Saturday, August 09, 2014

It's Packers 2014 preseason football time: Pack vs. Titans!

Oh, long, long last...Green Bay Packers football is about to get underway. The road to the Super Bowl, fellow Packer fans, begins this evening in Tennessee. Our Pack take on the Titans in the first of four preseason games. Expect not to see much of any of the projected starters. Particularly those named Aaron Rodgers.

Tonight, we'll get our first glimpse of the 2014 edition of the Packers. On display will be the work of the two fellows competing to be the primary backup to Rodgers: Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzein. The Packers know what Flynn can do: provide a knowledge of the system and even win games now and then. But we suspect they are more interested in seeing what Tolzein can do now with a bit more experience. They know he has a stronger arm than Flynn. The question is can he be a consistent leader on the field and win. Flynn's steady, Tolzein has a better chance to make a big play. What will shake out by the time the final roster decisions need to be made? This game starts to make that picture come into focus.

The same, of course, can be said for many other players and positions. Safety has been one getting a lot of attention in training camp. Given the lack of production from that unit last season, expectations are much higher this season. Morgan Burnett missed most of this week's camp with a strained oblique and will be held out tonight. As a result, second-year player Micah Hyde and first-round draft pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix are expected to start, and much focus will of course be placed upon how Clinton-Dix adapts to the pro game.

But don't be surprised if you see third-year player Sean Richardson in the mix with the starters. During his Thursday press conference, head coach Mike McCarthy had this to say about Richardson: "I'll tell you what, Sean Richardson is having a hell of a training camp." Any number of pundits and reporters have noted that Richardson has been very impressive in camp. The coaching staff has taken notice. Richardson was an undrafted free agent who made the team in 2012, but that rookie season was cut short with injuries and he played in only five games. In 2013, he played in just six games. The Packers are anxious to see what a healthy Richardson can do. At 6'2" and 216 lbs., he is an imposing presence in the defensive backfield. I'm one of those rooting for him to stay on the field and make many contributions this season. He's an intriguing player.

Other young players will also be getting a close look tonight. Second-year player J.C. Tretter is slated to be the starting center if all goes according to script. McCarthy says he likes what he has seen from Tretter in practice, so we'll see what happens in live game action. Rookie Corey Linsley will also get a good look at center.

On offense, tight end is a position of interest with the apparent final departure of Jermichael Finley. Jake Stoneburner looks to take a step up in his play, while rookie Richard Rodgers has also received a lot of positive reviews in camp. In the wide receiver corps, expectations are high for rookie Davante Adams who has apparently been nothing but spectacular in camp.

But don't count out rookie Jeff Janis. Janis missed the first week of camp with an illness and practiced for the first time on Wednesday. During that first practice, Janis made a one-handed touchdown catch in the back-left corner of the end zone of a pass from Tolzein. Not to be outdone, Adams followed Janis’ catch with a one-handed touchdown grab of a Matt Flynn pass.

These are just a few of the players to keep an eye on, of course.

A big part of these preseason games for fans is just getting used to new players and new numbers. "Who is that?" will be a common statement tonight, whether on a good or poor play.

For coaches, they want to see what the new young guys may be able to contribute to make this team better. It's a fun and exciting time of the year. Hopes from fans and coaches alike are that no one gets seriously injured. The Pack has already lost wide receiver and returner Jared Abbrederis and offensive lineman Don Barclay to torn ACL's. The Packers have seemed a bit snake-bitten in recent seasons with injuries. Let's hope this early trend doesn't continue.