GREEN BAY – He did it again.
One week after hauling in a 52-yard touchdown pass, Jake Kumerow took another step in his bid to make the Packers’ 53-man roster with an 82-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter of Thursday night’s 51-34 win over Pittsburgh.
The former UW-Whitewater standout, who finished last season on Green Bay’s practice squad, caught a bullet from backup quarterback DeShone Kizer near the Packers’ sideline before turning it back upfield.
With only Steelers safety Nat Berhe to beat, Kumerow faked to the sideline before darting to the middle of the field and winning the foot race to the end zone. The young receiver finished the game with three catches and a team-high 114 yards.
“I was just trying to skinny up the safety and give myself a two-way go off of him,” Kumerow said. “My reaction was just to take it inside up the middle, and once I did that it was just home free. I was just running to the zone trying to get a score.”
Kumerow, who tumbled into the end zone at the end of the scoring play, exited the game with a shoulder injury and didn’t return, but told reporters after the game it was just a stinger.
It’s good news for a 26-year-old receiver who has come from relative obscurity to make a run at a roster spot over the past four months. Signed to the practice squad during the final week of the 2017 regular season, Kumerow seemed like a longshot to make the roster after the Packers drafted three receivers in April.
Yet, he’s been the talk of training camp due to his consistency in practice and big-play ability in preseason games. Through two games, Kumerow leads all Green Bay receivers with six catches for 190 yards and two touchdowns.
“He becomes an easy target for us as quarterbacks,” Kizer said. “For him to be out there in those late second-quarter, third-quarter, fourth-quarter opportunities, he’s going to eat up those corners. As far as the back-side matchup for us, we’ve been able to take pretty good advantage of it.”
Kumerow still keeps a fairly low profile. He created an Instagram account recently, but otherwise tries to tune out all the outside noise heading into the final two weeks of training camp.
His goal – as has been since he entered the NFL in 2015 – is to make the 53, but knows the only way to do that is to producing.
“I never really try to think about that translation,” Kumerow said. “I always just feel like I’ve got to do more and prove myself more each and every day. You can never feel complacent or feel like you’ve got anything in this game. You never know what can happen.”
Green Bay won its second preseason game of 2018, topping the Steelers, 51-34.
Pair of pick-sixes: Thursday was Vanessa Jackson’s birthday and her son, Packers rookie cornerback Josh Jackson, had the perfect present in mind – a touchdown.
So when Jackson saw Steelers quarterback Josh Dobbs turn in his direction, the Packers’ second-round pick’s eyes lit up as he broke to the ball. Undercutting Pittsburgh receiver Damoun Patterson, Jackson plucked the ball out of the air and returned it for a 22-yard touchdown.
“I just wanted to make sure I didn’t step out of bounds,” Jackson said. “I was trying to score. It was my mama’s birthday, so I told her I was going to get one for her.”
Jackson had a busy day. In addition to playing boundary cornerback in Green Bay’s base defense and slot in sub-package situations, he also returned a punt 41 yards later in the third quarter.
Veteran cornerback Tramon Williams set the tone for the defense when he picked off another Steelers quarterback, Mason Rudolph, on the very first play of the game and returned it for a 25-yard touchdown.
A 12th-year veteran who re-signed with the Packers in March, Williams said it’s the first time he’s returned an interception for a touchdown at Lambeau Field.
“You know, the first 15 plays, you’re going to get a lot of different looks from teams so they can see what your adjustments will be. It just so happened the first look was an empty look,” Williams said. “Most times, most teams run quick game out of empty looks. If you run a lot of blitzes, they know they’ve got to get the ball out quick. I was aware of that and I was ready to make a play.”
Reggie, Reggie: The Packers started Reggie Gilbert opposite six-time Pro Bowler Clay Matthews at outside linebacker Thursday night and the former undrafted free agent capitalized.
Gilbert recorded 2½ sacks, three quarterback hits and forced a fumble after playing the entire first half against the Steelers.
Two of those sacks came on the same series in the second quarter. First, Gilbert stripped Rudolph of the ball after going unblocked on first-and-10. While the Steelers recovered, Gilbert then forced the initial pressure and shared a sack with Kyler Fackrell on third-and-17 to force the three-and-out.
“I feel like I had a cool, little rhythm,” said Gilbert, who now has seven career sacks in 10 preseason games with the Packers. “It helped knowing that it was pass a lot, just as far as whenever you’re able to put together a string of rushes. … That’s something that I definitely look to build on and get back into.”
Tight-end takeover: The competition at tight end has been red hot throughout most of training camp and Thursday night was no exception.
Jimmy Graham, Marcedes Lewis, Lance Kendricks, Robert Tonyan and Emanuel Byrd combined for nine receptions for 106 yards and two touchdowns.
Graham started the high-scoring night with an 8-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers on the first offensive series of the game, while Tonyan added a 1-yard catch off a goal-line fade with 38 seconds left in the first half.
Like Kumerow, Tonyan has caught some eyes this summer after finishing last season on the Packers’ practice squad. A receiver-turned-tight end, Tonyan has been steadily building chemistry and trust with Green Bay’s backup quarterbacks.
“I had a good release on it and DeShone threw up a good ball, and gave me a chance to make a play on it,” Tonyan said. “I just like to be put in the position to make plays and DeShone has been trusting me with our group.”
Special moment: In his first trip back to Lambeau Field, former Packers safety Morgan Burnett was overwhelmed by the ovation he received from the 74,434 fans in attendance.
A third-round pick in 2010, Burnett played his first eight seasons in Green Bay before signing with the Steelers as an unrestricted free agent during the offseason.
“I just appreciate the welcome the fans gave,” Burnett said. “I thought it was cool with the JumboTron. It was real cool. There’s a lot of great memories built here, and it’s something that I’m always going to cherish.”