Friday, August 09, 2013

Packers 2013 Preseason Game 1: Cardinals visit Green Bay

In what will undoubtedly be a bit of a pleasant change of temperature from Arizona, members of the Cardinals football team will be luxuriating in the comfortable late summer temperatures of Green Bay this evening as they meet the Packers in the first preseason game of the 2103 NFL season.

At this writing, kickoff is about two hours away. Seventy-five hundred additional fans will be viewing the game from within the hallowed confines of Lambeau Field, courtesy of the expansion on the stadium's south side. Conversely, tens of thousands of Packer fans throughout southeastern Wisconsin will have to scramble to view the game on television courtesy of the ongoing dispute between WTMJ-4, the NBC affiliate in Milwaukee carrying the game, and Time Warner Cable, who for the past three weeks has had the channel off the air. Fans have been buying antennas, calling bars, restaurants and even long-lost family and friends to find someone who has the game on DirecTV, Dish, or otherwise is able to pick up the channel. For the rest of us, including yours truly, I'll be watching the telecast on Telemundo, which is picking up the WTMJ television feed for the second year in a row. (It's at this moment I wish I had kept up with my Spanish lessons.) the game.

What shall we look for?

For one thing, probably not rookie RB Eddie Lacy. The big back who is expected to carry a large portion of the load at running back this season will likely sit out tonight's game with a hamstring issue. Supposedly not serious but no reason to aggravate it and cause long-term problems. DuJuan Harris, who is also listed as the starter as of now on the team's depth chart despite having not played all training camp, will also not play. Expect, then, to see a big dose of rookie Jonathan Franklin, plus James Starks, Alex Green, and rookie Angelo Pease.

Four -- count 'em, four -- quarterbacks are expected to see playing time tonight. Head coach Mike McCarthy has indicated he wants to get all four QBs action this evening: Aaron Rodgers, Graham Harrell, B.J. Coleman and newly-signed Vince Young. The latter has obviously not had much time to assimilate the playbook, so expect things to be quite simple when and if he gets in the game. It's likely that the Pack will keep three quarterbacks on the final roster, although one will no doubt be inactive on game day. That said, the backup job and the number 3 spot are in play for Harrell, Coleman and Young. Someone will have to go. Tonight's game will be the start of that process -- at least on public display -- as to who will get those two spots. By the way, if you still haven't voted in our backup quarterback poll, please take a moment to do so. You'll find it in the righthand column next to this story.

The kicking game. Ah, the kicking game. With veteran Mason Crosby continuing his lackluster performance from last season into these early days of training camp, the Packers are hoping he gets his head -- and his field goal attempts -- straightened out. Fast. He and Giorgio Tavecchio will split the kicking duties tonight. At the Family Night scrimmage last Saturday evening, Crosby went just 3 for 8 on field goal attempts while Tavecchio connected on 6 of 7. Crosby has the stronger leg, but if he doesn't do better at putting the ball through the uprights, leg strength isn't much of a factor. If the Pack decides it has to go with Tavecchio, it's possible they might then also use punter Tim Masthay on kickoffs. Masthay has reportedly been booming his kickoff during training camp. On the other hand, will the Packers want to expose the best punter they've had in years to possible injury on the kickoff team? This area of the game will certainly be under the microscope tonight.

With WR Randall Cobb likely held out of the game tonight because of his bicep injury, the competition at receiver will be a bit more on display tonight than it might have been otherwise, particularly for the #5 spot. The Packers have a lot of talented receivers in camp -- QB Aaron Rodgers even said it was the most talented group since he's been in Green Bay -- although some have been battling injuries. Look for one or two of those youngsters to make a case for themselves tonight.

The offensive line...Now that Bryan Bulaga has elected surgery on his torn ACL, eyes will be on rookie LT David Bakhtiari to protect the quarterback's blind side. Everyone from coaches to fellow linemen are very high on Bakhtiari's abilities. But he's a rookie, protecting the franchise in Aaron Rodgers. Watch closely. Also, check out the backups at the various line positions and how rotations are handled. The Packers have only nine offensive linemen on the roster at this point. Who they use, and how they use them, is a study unto itself.

Defensively, let's see how rookie DE Datone Jones does during game conditions. Everyone has been very complimentary about Jones during camp, and rightly so; looks like he is the real deal. Let's see what a difference he can make on the D-line. Also, let's watch Johnny Jolly as he tries to come back after three years out of football. Seems as if many if not most fans are rooting for him (this writer included), and his teammates are saying how focused he is. But he has to show signs that he can get back to near his old playing performance. If it's any consolation, his position coach has been reminding folks that Jolly may now be 30 years old, but he's only had four years total of NFL wear-and-tear...fresh legs, fresh legs. But what else is in the tank? These preseason games are critical for Jolly's return to the roster. He can't get injured or his chances diminish greatly. Keep an eye on Jolly...and root for his success.

That should be enough for you to keep an eye on, don't you think? Bottom line, hope you are able to see the game one way or another. You can also stream the audio coverage of the game, as the flagship radio station for the Packers, 620WTMJ is now carrying the games online. Click here to listen live (5:00 p.m.-1:00 a.m. CT) to the station's Packers Gameday broadcast, including the game call by Voice of the Packers, Wayne Larrivee, and former Packer center, Larry McCarren (in-game only on desktop computers). It's the next best thing to being there!

Go Pack Go!!!