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Packers' Rodgers continues to develop into an elite player

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Associated Press
August 9, 2010
— Two years ago, when the Green Bay Packers last were able to perform in their intra-squad scrimmage, a private plane circled Lambeau Field trailing the banner "Bring Back Brett."

After landing at Austin Straubel International shortly before the event, Brett Favre himself showed up at the stadium and watched some of the proceedings from Aaron Kampman's private box.


Aaron Rodgers played so erratically in his first exposure as Favre's successor that some in the crowd actually booed him. If a quarterback wearing a no-touch red jersey can be under pressure, that was the occasion.


On Saturday night, Rodgers and the Packers offered a brief reminder just how far they've come since that surreal setting in August 2008.


Taking just 21 snaps in what was the Packers' first and only full-contact action of training camp, Rodgers threw the ball with velocity and accuracy all over the lot to a receiving corps that made hard catches look routine.


In all, Rodgers completed nine of 14 passes for 127 yards (117.3 passer rating), including a 14-yard touchdown pass to Jermichael Finley.


"There's a lot of confidence between the quarterback and those four (wide) receivers and the tight-end group," coach Mike McCarthy said. "That's what you're looking for in the vertical passing game. I'm happy where we are right now."


A crowd of 47,844 watched on a sultry night at 72,928-seat Lambeau Field. It was an unexpectedly low turnout, especially given the fact that some are picking the Packers as the team to beat in the National Football League.


Since 1999, when the Packers began charging $6 for what had been a free event since its inception in 1958, the lowest attendance of 46,420 was in '99. Crowds surpassed 60,000 in 2004, '05 and '06, with a high of 62,701 in '06.


Last summer, with the ticket price increased to $10, a crowd of 50,787 went home largely unhappy and with no refund when lightning and heavy rains caused management to cancel the event at 9 p.m.


The No. 1 offense got off to an awful start against the No. 2 defense, gaining 9 yards in four plays. A third-and-1 run by Ryan Grant went nowhere, and then Rodgers had to throw the ball away on a blitz.


Getting a second chance, Rodgers ripped apart the second-stringers on an eight-play, 80-yard touchdown drive.


The offense had the manpower advantage, missing only wide receiver Donald Driver (rest) and running back James Starks (hamstring), whereas the defense was minus eight players.


Driver's place was taken by James Jones and Jordy Nelson, whose 27-yard catch on a seam route between Pat Lee and Charlie Peprah got the offense in gear. Nelson took a shot in the side from Peprah and didn't return.


On third and 3, Finley lined up in the left slot and ran an out against safety Derrick Martin for 14 yards against a misplayed Cover-2 defense. Three plays later, Finley worked inside from the left slot against Martin in "quarters" coverage and snared the TD pass before Peprah could get there.


"I ran a post and the ball was coming 100 miles an hour," Finley said. "You've got to get your head around with 'A-Rod.' "


Half an hour later, the No. 1 offense came back against the No. 1 defense. The situation was simple: one minute, 42 seconds left and trailing, 10-6.


Once again, McCarthy deployed Finley in the left slot. This time, Capers attempted to cover Finley with a linebacker, Desmond Bishop, but Finley beat him on consecutive corner routes of 11 and 16 yards.


After Jones had a 5-yard touchdown catch jarred loose by cornerback Jarrett Bush, the offense faced another third-and-1. Grant tried to run wide right but lost 4 when A.J. Hawk played off a block by John Kuhn. Then Rodgers' fourth-down slant to Brett Swain fell incomplete.


Here is a brief position-by-position summary:


Wide receivers: With Driver out, Swain moved up as the No. 4 receiver. Free agent Jason Chery dropped a pass.
Tight ends: Finley started and was joined by Donald Lee in double tight sets. In order, Spencer Havner, Andrew Quarless and Tom Crabtree followed.
Offensive line: With all hands healthy and playing, the No. 1 line, from left to right, consisted of Chad Clifton, Daryn Colledge, Scott Wells, Josh Sitton and Mark Tauscher.

After about six snaps, however, three players were inserted: rookie Bryan Bulaga at left tackle, Jason Spitz at left guard and T.J. Lang at right tackle.


Quarterbacks: Matt Flynn (27.5 passer rating) tried to direct two series from the 20 with the No. 2 offense against the No. 1 defense but failed to generate a first down.

Later, Flynn underthrew free agent Chastin West on a deep pass in a two-minute situation and it was intercepted by rookie Sam Shields, who returned it 98 yards.


Free agent Graham Harrell also led two series against the No. 1 defense, gaining 8 yards in six plays.


Brandon Underwood intercepted a short pass by Harrell and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown. The intended receiver, Shawn Gore, allowed Bishop to knock him off the route.


Running backs: Fullback Quinn Johnson certainly didn't help himself, dropping a short pass over the middle.

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