When asked of their expectations for the year, nearly every member of the Packers offensive unit hit on a common theme for 2004 in the first few weeks of training camp. That theme is to pick up right where they left off in 2003, and with every member of the starting lineup back for an encore performance, expectations are high.
Preseason openers aren't generally a time where you're going to find your first string logging a lot of time on the field, and Monday night in Green Bay was no different. The Packers' starting offense got two chances to move the ball, and they showed a glimpse of their potential, but also left room for improvement in the opener against the Seahawks.
Working without three of the starters from the 11-man unit (linemen Mike Flanagan and Mike Wahle and wide receiver Robert Ferguson all missed the contest due to injury), the Packers opened their 2004 campaign by driving down the field for a field goal to give the team a 3-0 lead in the first quarter.
Quarterback Brett Favre, who completed five of his seven pass attempts on the night for 43 yards, moved the team across midfield on their second possession as well, but some early-preseason kinks arose to kill the thoughts of reaching the end zone.
A mishandled exchange on a reverse pass play led to a third-and-long situation, and Favre narrowly missed a big play as he just led Donald Driver a little too much on a heave down the right sideline that could have easily been six points.
GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman liked what he saw from the first unit, but expects bigger and better things as the preseason rolls along.
"We missed some opportunities, but I thought we did OK," Sherman said. "I thought the first group did OK, we could do better, but I thought they did OK. It's hard to evaluate, because in our offense, the running game builds through the course of a game. It doesn't just jump out there on you early, although I think Ahman Green did a pretty good job."
Green did do a pretty good job, as he cut through the Seattle defense for 24 yards on six carries in his one quarter on the field. Typically a running back who wears a defense down over the course of a game with his punishing style, Green followed up his long gain of the night, a 12-yard run behind rookie left guard Steve Morley, with another six-yard effort, and could only imagine the damage he could have done to the Seahawks defense given 20 or so more carries.
Favre saw some things in the performance of the offense that he liked. However, he wasn't pleased to not reach the end zone, a fate he didn't suffer once during the 2003 season.
"We mixed it up, threw the ball and moved at our pace, dink and dunk it, and mix in our run game," said the quarterback. "I think it carried over from last year, a good mix of run and pass. We moved the ball well; I'd just like to see us get a touchdown."
Wide receiver Javon Walker, who like the offense as a whole, is looking to improve upon an impressive 2003 performance, felt good getting back on the field in a game situation. He also knows that he and his teammates won't be judged by the way they play in August, but what they get done from September forward.
"I think we had two productive series moving the ball," Walker said. "It feels good to get back in the flow of things and know what is expected of us. We knew we weren't going to be playing as much, but it set the tone of how we can drive the ball when we get ready to open the season at Carolina. There were a few mistakes that we need to clear up, but we look forward to coming back out next week, play a little bit longer and do what we can."
With Saturday night's second preseason game already just a few days away, the offense won't have long to wait before they get another shot to show their stuff.