Monday, August 28, 2006

Questions for Monday Night

The Packers take on the Cincinnati Bengals tonight at 7 p.m. Central time. As the third of four pre-season games, this one figures to see the most playing time for the starters before the regular season begins. So we'll get a feel for how well that newly-configured offensive line is really coming along. We'll also get a chance to see if Brett Favre continues to exhibit the sharpness he did in last week's game against Atlanta. And we'll get another look at our two nominal kicking specialists, Dave Rayner and punter Jon Ryan. And because the Pack will have to cut up to 9 players by tomorrow, we may see some folks for the last time...even if we didn't know who they were in the first place.

But apart from these more general questions, there are some specific questions which need to be answered:

  • Can RB Ahman Green demonstrate the same quickness and explosiveness in a game that everyone says he has been showing since resuming practice earlier this month? Coming off his thigh tendon tear of last season, all the medical professionals say that the tendon is no more likely to tear now than if he hadn't had the injury at all. But, at age 29 and with lots of miles on the body in addition to the surgically-repaird tendon, can Green give the Packers another 1,000+ yard season? Despite a fantastic rehab program, the leg likely will not be at full strength for some time. Whether and to what degree that effects Green's running ability only time will tell. Tonight we may get at least a glimpse of what to expect. But still a big question mark.

  • LB Brady Poppinga is ready to roll. He was just starting to make an impact last season when he was injured in the first game he started. According to coaches -- and as he himself admits -- his motor is always going...the problem isn't getting him fired up it's calming him down. That's a great quality in any football player, but especially a linebacker. He wants that starting role back, so expect to see him on the field a good deal tonight and in the final pre-season game Friday afternoon (yes, Friday afternoon) against the Titans. Another question mark in search of an answer.

  • Safety Marquand Manuel is also itching to play, after missing most of training camp with a calf injury. Manuel is one of the Pack's free agent pick ups, and one the team is counting on to be an effective and aggressive starter. Apparently, since returning to practice, he has been showing that aggression big time. Again, the question is whether and how quickly he is able to get up to game speed after a lot of down time.

  • Najeh Davenport has been a bit on the spot this week, missing much of practice with a hip injury. Coach McCarthy even voiced comments to the effect that you have to play in order to be on the team. Was he trying to light a fire under Davenport, or perhaps setting the stage for a move to rookie RB Arliss Beach? It's fairly well known around camp and in the media that the Packers are high on Beach, who performed very well in last weekend's game against the Falcons. Davenport can be a powerful runner. But he also can't seem to avoid injury. There are only so many running back spots available. Will Davenport meet the challenge to retain one of those spots, or will he be bumped for a newcomer with potential? If you look at some of the personnel decisions made by Coach McCarthy and GM Ted Thompsons so far this camp, don't be surprised if Beach sticks and Davenport might go. Would be a shame not to get something in exchange for him, though.

  • Who will the final receiving corps be? Donald Driver, sure. Robert Ferguson and Rod Gardner, likely. Ditto for rookie Greg Jennings. After that? There are another five receivers, excluding tight ends, competing for probably one final receiver spot. Of course, the Pack could hang on to perhaps another receiver if that player demonstrates some kick or punt return ability. They thought that would be Cory Rodgers, but so far he has not been able to handle the ball. You have to wonder if the recent addition of undrafted rookie receiver Carlton Brewster, ostensibly as one of these possible specialists, can also give the Pack yet another receiving option...just in case. And, as we learned last year, you can never have enough good "just in case" players available.

So...these are a few of the questions to which tonight's game might provide some answers. Stay tuned...