After every game, each Packers player is graded comprehensively by his coaches. The grade takes into account surrounding circumstances. If those grades were given out by some fans and media, backup quarterback Graham Harrell would be seeing a lot of "Ds" and "Fs" this preseason. Especially after his performance in Green Bay’s 27-13 win at Cincinnati on Thursday.

Luckily for Harrell, coaches do the grading. In some ways, they may be tougher evaluators, but they also are more realistic. Harrell’s passing numbers Thursday were ghastly: 5 for 12 for just 26 yards (2.2-yard average completion) with no touchdowns or interceptions. Passer rating: 49.3. Brutal, yes. But you can be sure Packers coaches will look closely at the macro problems of the second-team offense. A powerless offensive line had Harrell running for his life, and a couple critical WR drops undercut his rare accurate throws.

“He’s out there fighting, taking some flak from you guys,” starter Aaron Rodgers said after the game. “It’s frustrating for him, for me, to see him not get the same opportunities.”

In the previous two games, Harrell was a combined 27 for 51 for 235 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions for 55.6 passer rating. In those games, he looked overmatched, indecisive and incapable of making good throws and executing the offense. He didn’t look like a reliable backup for Rodgers.

Against the Bengals, that wasn't really the case. It was more that Harrell never had a chance to succeed. Heavily pressured on his very first drop-back, he stayed under duress the entire time he was in. The offensive line, made up of veteran castoffs and undrafted free agents, simply couldn’t block. He was sacked three times in a quarter and a half and was harried constantly.

“I thought Graham Harrell improved tonight,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “He had some upfield situations. His scrambling was good, he made them miss. He’s in command of the offense. The tape will tell the true story.”

Further exacerbating his struggles were his wide receivers, who had some demoralizing, drive-ending drops. They just didn’t make the big plays that make the quarterback look better, the way Rodgers’ first-team receivers routinely do. Diondre Borel, on the bubble for a roster spot, dropped an easy, third-down pass over the middle that would’ve gained a first down. He also failed to come down with an intermediate-length throw down the right sideline that was well placed by Harrell. It would’ve been a difficult catch, but one that someone like Jordy Nelson would probably make.

“He’ll keep plugging away,” Rodgers said. “Next week, he will get another opportunity. Hopefully guys will give him a chance to make some plays.”

Still, the few times he was able to drop back, set his feet and find an open receiver, too often the ball sailed high, wide or short. He overthrew a wide open receiver in the end zone on one play, reminding detractors -- and maybe coaches -- that he certainly still has his own passing limitations.

The backup offense, which has been virtually allergic to scoring in three games, is simply not good. That’s not a concern in the regular season, as long as the starters remain healthy. But it’s clear that an injury at quarterback or on the offensive line would be devastating.

Pass defense shows up: The Packers had the worst pass defense in NFL history last season. That’s old news, as are all the offseason personnel moves to solve the problem. On Thursday, those changes, as well as the increased practice focus, paid dividends. The Packers notched two sacks and six quarterback hits. The outside linebackers, especially Clay Matthews and Erik Walden, got around the tackles, while defensive linemen B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett got penetration and were disruptive. The defensive backfield benefited, surrendering only 127 passing yards and making two interceptions. The Bengals were just one of 12 on third-down conversions.

Williams back to 2010 form? Tramon Williams was a Pro Bowler two years ago and then fell way off last season, giving up huge yardage, too many touchdowns and shying away from tackles due to a hurt shoulder. He had his best performance since 2010 against the Bengals. Matched up against talented 6-foot-4 receiver A.J. Green, Williams was repeatedly tested. Twice, Green was thrown a jump ball and the 5-11 Williams leaped up and knocked it away. He stayed with his man diligently and made a pair of sound tackles. Across from him, no one really stood out at the open No. 2 cornerback position. Jarrett Bush started and was just OK; Casey Hayward was beaten on a back-shoulder touchdown throw; Sam Shields was his usual Jekyl and Hyde, showing his playmaking skills with a beautiful, diving interception, then falling down on one play and getting beat for a 30-yard completion on another.

For more Packers news and notes, follow James Carlton on Twitter @CBSSportsNFLGB.