heath
As stated in my article for people to watch, I described Malik Heath as just one of those guys who makes at least one play a day type of players that you need to watch. He proved that once again Friday Night by not only having a nice catch in traffic but also blocking a corner well over ten yards downfield all the way out of bounds on a Clifford keeper. The corner that Heath blocked into the net would ultimately turn around and hit Heath across the helmet in which he would laugh and simply walk away resulting in a penalty for the Bengals. Heath showed he can do both things for the Packers in blocking and playmaking. He has only raised his stock every time he steps on the field and should be towards the top of the list for guys to watch in week two.
Quarterback, Sean Clifford
Sean Clifford made a debut in his home state Friday Night, and he not only entertained but showed people what Green Bay’s front office had seen in him all along. The stat line might not show up the best with one touchdown and two interceptions, but Clifford made a lot more positive plays than a stat line can show. Clifford’s most notable throw of the night came to wide receiver Dontayvion Wicks where the ball was fit narrowly between two defenders and Wicks did the rest for a forty-seven-yard reception. Clifford will be one to watch as he is expected to get a substantial amount of playing time again next week against the Patriots.
Wide Receiver, Samori Toure
Samori Toure contributed for the Packers on multiple levels including on kick returns and at wide receiver. He made plays both on offense including a twenty-five-yard reception, and a huge kick return after a muffed one earlier on. Toure looked more fluid in and out of his routes last night and that was an easy improvement to see. Toure, who is already a roster lock, will look to keep building on a solid showing and keep that momentum rolling into the season.
Offensive lineman, Zach Tom
While we know what the Packers have in Zach Tom already, he continues to prove it every day. His most notable play came on the Love touchdown to Doubs. While Love was delivering the ball, you can see Tom using his feet and sticking right in front of the rushing defensive end that created a nice pocket for Love. Tom continues to impress and he improved more of his already great stock last night.
Cornerback, Carrington Valentine
Carrington Valentine had about the best debut anyone could’ve asked for. With Jaire Alexander sitting out, Valentine took his place outside with the ones and stayed in for about three-quarters. He ended up with not only his first career interception but also three passes broken up and four tackles. While his roster spot is locked in, he continues to show his knack for the ball and continues to thrive in any situation that he is put in. Valentine will be at the top of the list to watch for week two.
Edge, Brenton Cox Jr.
Brenton Cox Jr. has been putting together a solid camp with multiple pressures and it was seen again last night. When Cox got put in the game, he made an impact. His biggest play of the night came when he got pressure, jumped on the release to bat the ball up, and give his defense a chance to intercept it. That chance was taken by safety Dallin Leavitt as he sprung forward to intercept the second ball of the night for Green Bay. If Cox can continue to be consistent, he will find himself right in the competition where he is seemingly already heading towards.
Linebacker, Jimmy Phillips Jr.
I really liked what I saw in the time Philips got last night. There was one play where he overran the ball carrier, but overall, he showed both his blitz skills, while also showing his ability to run fit on a nice play up the middle. Phillips made the most of his opportunities last night and will continue to try to capitalize on his upcoming opportunities.
Cornerback, William Hooper
The last guy whose stock really went up last night in my eyes would be cornerback, William Hooper. Hooper was playing toward the middle, to the end of the fourth quarter last night, but did he ever make the most of those snaps. Hooper ended up having three passes broken up on the night, and they happened to be when the Packers defense was closing out the game. Hooper gave quite the performance when his number was called, and I really thought his ability to recognize the routes being run against him last night was a big positive that raised his stock.
Who’s Stock Fell?
While it is only one preseason game, there are a few plays that stuck out with certain guys falling. There is still time for these players to correct the mistakes and turn them around, but here are some of the negative plays of last night.
Offensive Lineman, Sean Rhyan
Sean Rhyan has been very reliable as far as one on ones have been going throughout training camp, but that didn’t translate to his game last night. Rhyan’s play that really brought the stock down for himself was when he got beat badly inside causing Clifford to be under immediate pressure and which also forced a quick, badly placed throw that resulted in an interception. Rhyan will look to improve on his game coming up, but he will need to bounce back.
Kicker, Anders Carlson
Carlson actually started his night very solid and even drilled a 45-yard field goal right down the middle. That all changed later in the night when the Packers scored two touchdowns later on in which Carlson missed both extra points. Carlson had been more consistent since Family Night up until that point last night, but Rich Bisaccia will look to get some work in before the next game with Carlson I would imagine.
Offensive Lineman, Royce Newman
One more faller on the list includes offensive lineman, Royce Newman. Royce along with Sean Rhyan just had a rough night with the two’s as the interior of the line was letting up pressures quite often. While both have the chance to improve the next game, the pressures allowed find both of their stocks falling after game one of the preseason.
Overall, a win is a win by itself, but then with so many different positive spots, it makes the win that much better. If you enjoyed reading this article, consider checking out my article preview of the Bengals game and some guys I had listed to watch for. My updated list will be out ahead of the Patriots game later this week.