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Offense hitting stride as camp nears end

Posted Aug 27, 2012

They were the toast of the league last season, which left the Packers offense and its MVP quarterback with a lofty standard to uphold. As the Packers head into their final game of the preseason, Offensive Coordinator Tom Clements and Quarterbacks Coach Ben McAdoo, both of whom are in new assignments, are satisfied that Aaron Rodgers and company are on top of their game.

“We developed some consistency. We moved the ball well. We looked more like we wanted to look,” Clements said of the first-team offense’s performance in the first half of a 27-13 win in Cincinnati last Thursday.

The best development in that game was Aaron Rodgers’ re-emergence as the Packers’ star player. As Head Coach Mike McCarthy said, “It all starts with Aaron,” and Rodgers got off to a blazing start that produced a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, which included Rodgers’ best pass of the preseason, a would’ve-been-57-yard-touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson, had a defender not run into Nelson at the goal line as he was about to catch the pass.

Rodgers is “The Man” for the Packers and he’s looked every bit the part since early last week, as the Packers move into the final few days of this training camp.

“I think Aaron is ready to go. He had a good game against Cincinnati. His explosive gains have been up in practice,” McAdoo said.

Clements isn’t a stats guy and he doesn’t believe Rodgers’ record-breaking stats from last season should be used to create a standard for his quarterback to equal in 2012.

“If he gets us into good plays and plays well, he’ll have an outstanding year and we will, too,” Clements said of Rodgers.

Rodgers and the first team won’t be central figures in Thursday’s finale against Kansas City. Neither is expected to play much, if at all.

Thursday’s game will be a chance for backup quarterback Graham Harrell to deflect criticism from fans and media, and regain some of the confidence he engendered in last year’s preseason, when he led a late-game rally in Indianapolis.

“Graham is getting attacked in the media a little bit,” McAdoo said. “He’s getting us into good plays, keeping us out of poor runs. I’d like to see him start a little quicker on Thursday.”

The Packers’ No. 3 quarterback is rookie B.J. Coleman, who appears to have made significant strides in his development.

“We like his motor. We like his energy. It’s important to him. You can’t rush development,” McAdoo said.

Rush is no longer a dirty word in the Packers offense, thanks to the arrival of running back Cedric Benson. A thousand-yard rusher each of the last three seasons, Benson is giving the Packers a threat in the run game the team didn’t have last season.

“What he gives us is explosiveness,” Running Backs Coach Alex Van Pelt said of Benson.

The Packers also like their running backs to be pass protectors, and Van Pelt said “in the (Bengals) game he had one protection and it was a win.”

Van Pelt also likes the progress second-year back Alex Green has made in his recovery from knee reconstruction: “You see him get better every day. He’s way ahead of where he was when we started camp.”

Camp and the preseason are both about to end, and an offense that made moving the ball look easy last year would seem to compare favorably.

“Everything felt good last year. When we look at this year compared to last year … it looks good,” McAdoo said.

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