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Packers running back Aaron Jones celebrates after scoring a touchdown in Kansas City. (PHOTO: Evan Siegle/

3 somethings from the Packers' 33-21 preseason-finale loss to the Chiefs

While their superstar quarterback and now the NFL's highest-paid player didn't even make the trip to Kansas City, the Packers passers were still the main storyline in Thursday night's preseason finale, a 33-21 loss to the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.

One day after signing Aaron Rodgers to a four-year contract extension reportedly worth $134 million and trading erstwhile No. 2 Brett Hundley to the Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay traveled to Kansas City – though Rodgers and several other veterans stayed home – to get one last look at its backups and bubble players, in advance of Saturday's league-mandated 53-man roster cutdown.

Head coach Mike McCarthy sat 22 players against the Chiefs, including a dozen likely starters, and the resulting inconsistency was evident from the quarterbacks on down. The first- and second-teamers took a 21-17 halftime lead, but the Packers were shut out in the second half, falling to finish 2-2 in the exhibition season.

"Well, once again, a lot of different people playing in there," McCarthy said. "I thought we had a good rhythm there in the first half. Our last group there really struggled throughout the second half."

The preseason is officially over, and Rodgers is now paid, saying this week, "The team is investing heavily in me and putting faith in me, and I have to in turn put trust in the team that they will do everything possible to promote the same type of culture and winning environment we've had."

With No. 12 happy and healthy and the 2018 regular season starting Sept. 10, we can barely contain our excitement. But first, let's take a quick look back at Thursday's loss in Kansas City.

1. Something I liked

Injured veterans made (mostly successful) returns. It often seems like the most important aspect of NFL training camp – especially in Green Bay – is injury prevention. As always, the Packers suffered some bumps and bruises during the preseason, though overall they appear more healthy – and with fewer significant injuries – than in past years.

On Thursday night, a few important presumptive starters made their exhibition debuts: right tackle Bryan Bulaga (sidelined since last November with a knee injury), outside linebacker Nick Perry (ankle), cornerback Kevin King (shoulder) and kick returner Trevor Davis (hamstring). For the most part, all four performed well against the Chiefs.

Bulaga, starting alongside right guard Justin McCray for the first time, held his ground, blocked on the Packers' 65-yard touchdown drive in the first quarter and accomplished his stated goal of being ready to go Week 1. Perry got much-needed defensive reps, made a tackle and finished unscathed. King, wearing a harness on his right shoulder – not the left one that was surgically repaired last year – had a nice pass breakup in the end zone. And Davis, who has big-play ability but is mistake-prone, showed why he's on the margin of making the team, nearly breaking one return for a touchdown while fumbling another attempt.

2. Something I learned

Backup quarterbacks are still backup quarterbacks. With the trade of Hundley, the high upside and apparent improvement by Kizer and the all-around strong play from undrafted rookie Tim Boyle, it was tempting to think Green Bay had dramatically improved its backup quarterback position – one year after Hundley showed just how crucial that is. And they may indeed have shored up the spot, though the Packers and their fans undoubtedly hope Rodgers stays healthy and the team has no need to actually evaluate its auxiliary options.

But Thursday's preseason finale was a mixed bag for the backups, with both big plays and costly gaffes. Kizer, the new No. 2, started and completed 5 of 7 passes for 57 yards and a 95.5 rating. He threw one interception – a hurried, poor pass lofted over tight end Lance Kendricks – and one touchdown, a 31-yarder to Geronimo Allison on fourth-and-1 that concluded an impressive drive. Boyle got the lion's share of the night's work, finishing 15 of 31 for 127 yards and a preseason-low 43.4 rating.

He was confident and decisive on his first drive, completing 5 of 8 passes for 59 yards and a one-yard TD to tight end Robert Tonyan. But after leading another scoring drive, Boyle struggled with the third-stringers in the second half, tossing two bad interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown.

"The quarterback focus was to get DeShone two series," McCarthy said. "Obviously, he had the high throw there the first series. I thought he did a very nice job, particularly on the extended play on the second series with the touchdown throw. ... Really, the focus was to get Tim Boyle as much work as possible. So we definitely accomplished that and it will be good tape to evaluate and learn from."

3. Something I'm looking forward to

Picking the pass-catchers. Annually, it seems, the Packers have an abundance of wide receivers and tight ends that looked good enough in the preseason to make the team. Invariably, a few of them get released, with some moving on and others joining the team's practice squad. This year is no different.

Wide receivers Davante Adams and Randall Cobb (barring a trade) and tight end Jimmy Graham are the only locks to be on the 53-man roster, with Allison and No. 2 tight end Marcedes Lewis also good bets. Green Bay drafted a trio of talented wideouts – J'Mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown – and the rookies would be tough to cut. The standout receiver, undrafted 26-year-old and former UW-Whitewater star Jake Kumerow, appears to have played his way onto the roster, despite a shoulder injury.

Tonyan and fellow tight end Emanuel Byrd have also turned heads. The unpredictable Davis and pedestrian Kendricks could be among those to go.

The Packers have kept seven wide receivers before, and McCarthy, who highly values tight ends, has started a season with five at that position. The bet here is Green Bay's 53-man roster initially features 11 combined receivers and tight ends, with only four running backs, as Aaron Jones is suspended for the first two weeks of the season.

The Packers kick off the 2018 regular season on Sept. 10 against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field.


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