Preseason Takeaways: NFC North Week 1
By Alex Williams
Five Points of Interest in NFC North Preseason Opener
The NFC North is one of the more hotly contested divisions in football opened its 2019 campaign over the weekend. There were wins for the Packers and Vikings, but a loss for Bears and a drubbing for the Lions. Aside for the results, here’s some things that caught my attention.
1. WR Competition opens up in Green Bay
There’s a number of wide outs in Green Bay who have a chance of grabbing roster spots. In the preseason opener, it was Jake Kumerow who had the most impressive night. Undrafted in 2015, the cousin of the Bosa brothers, had 2 nice grabs in the Packers 38-26 win over the Texans. Kumerow showed off great hands, unlike 2018 Round 4 selection J’Mon Moore, who had 2 drops (he also dropped one that was called back for a flag). Even his touchdown grab wasn’t the most secure catch you’ll ever see. That being said, Moore is showing the ability to create separation and get open. He was targeted on 4 occasions during the game.
Allen Lazard and Darius Shepard both had touchdown grabs as places for the final wide receiver spots looks wide open at this point. If you haven’t already, check Shepard’s athletic and tough touchdown catch.
2. David Montgomery starts strong for Bears
The 3rd round selection out of Iowa State had an impressive opening night. His dual threat ability was on show as he rushed for 16 yards from 3 carries and caught 3 passes for 30 yards. A back breaking stop and spin move was a crowd “oooh” highlight of the night. His touchdown run came from a smooth, patience stutter step, allowing him to bounce out for the score. In the passing game, a well designed Matt Nagy screen enabled Montgomery to show off his speed in space. All in all it was everything Bears fans wanted to see from their new running back.
3. Hercules Long-Awaited Debut
It’s been more than a year in the making, but defensive tackle Hercules Mata’afa finally took to the field as a Viking. Undrafted in 2018, he suffered an ACL tear that ended his season before it began. Against the Saints, Mata’afa had a productive day. Four tackles, two for a loss, and a sack on Teddy Bridgewater. Mata’afa showed great power, bulldozing his way through the interior line to bring down the quarterback. The very next play, Mata’afa draws a holding penalty, recovers, then reacts to the screen pass, bringing down the running back with a solid tackle.
Seen as undersized for his position, the final three preseason games are going to be huge for Mata’afa. He has a lot to prove to make the final roster, but his high motor and hunger could land him as a special teamer at the very least.
4. Injuries add to miserable opener for Lions
There’s an old adage that says preseason games don’t matter. The Lions will certainly be hoping that is true as they were obliterated by the Super Bowl champs. Although not many starters played, it was dismal viewing for Detroit. The boxscore numbers are laughable. 459 total yards for New England compared to Detriot’s 93. Yeah, stats are null and void in preseason, but there was nothing positive from this outing. The offense lacked any creativity. The defense sloppy and ill-disciplined. More of a concern for Patricia was the injuries sustained.
Jermaine Kearse (WR) and Daniel Kilgore (OT) were both first half casualties. The former’s injury looks to be a serious leg break and it leaves the already thin wide receiver group even sparser. Both Kilgore and Kearse have been placed on IR.
5. 7th Rounder makes impact for Packers
It’s always interesting to see how the later round selections do in preseason, as they grind each game to try make a roster spot. One such player was Packers linebacker Ty Summers. Playing 66 snaps against the Texans, Summers had 10 tackles in the game. He was everywhere in the first half, showing great instincts against the run, snuffing out several rushes early on.
Like all 7th rounders though, Summers had his struggles. And like most young linebackers, it came in pass coverage. This is to be expected, for someone who would come off the field in obvious pass situations during his time in college.