Thursday, September 02, 2010

Pack vs Chiefs Preview - Preseason Game #4

The finale of the 2010 NFL preseason takes place for the Green Bay Packers tonight in Kansas City. The 2-1 Packers take on the 0-3 Chiefs and, as always with the preseason, records mean very little. The key thing is for teams to make it through this last game without any significant injuries. Which means we can probably expect starters, especially on the offense, to play about one series before they retire to the sidelines for the rest of the game.

The only ones to whom this game means a lot are those players who are on the bubble...those players who are playing for one of the rare roster spots available on this possible Super Bowl-bound team. And of course, we're talking the Packers here, not the Chiefs.

The final roster cuts have to be made by 3 p.m. Saturday. All teams need to go from the current 75 to the 53-man roster required for the season. Holy chopping block, Batman! Even head coach Mike McCarthy said this is one of the toughest week's of the season not only for players but for the coaching staff, as well. They will have to cut players that they've worked closely with through the off-season, OTAs, mini-camp and summer training camp. They may even have to cut players who have contributed to the Packers during prior seasons. Can't be easy for anyone involved.

But that's what makes this game tonight interesting. Some players are literally playing for their careers, not just roster spots. Among that group one would have to think is the perennially injured DE Justin Harrell. When he hasn't been injured, he has shown little production on the field. Given some of the other prospects pushing for roster spots, Harrell has to play like an All-Pro tonight to have a chance of saving his spot with the Packers if not in the NFL altogether.

Another player who will be given all the chance in the world tonight to make the squad is first-year free agent WR Jason Chery. While he may get some repetitions at split end to see if he can grab the #5 receiver slot, the plan is for Chery to be showcased tonight as both punt and kick returner. Following his 75-yard punt return last week which got the coaches' attention, McCarthy wants to see what Chery can do as the designated returner. If he breaks another return for a TD or otherwise acquits himself well, Chery could be another one of the few unheralded players who secures a spot on the team. The Pack has been searching for a reliable return threat since the days of Desmond Howard who, by the way, Chery was unfamiliar with when that name was brought up by media this week as a point of comparison. OK. The kid doesn't have to know about the former Heisman Trophy winner and Super Bowl MVP. He just has to hold onto the ball and run for positive yardage. Hopefully, lots of positive yardage ending in the opposite end zone.

Aside from players to watch -- which also includes rookies S Sam Shields and LB Frank Zombo (who has to make the team based upon last name alone!) -- the coaches will also want to continue to see solid play out of backup QB Matt Flynn, who had a solid performance last week against the Colts. One might also expect to see a lot of play by the backup tight ends tonight. Other than Jermichael Finley and the versatile do-it-all Spencer Havner, will the Pack stick with veteran Donald Lee or opt for youth in the form of either rookie Andrew Quarless or first-year player Tom Crabtree, both of whom have demonstrated potential?

One lingering question for Packer fans, which will carry over to the first game at Philadelphia, is exactly what kind of defense will the Packers have? Due to injury, the Packers have yet to field a complete defensive unit with all starters on board. Coach McCarthy has addressed this situation with the media by saying that extra time and attention will be devoted to getting the #1 defensive unit geared up for the game against the Eagles. They won't have had the advantage of real-time game reps, but they should be able to get up to speed fairly quickly. At least, that's the hope.

As for a prediction about tonight's game...naaaaaah. None necessary. Other than to say watch and see which players are doing their best to grab the golden ring. And which will be catching a ride out of Green Bay come Saturday afternoon via cut or, less likely, trade.

Go Pack Go!!!