GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Expect to see replay after replay of Golden Tate and M.D. Jennings fighting for the ball on the final play of last year’s Week 3 game between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks during the television broadcast of Friday night’s preseason game at Lambeau Field.
But that’s old news, at least to the Packers, who have two preseason games and just three more practices remaining before final roster cuts are due Aug. 31.
Here are five things to watch for from the Packers’ perspective:
1. Playing time for the starters: Coach Mike McCarthy has typically used the third preseason game as a dress rehearsal for the regular-season opener, playing his starters at least the full first half and resting them in the exhibition finale. This year could be different. McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson still have a long list of young players they want to see in extended game action to get a better evaluation. To do so, they might have to cut back on playing time for some of the starters. “I talked to Ted about some things, so once again we’re trying to get as much information as we can,” McCarthy said. “We want to play very well, we want to win the game, but we’ve got guys who have been injured the whole camp. We have guys who have been injured from the spring all the way through camp that are finally maybe playing.”
2. Young receivers: Among the players McCarthy was referring to are rookie receivers Kevin Dorsey and Charles Johnson. Both missed most of training camp and the offseason program. Dorsey returned last week from a hamstring injury but did not play in Saturday’s game at St. Louis. Johnson returned this week from a knee injury. The seventh-round draft picks were expected to challenge for the Nos. 4 and 5 receiver spots but have fallen way behind. “I think they have a good grasp of our offense, our concepts, what we do,” receivers coach Edgar Bennett said this week. “But unfortunately, a big part of what we do is taking it from the classroom and going out on the practice field and working our fundamentals to improve, and that’s the area that, unfortunately due to injury, they haven’t been able to take full advantage of. Will they get some opportunities in these next two preseason games? We’ll see.”
3. Cornerback carousel: Casey Hayward was arguably the biggest playmaker for the Packers defense last season. As a rookie, he intercepted six passes while playing the slot position in the nickel package. He missed the first month of training camp because of a pulled hamstring he sustained while working out over the summer. During his absence, rookie Micah Hyde has played well in the slot position. Sam Shields and Davon House have manned the outside spots while Tramon Williams remains out with a knee injury. Hayward returned to practice this week and could see some action against the Seahawks. “You have Sam and House outside, Micah is right there, so [Hayward] is fourth right now,” cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said. “So until Casey moves either him or House out of the way, he’s not going to get as many reps. You have to be deserving of your reps, and really what you did last year is last year.”
4. Harris’ return: Despite the emergence of rookie Eddie Lacy, McCarthy insists that DuJuan Harris remains his starting running back. Harris might get one chance to prove that. He will make his preseason debut after finally returning from a knee injury he sustained in the offseason. Harris, who was signed to the practice squad in October and wasn’t promoted to the roster until Dec. 1, finished last season as the starter and averaged 4.6 yards per carry over the final four regular-season games. “He did great things for us, I thought, down the stretch in the last part of the season,” running backs coach Alex Van Pelt said. “Unfortunately, he had the injury there in OTAs that kept him out of the first part of training camp, but all that being said, he did his job when he was asked to do it last year and he’s going to continue to get the first chances to do it now that he’s back.”
5. Crosby … again: It wouldn’t be a Packers preseason game if there wasn’t some drama surrounding the kickers. Just when Mason Crosby looked like his struggles were behind him after he made all three of his kicks against the Rams, he had a horrible practice Wednesday. He missed three straight field goals before finally knocking a fourth through the uprights. Crosby was scheduled to kick only one or two balls, but special-teams coach Shawn Slocum made him keep kicking until he finally made one. Just one day earlier, Slocum had praised Crosby. “I thought Mason kicked the ball well all week, and he did it in the game and did it again yesterday,” Slocum said Tuesday. All eyes will be on Crosby to see if he falters again and re-opens the door for challenger Giorgio Tavecchio to beat him out.