Friday, September 2, 2011

So'oto impresses in preseason finale

Pequot Lakes' freshman OLB Henry Liedl.
The next Clay Matthews?
I'll be honest. I had no intention of watching the Packers square-off against the Kansas City Chiefs in their preseason finale. My Badgers were opening their regular season on national television, and, as a resident of Minnesota, I wasn't sure how I was going to catch the Pack.

Then I remembered I live in the year 2011, and I was a simple Google search away from finding a live stream of the action from Lambeau. After a few clicks of the mouse and strokes of the keyboard, I was  .Honestly, it's almost a little too convenient.

Admittedly, my focus was a bit fuzzy at times as I simultaneously juggled watching the Pack, taking in the Badgers' beatdown, and keeping tabs on my (14 year old!!) brother's first varsity football action.

However, even I wasn't able to miss Vic So'oto's dominance.

 The undrafted rookie from BYU was a monster. He gave the Chiefs starting offensive line fits on his way to 1.5 sacks. By the second half, he was being routinely double and even triple teamed.

So'oto added an exclamation point to his stellar performance with a 33 yard interception returned for a TD. The play proved that So'oto's the real deal at OLB: he can stuff the run, rush the passer, and get by in coverage. His play the past two weeks not only necessitates that the Packers keep him on the roster, but that they make a concerted effort to get him on the field in the regular season. Outside of Clay Matthews, he may be the best pass-rusher they have.

Risers and Sinkers (Bubble Battle Edition)
It's the preseason, and jobs are on the line. Here's a quick look at who bolstered their chances of making the roster, and who may be looking for a new NFL team after Saturday.
Quinn Johnson- Unimpressive lead blocking makes the fullback very expendable.
▲ Tom Crabtree- Veteran TE may have been on the bubble before, but TD catch shows he's more than just a one-trick pony.
MD Jennings- Flashed talent, but still looks raw and is probably headed to the practice squad.
 Pat Lee- Was beat a few times, but was around the ball, tackled well, and made some plays.
▼ Josh Gordy- Lack of size and physicality was highlighted when he gave up a TD to Bowe. Also allowed McCluster score.
 Cardia Jackson- Came away with a "heads-up" interception and could get consideration for the practice squad.
▼ Nick McDonald- Bad snap resulted in a safety and could lead to his departure.
▲ Vic So'oto- UDFA linebacker has gone from on the fence to a potential day one contributor. Defensive MVP of the preseason.
Rickey Elmore- I thought he got decent pressure, but he was toasted in coverage and is not an OLB.
Kerry Taylor- No shot of making the roster, but his good play could earn him a spot on the practice squad.
Graham Harrell- His performance did not help his case
DJ Smith- It's cliche, but he has a noise for the ball; exactly what you want from an ILB.
Tori Gurley/Chastin West- Both WRs, possibly on the cusp of earning a roster spot, failed to make the type of big play that would've pushed them over the top.


  • Not a lot to gleam from this game, seeing as how the Packers' starters played a very limited number of reps. Still, Rodgers and company looked supremely efficient, and essentially having your back-ups beat a starting squad is always a positive.
  • CJ Wilson had a very good game. We still need Mike Neal to step up but it's encouraging to see that one of the other guys might be serviceable.
  • The personal foul called on Kansas City's Eric Berry was one of the worst calls I've ever seen. I later turned on SportsCenter to see a Jets player called for another bogus penalty on what was truly a good old-fashioned clean hit. I've ignored those who've claimed recent rule changes make the NFL akin to flag football, and I'm all for player safety, but this is getting absurd. It's gotten to the point where a guy is being flagged if he makes any sort of big hit, regardless of if he leads with his helmet or not. This can't be right-- at least I hope it's not the way the Goodell really wants the games to be called.
  • The Packers' second string offensive line looks really bad. Both Flynn and Harrell were harassed and the running backs couldn't generate anything.
  • I noted it above, but Quinn Johnson was bad. Real bad. I specifically watched him on a few plays, and his MO seemed to be running up to pile and doing a somersault. No way he sticks with versatile guys like Taylor and Crabtree on
  • Matt Flynn had a very poor showing. Who knows, maybe his stock has sunk so far that we'll be able to retain him after this season?
  • I may be eating my words come Saturday. I once said Harrell was a lock to make the team. I'm reconsidering. I also wrote off Lee, but his steadiness now seems more attractive than Gordy and Ross' inconsistency. Finally, I all but guaranteed that Chastin West would make the team as the 6th WR, but the odds seem to be against that now, too. Maybe I should just stop making predictions? .... Nah.
So the preseason is complete and the Packers can turn their attention to next week's contest against the New Orleans Saints. But before they do, they'll need to figure out which 53 players they'll be carrying into the regular season. The deadline is 5 PM on Saturday, so look for my forecast a little earlier.


  1. I must say, my picks are looking pretty good. So'oto just made me look like a genius. With Clay, Vic, and when they get Neal back, they can wreak havoc up front.

  2. I've said that Crabtree is underrated as a receiever, I definitely think that he could be a No. 2 TE for this team if he needed to be. For the record, one of the TDs that Gordy gave up was in fact a missed call but still he has to make those plays so that call doesn't even have an opportunity to be missed. Even with Harrell fourth quarter heroics a week plus ago you don't think he will make this team? I disagree, I think he is on the squad.

  3. I gotta say, I wouldn't be surprised if Gurley made the team as a special teamer...I mean, he blocked 5 punts in training camp, and the dude has a ridiculous wingspan. As for West, I think the best the Packers can hope for is that no one else signs him.

    Pat Lee just frustrates me in that he won't go away. I'll be convinced he needs to go, then he'll go have a good game.

  4. Great point Petty, Gurley's dynamic special teams ability could be an answer to our most obvious weakness over the past couple years.