Saturday, August 13, 2011

Gettin' ready for Packers football - preseason game #1

The team buses pulled into Cleveland stadium (does it have a corporate name, btw?) about 15 minutes or so ago as this post is written. Kickoff for the first preseason game of the Packers repeat championship season is a little more than three hours away.


Yes, it's only preseason. And who knows what the quality of play will be given the lack of OTAs and minicamps due to the lockout? But there are one or two givens: the veteran starters will see limited play, while rookies and others on the bubble (mentioned much earlier than usual because of the shortened player evaluation period) will see most of the action.

The primary competition on the offensive line is at left guard. Rookie Derek Sherrod and veteran T.J. Lang will battle for that spot. Marshall Newhouse will likely see a lot of play at left tackle while Chad Clifton is saved for more important days ahead. Nick McDonald will get extended play at center behind Scott Wells.

As we well know, there is an abundance of talent at wide receiver and tight end. Some folks will be auditioning for other teams in these next few games as the chances of sticking with the Pack are slim, unless they can be slid onto the practice squad down the road.

At running back, the question is who will take Brandon Jackson's spot as the third-down back protecting Aaron Rodgers and catching passes out of the backfield. Will this be FB John Kuhn's role? Or will James Starks or rookie Alex Green be able to step in?

There is obviously no controversy at quarterback. The only question may be, since Matt Flynn established his credentials as a solid number 2 and potential starter -- just not in Green Bay -- whether backup Graham Harrell can display enough to have the Pack see him as a backup to Rodgers. It's likely that Flynn will be gone next season, either through trade or free agency, and the Packers have to be comfortable with Harrell. We should see him a good deal in these first two games, at least.

On the defensive side of things, coordinator Dom Capers will want to see whether Mike Neal, C.J. Wilson and Jarius Wynn can make up for the departure of Cullen Jenkins. In the linebacker corps, who will win the spot playing opposite Clay Matthews? Frank Zombo? Brad Jones? Erik Walden? And in the defensive backfield, it's another logjam. But Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams and Sam Shields are not expected to play this evening, leaving lots of room for veterans Jarrett Bush and Pat Lee to show their wares, along with undrafted rookie Brandian Ross.

On special teams, it will be nice to see if the Packers have a legitimate punt and/or kick returner in their midst at long last. Shaky Smithson and Randall Cobb will get their chances, as might Alex Green...and anyone else the Packers want to get a look at. We've been waiting so long, at this point let's try anyone!

Anyway, starting to feel the excitement once again. No, it's not the same as the regular season. We won't fret if they lose. We'd like to see the Pack win, of course, but mainly we don't want anyone getting hurt. Beyond that, we want to see which players are going to grab the brass ring and make the most of their opportunities.


Go Pack Go!!!