Previewing preseason Week 3, part I

August, 23, 2012
8/23/12
12:30
PM ET
In which we look ahead to the Green Bay Packers' third preseason game, the first of four NFC North affairs over the next three days:

Opponent: Cincinnati Bengals

Location: Paul Brown Stadium

Day/Time: Thursday/7 p.m. ET

Personnel notes: Starters are expected to play at least a half. … Three key players are scheduled to make their preseason debuts: Receiver Greg Jennings, cornerback Sam Shields and running back Cedric Benson. That list was also scheduled to include tight end Jermichael Finley, but Finley tweeted Thursday morning that he was returning to Green Bay following the birth of his child. … Benson will have some motivation to play against his former team, but mostly this is his chance to demonstrate he can be the Packers' Week 1 starter. James Starks remains sidelined by a toe injury and Brandon Saine won't play because of a hamstring injury. Alex Green could be in the mix as well, but a big night Thursday could be huge for Benson. ... We'll get a chance to see if the Packers can achieve any clarity at two wide-open positions in their secondary. Can Shields put on a late run to win a starting cornerback job? Or will the position go to Jarrett Bush, Casey Hayward or Davon House when he returns from a shoulder injury? What about at safety, where M.D. Jennings has shared first-team reps with Jerron McMillian and Anthony Levine?

Focal point: Everyone loves a backup quarterback controversy, and that's (sort of) what the Packers have after Graham Harrell's underwhelming performance in the first team preseason games. People from all facets of the franchise -- the front office, coaching staff and teammates -- have all expressed unwavering support for Harrell. So in reality, Harrell really just needs to avoid catastrophe Thursday night to secure this job. But if nothing else, it would make everyone feel better if he plays better than that.

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