Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 8/10/12
With one month left to get ready for the regular season, the Green Bay Packers kicked off their preseason schedule Thursday night with a 21-13 loss to the San Diego Chargers. Handing out grades following the Packers' loss: Passing offense: C Aaron Rodgers, who set the NFL's single-season record in 2011 for QB rating at 122.5, played the first three series and finished 2 of 8 for 16 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. That was good for a QB rating of 0.0. This game was not about trying to light up the scoreboard, but a night this bad by the first-team passing offense was completely foreign after its dominant performance last year. Graham Harrell then took over and played nearly three entire quarters. He was very shaky at first, missing on several passes that he needs to complete, but he rebounded nicely as soon as the Packers got into a two-minute situation before halftime. On that drive, Harrell got rolling and completed 5 of 6 passes for 68 yards and capped things off with a touchdown throw to Randall Cobb. Harrell led another TD drive early in the fourth quarter and finished with a respectable 15 of 27 passing for 135 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. He wasn't great, but he seemed good enough (for now) to keep the Packers from scrambling for a veteran backup to play behind Rodgers. Rushing offense: D This was not a good night for starting running back James Starks. He dropped a pass and then fumbled away Green Bay's opening drive. Starks exited after carrying the ball five times for 16 yards. Alex Green, the Packers' third-round pick in 2011 whose rookie season ended with a torn ACL, played on a limited basis, just as he has throughout training camp. Green had just three yards on three rushing attempts. Marc Tyler, an undrafted rookie out of USC, had the best night of any Green Bay running back, but he fumbled in the closing minutes of the game to allow the Chargers to run out the clock. However, Tyler did have a touchdown run and 32 yards on 13 carries. The Packers, who only have five running backs on their training camp roster, had two of them unavailable due to injuries: Brandon Saine (hamstring) and Du'ane Bennett (knee). Coach Mike McCarthy is OK with a running game that doesn't post big numbers, but the two fumbles will not be acceptable once the regular season hits. Starks looks like he has a lot of work to do in order to keep the coaching staff's trust that he can get the job done as a first-time full-time starter. Rushing defense: B Ryan Matthews, San Diego's starting running back, left the game after only one carry due to an injury. The Packers finished with four tackles for loss and did a fairly nice job getting into the backfield to be disruptive. With Matthews out, Curtis Brinkley ran for 42 yards and one touchdown for the Chargers, but altogether San Diego averaged only 2.3 yards per carry. That is a very good number for Green Bay and a positive early sign for its bolstered defensive line. Passing defense: C This game looked awfully similar to nearly every Packers game last season. Yes, Green Bay came away with two interceptions against the Chargers, including one by Tramon Williams, who did a great job against starting quarterback Philip Rivers when he picked him off inside the red zone. Anthony Levine, a backup safety, intercepted an up-for-grabs pass thrown by San Diego backup QB Jarrett Lee. The Packers led the NFL in interceptions last season. However on Thursday, as in 2011, there were also missed tackles, blown assignments and miscommunication in the secondary that led to big plays and touchdowns. The worst error was rookie safety Jerron McMillian mistiming and whiffing on a hit attempt near the end zone that allowed a touchdown. There were some positives, too. Cornerback Davon House, before exiting with a shoulder injury, was playing extremely well. Unless his injury is serious, House has almost certainly solidified himself as the starting outside cornerback opposite Williams. Also, it took first-round pick Nick Perry all of two snaps to sack Rivers. Last season's preseason sensation, Vic So'oto, had a sack late in the game, and Erik Walden made a big hit on Lee that led to an incomplete pass. Special teams: C Diondre Borel, who's fighting for a roster spot at wide receiver, fumbled on a kickoff return that was recovered by the Chargers. Later, Shaky Smithson, who will likely spend this season on the practice squad, muffed a punt. After punting only 55 times all of last season, Tim Masthay was on the field for eight punts and had a nice average of 49.5 yards and a long of 62 yards. Mason Crosby had no field goal attempts and made his only extra point. Overall: C It's just preseason, but this was a very sloppy game for the Packers. McCarthy and the coaching staff preach ball security, but that was not evident in San Diego. The offensive line desperately needs Marshall Newhouse (concussion) and Derek Sherrod (leg) to return quickly because Rodgers was crushed by the Chargers with Herb Taylor at left tackle. The running game does not look good, and the decision to not re-sign Ryan Grant will likely continue to come up until Starks, Green or Saine prove that a veteran isn't needed in that group. Worst of all, Green Bay suffered two injuries to starters on defense. Desmond Bishop left with a knee injury that looked quite serious and House had to leave early after hurting his shoulder. It was not a good night for the Packers, but gives them something to learn from before their regular-season opener in one month at home against the San Francisco 49ers. Follow Paul Imig on Twitter.
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