Packers XLV

Ten Things I'll Be Watching This Preseason

Posted July 17th, 2013 @ 08:07pm

August football is a beautiful thing. Everyone is full of hope, excitement and anticipation. Not to mention dread; the fear that a franchise guy could go down and flush all that hope down the toilet.

We'll focus on the positive and look at ten things to pay attention during training camp and preseason games.  It goes without saying that observing Aaron Rodgers in a baseball cap on the sidelines as much as possible will be a good thing. We can be fairly certain he won't be wearing the cap of another NFL team, like a certain ex-Wisconsinite.

10. Unsigned Wonders: It's an annual rite of late summer. The Packers will keep a couple of unsigned rookies on the 53-man roster, and add a few more to the practice squad. Who will emerge as this year's Sam Shields or Dezman Moses? It's always fun to see guys pop during preseason games, and then hear coaches gush. Here are a few guys we could be hearing more about in the next month: LB Andy Mulumba (E. Michigan), RB Angelo Pease (Kansas State) and DT Gilbert Pena (Mississippi).

9. Mason vs. Giorgio?: Will there be a real placekicker battle this summer, or was the former Cal kicker brought in as nothing more than a threatening goon, hanging around in the shadows, with no real chance to unseat Crosby? As inconsistent as #2 was last season, you have to think Tavecchio will be given a long hard look. The fact that he went to Rodgers' school and that he's wearing Don Majkowski's old number work in his favor.

8. The Back-Up Plan: Like it or loathe it, Ted Thompson's blueprint behind Rodgers is to draft and develop a back up. The team didn't need one for the Favre era and Rodgers has proven to be very durable. But the fact is, if #12 goes down, so goes the Packers' season. Would I prefer to see Matt Hasselbeck at #2 when the team is set up to be a contender? Yes. But I don't run the team. So we'll all hope that either Graham Harrell looks more polished and ready in year three; or that second year guy BJ Coleman emerges as clearly the better guy. Either way, they should both get a ton of screen time, especially in the first and last preseason game.

7. A Johnny Jolly August? Some were surprised that the Packers brought back problem child Johnny Jolly, who's three years removed from playing in the league. His legal problems behind him, he's being given what is likely his last shot to resurrect what was a very promising career. Jolly was emerging as a core member of the defensive line, when he threw it all away. Now he's back and I'm interested to see how he looks early and if he gets some playing time in the first couple of games. The defensive line remains a question mark: hopefully Datone Jones establishes himself and BJ Raji plays hard for a new contract. Ryan Pickett is likely in his final year. There's room for Jones, if he still has it. And if he wants it this time.

6. Who Will Be Right? The Packers rarely go into a season these days with a lot of jobs up in the air. But with the changes on the offensive line, the right tackle job is up for grabs. Expect Marshall Newhouse, the displaced (thankfully) left tackle will get every opportunity to win the spot, but don't rule out rookie David Bakhtiari, who appears to be a quick study and will get a lot of reps in practice. You can't rule out Don Barclay, either. He was impressive when he was brought in to replace the injured Bryan Bulaga last season, more than holding his own most of the time.

5. Starting Safety Still a Sore Spot: Thompson ignored this gaping hole in the defense on draft weekend, passing on first round talent to draft Jones and then filling other holes and adding depth everywhere else. Right now, the battle at safety is between Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings. In a perfect world, one of them will step up and grab the job and never look back. The Pack really needs a stopper back there alongside the newly paid Morgan Burnett. I'm still not convinced the team won't add a veteran who wants to prove something. There are a few proven guys on the market, waiting for someone to get hurt.

4. No Return For Cobb: Randall Cobb has a chance to leap into super stardom this season--sure to get more opportunities in the Packers' offense. As dangerous a weapon as he has become, he's too valuable to keep on special teams. Come playoff time, go for it. Put him back there because, hey, it's the playoffs. But here's hoping the team finds a guy who can return kicks and punts. Logically, that would be Jeremy Ross, who flashed late last season, before fumbling in the red zone in San Francisco in January, an unforgivable sin. I'm all for second chances, though. He'll need to prove he can be a #5 receiver though. With little proven depth behind the big three, he should get a chance. A few other guys will likely get an opportunity. Don't sleep on rookie running back Johnathan Franklin, as a kick returner.

3. The Ones: The Packers will have what amounts to two #1 picks joining the defensive front seven. Datone Jones has Dom Capers drooling; he'll be plugged in as a starter on the defensive line and should cause enough havoc to make Clay Matthews more disruptive than usual. What will also help is a threat of a pass rush on the opposite side. That's where last year's #1 steps in. Nick Perry's rookie season ended in October in Indy, just when he was starting to get comfortable at his new position. If he takes another step forward the Pack could have two quick, tough pieces to a defense that needs to get a lot better if the team wants to play deep into January.

2. A Shift To The Left: The most surprising development of the offseason was the shifting of the Pack's best two offensive linemen from the right side to the left. Bulaga faces the most pressure, protecting the blind side of the best QB in the league. You have to assume the hip injury is behind him and he's up to the challenge. Josh Sitton also slides over to stay next to his buddy. August will be the time for these guys to get comfortable with their new spot. The 49er game comes early again this year and we'd all like to see a different outcome than last season's opener and closer.

1. Run, Rooks. Run: I mentioned earlier that Ted Thompson had ignored safety in the draft. The good news is he paid attention to running back for the first time in forever and watching Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin is what I'm most interested in this summer. A dream scenario: they're exactly as advertised and become a thunder and lightning duo, like Mike Alstott and Warrick Dunn. Even something short of that should have a dramatic impact on Mike McCarthy's offense. If they stay healthy and look ready, it means the end of the line for two of these guys: Alex Green, James Starks and DuJuan Harris. Third and short no longer means cue up the Kuuuhn chants. Lacy should provide some much needed inside toughness, with breakaway ability. Franklin is a polished all purpose back, a bit time receiver threat who can handle blitzes. Can't. Wait. To watch these guys.


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Comments (8):

Almost that time of year again.....Wellcome Back all you old timers and new welcome to you "newbies" Let's hope we can keep most of the jealous purple off this year. Davy....Great Top Ten List. Following is my Watchfull Early Eight; 1- Will this be the year of Dom Capers? Has TT given him enough talent and can he adapt?? 2-Will we have a LB who can cover a pass?? The last one before injury is now wearing purple. Another year watching Hawk try could make one want to watch soccer. 3- Which way will Finley's head be strapped this year? 4- Can we handle the 49ers.?? See number 1 on list above for answer. 5- Is Mike Daniels an up and coming guy on the DL. He does seem to have a better motor than Jerel Worthy. Is Worthy another Harrell or can he rise.....preseason should tell. 6- Can OG Greg Van Roten who bulked up to 315 lbs this year and an early suprise in early camps move in as a starter where we need help? 7- Coache have been impressed with 5th round draft choice Mikah Hyde a DB from Iowa. Can he be a suprise addition at the much needed nickel/dime defensive back? 8- Can the whole team rise up to MM's mantra for this year of....."Protection. Connection, and Reflection" ?? Just some little things to watch !! GO PACK GO !!

on August 2nd, 2013 at 08:54pm

OK guys, it's been a little quiet here for a few weeks, so let's get a discussion or two going here. Let's start it with this - How would you determine what a successful season would be for the Packers (or any other franchise for that matter)? Maybe that depends on what your definition of "success" is. Winning the Super Bowl is the pinnacle of sucsess - I think we can all agree on that. But would you call it a good season if the Packers got to the Super Bowl and lost? NFC championship and lost? 2nd round and lost? One and done? Missing the playoffs by one game? I'll give you my answers to those in a moment, but let's switch gears momentarily - would any of you consider the Vikings' turnaround from 3-13 to 10-6 with a wild card berth a success? If I was a purple backer, I'd be absolutely thrilled. Could they duplicate that feat or exceed it? Only time will tell. But let's keep something else in mind - that occasionally determining what a success is can be somewhat relative. For example, the Packers have a 4 season playoff streak going, which includes a Super Bowl win and a 15-1 regular season. No other franchise can make that claim. How many of you would rate all four of these seasons to be a success? How many of you would rate only the Super Bowl season to be a success? I truly hope the majority here would be in the former catagory rather than the latter, because if you're not, IMHO, you're just setting yourself up for dissapointment. So to summarize the earlier questions, for me, every one of those scenarios would be deemed a success except for the last one (not making the playoffs). Whether Packer Nation is willing to admit it or not, we've been spoiled by the successes the Packers have had pretty much since the Wolf/Holmgren/Favre/White days (with an occasional bump along the way). The thing to remember here is that the Super Bowl is NOT the expectation, and should never be, regardless of the talent level any given team may have. The real expectation for any successful team is to make the playoffs, with the Super Bowl being the ultimate GOAL. Believe me, if fans take this approach, they'll go through a lot fewer antacids during the course of a season. So be that as it may, I will sit back and enjoy the drama of the season as it unfolds. And as always, get to the playoffs healthy and hot, "In Ted we trust", and Go Pack Go!!!

on August 3rd, 2013 at 03:09pm

I guess we can put that #2 "A Shift to the Left" bullet point down as a failure by TT. Bustlaga is already done for the season, and realistically his career.

on August 5th, 2013 at 06:55am

I say put McMillan at SS. He showed more ups than downs last year. Jones and perry will help keep the pass rush fresh and fast. Green and Starks should be gone. Harris Lacey and Franklin will be a nasty 3 headed monster and help make the play action pass relevant this year. Bulaga and josh moving to the left side is perfect. I see Finley having a big year with the absence of Jennings, he just needs to hold onto the ball. Our defense improves and I can seeing Rodgers winning his 2nd MVP.

on July 17th, 2013 at 06:19pm

**I can see**

on July 17th, 2013 at 07:23pm

Where can we go but up? By fixing the left side of the Oline and giving AR a serious running attack we now should be able to pound or pass the ball. Could we see a Taylor/Hornung type Power Sweep? That would be a cool thing for MM to throw in if we get a large lead. What's more exciting to me is that we get Perry back and pair him with 1st rounder Jones to actually have the D return to being a sack machine. It's almost time for football!

on July 18th, 2013 at 01:02pm

Nobody should get all hot and bothered if the Packers go into the season without a "proven, starter-capable" quarterback for a backup. Let's get real for a moment...if any of us drove a $40,000 car, and we found out it would be in the shop for 3 weeks, would any of us be willing to have another $40,000 car sitting in our driveway, just waiting for the moment when car #1 went down so we could keep driving along on our merry way? I seriously doubt it. The reality of the situation is if Rodgers goes down, and for the sake of discussion out for the season, the Packers are done. But the fact of the matter is there are 31 other teams in the same situation. If their guy goes down, they're done too. No team that has "the guy", especially the ones considered contenders, are going to have another "guy" sitting on the bench awaiting the call. It just isn't economically feasible. You bring in a young guy with talent, teach him the ropes, prep him as best you can, and hope you don't have to put him in there. And yes I've heard it before - "this is a championship caliber team that NEEDS a proven backup QB"...well, consider this. Who's Tom Brady's backup? Who's Peyton/Eli Manning's backups? Who's Colin Kapernick's backup? Who's Drew Brees' backup? And who's backing up Cutler these days?!? The answer is, unless you're a total football geek, you have no idea. So where would the Patriots, Giants, Broncos, Saints and 49ers be if any of those guys go down? Same place the Packers would be if Rodgers goes down. And to the Purple Queens, don't get on your high horses thinking you have it made if you need to go to Cassell. After all, there's a reason he was a bust in KC. So between Harrell and Coleman, may the best man win, and let's hope they carry a lot of clipboards this year.

on July 18th, 2013 at 05:56pm

This year's camp and preseason is going to be make or break for a lot of guys who have shown talent but not durability and availability for some time now. That includes backs James Starks and Alex Green, te Andrew Quarless, cb Davon House, o-linemen Derek Sherrod and Andrew Datko. This camp will also be step up or ship out time for te D.J. Williams. He may be tradeable to New England if he looks good but the Packers haven't got room for him with in their receiving corps. Despite all the question marks, changes and uncertainties heading in to the new football year it's remarkable the Packers are still one of the top 3 or 4 NFC prospects for the Super Bowl next February in the estimation of Vegas oddsmakers.

on July 19th, 2013 at 06:50am

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