Four Things to Watch Tonight
A long, long time ago, in a training camp far away, we previewed four guys who could jump out during the first preseason game. Given the more "normal" flavor of tonight's preseason game, here's four things to watch for tonight instead.
1. Backup tackles bouncing back - First Derek Sherrod was good. Then Derek Sherrod was bad. First Aaron Adams was good. Then Aaron Adams was bad. Which pair of backup tackles will we get tonight? That's tough to say, but it'd do a lot for the Packers' peace of mind to know they could count on one or both Sherrod or Adams in a pinch.
This is the effect that Don Barclay's injury. It's almost a guarantee that the Packers won't make it through the entire season with their whole line intact. At some point, Sherrod, Adams, or someone else will have to to step in. Who that person is could be determined tonight.
2. Wide receivers battling - As many as five wide receivers could be said to be seriously contending for the Packers fifth wide receiver spot. Jeff Janis seems to have the clubhouse lead right now, but Kevin Dorsey, Chris Harper, Myles White, and Alex Gillett each have their own merits, too.
While the backups may not get as much time as normal, this is actually a good time to see who could be making a play for the fifth receiver spot. Special teams contributions make or break roster spots at the bottom of the depth chart, so pay special attention to who of the backup receivers shows up on punt and kick return and coverage for a good idea of who the coaches like.
3. Sorting out the safeties - The Packers have played mix-and-match at safety throughout training camp because - hold on to your hats - they actually have a bunch of good-to-above-average safeties. This is a good problem to have. It's much better to have to figure out who your top guys on when you have a bunch of guys who could be top guys than to try to just put two competent guys on the field. But that's obvious.
Anyhow, figuring out when and how the safeties will be used will be an interesting challenge for the defensive staff. Tonight could give us a couple of hints as to how it's going to play out. It may also give us a good look of how things shouldn't play out, which is fine too. It's all about finding out what goes where.
4. Who returns what? - This sort of relates to point number two, but I'm putting it here anyway. Special teams contributions could have big ramifications for other positions, and the most obvious special teams contribution you can make is grabbing a kick and running with it. DuJuan Harris has more or less grabbed hold of the kick return job, but should someone else get a shot, we may end up with a suddenly interesting battle at a different position.
Hypothetically, let's say Kevin Dorsey went and had himself a great night returning kickoffs. (There's no reason to think this will happen, but for the sake of argument, imagine that it does.) Does that help him get a leg up on Jeff Janis for the number five receiver spot? Could the Packers keep six receivers? The return game matters, and if someone unexpected returns well, things could get interesting elsewhere.