Saturday, August 9, 2014
W2W4: Green Bay Packers
By Rob Demovsky
The Green Bay Packers (0-0) and Tennessee Titans (0-0) open the preseason Saturday night at LP Field in Nashville, Tennessee. Here are three things to watch:
1. Quarterback play: Aaron Rodgers won't play much on Saturday -- he did not last preseason, either -- in part because coach Mike McCarthy wants to take a long look at his backup quarterbacks. If Scott Tolzien is going to supplant Matt Flynn for the No. 2 job -- or convince McCarthy and GM Ted Thompson to keep three quarterbacks -- then he needs to perform better in the preseason games than he has in the first two weeks of practice. Tolzien has improved as camp has gone on, but to date he probably has not done enough to make the Packers think he's a better option than Flynn, who has proven he can win games as a backup in Green Bay. Whichever quarterback wins the job, the Packers feel like they are in a much better position behind Rodgers than they were a year ago, when they brought in Vince Young to compete with Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman. A year later, all three of those quarterbacks are out of the league.
2. Rookie reactions: There will be first-game jitters and mistakes, McCarthy and his staff know that about their rookies, so they're not going to complete their report on any player based on the preseason opener. But the coaches would like to see how some key players take what they have been doing on the practice field into the games. Can first-round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix make the big plays that were lacking from the safeties last season? Can second-round receiver Davante Adams get over the drops and continue his push for the No. 3 spot? Will third-round tight end Richard Rodgers take another step toward winning the starting job? All will get chances, especially Clinton-Dix, who may start given the absence of Morgan Burnett (oblique strain). Said McCarthy: "I'm looking for players to jump out. I want someone to jump out and do exactly what they're supposed to do with the energy and the efficiency that you say, 'Hey, I gotta get ready [because] I'm going to have more opportunities.'"
3. Undrafted gems: You might not know much about guys like Carlos Gray, Mike Pennel, Jayrone Elliott and Joe Thomas but if they continue to play like they have in practice, then you just might become more familiar with them. So far, those four have been the standouts of the undrafted rookie class. Gray and Pennel could challenge for a roster spot on the defensive line, while Elliott has made plays from the outside linebacker position and Thomas from the inside backer spot. The Packers have a history of doing well with undrafted free agents. In the past four seasons combined, they have had 13 of them on their Week 1 roster.