Thursday, August 26, 2010

Packers - Colts preseason game preview

Game time for tonight's Bishop's Charities Game at Lambeau Field is just a little more than 2 hours away. Being game #3 of the preseason, this is the dress rehearsal for the starters prior to the first game of the regular season Sept. 12 at Philadelphia. The Packers' starting units are expected to play at least through the first half of the game this evening. This will also be a warm up in the sense that the game will be nationally televised, so for the rookies on the team it will be a whole new experience, even if it is just a preseason game. They will get the feel for what the national spotlight is like.

As was the case last week, the Packers are thin tonight at running back, linebacker and in the defensive backfield. S Atari Bigby, LBs Clay Matthews and Brad Jones, RBs Kregg Lumpkin, James Starks and Quinn Porter, DE Cullen Jenkins, and CB Al Harris are not expected to play; LBs A.J. Hawk and Alex Joseph, and Ol Allen Barbre are questionable.

The plus side of the lack of running backs right now is that Ryan Grant should get a fair number of carries this evening. Of course, the offense will be pass-dominant as we've come to expect. But Grant needs the work, as does Brandon Jackson. Hopefully, Coach McCarthy will give them at least a few reps tonight.

Reports have also been circulating that CB Al Harris likely won't be ready for the start of the regular season, in which case the nickel position will go to one of the 4 backups: Brandon Underwood, Jarrett Bush, Pat Lee, or rookie Sam Shields. Underwood got torched last weekend at Seattle; he needs to step up his play considerably tonight. Bush has been a regular underperformer and Lee can't seem to stay on the field. The Packers are intrigued by Shields, or at least by his speed. The experiment as a punt/kick returner appears to be over as he has mishandled the ball on nearly every occasion. His performance as a gunner on punt coverage teams, however, might be the way Shields garners a roster spot. Whether he is used much tonight in the nickel or not is anyone's guess, although that would certainly be an expectation in next week's game where roster spots are on the line.

Tonight will also be a good indicator of how well our aging tackles, Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher, stand up to a strong pass rush. If QB Aaron Rodgers gets pressure consistently tonight it might raise more concerns about the offensive line than initially thought.

On defense, it will be interesting to see if defensive coordinator Dom Capers dials things up a bit. So far through the preseason the defensive schemes have been plain vanilla. He still doesn't have his full complement of personnel available, but it would still be a good test of the backups to see what they can do when called upon.

The third preseason game is always an interesting one to watch as we get our first real chance to see the starters in extended play. But it also might give us some early insights into who might make the squad and who might not come cut down day.