When you’re a Super Bowl contender, the main priority in every pre-season game is to come out of it healthy. When the Pack kicks off the season tonight in San Diego they will bring a team that’s a little battered and bruised, so expect to watch a lot of undrafted guys in the second half. 19 Packers missed practice on Tuesday and at least 15 are expected to sit this one out.
Heck, it might even cause me to flip over and catch the men’s 200 meter final, even if I already know who won. The Pack will be without players like Greg Jennings, Marshall Newhouse, Sam Shields, Brandon Saine, Frank Zombo and Tori Gurley, to name a few. The most concerning is Newhouse, who suffered a concussion late last week. With Derek Sherrod not ready to play, the team will be down to their third left tackle–something called Herb Taylor. For that reason (and the fact that it’s the first game), don’t expect to see a lot of #12 tonight.
What I will be interested to watch is mainly on the defensive side of the ball, starting with the first two picks. I maintain that Jerel Worthy may hold the key early–if he can pick things up quickly and control his emotions, he has a chance to make an immediate impact. He’ll be on the field in base and nickel–early indications are that he is ready to be the replacement for Cullen Jenkins that everyone hopes he can become.
Of course #1 pick Nick Perry will get his first chance to show how quickly he’s adapting to his new position, playing just down the road from where he played in college. I have a feeling Perry will be a work in progress early. Let’s see what Dezman Moses shows when he gets on the field. He’s earned rave reviews and has become what Vic So’oto was last year. Speaking of So’oto, he’ll need to make some plays to keep his roster spot. Zombo’s absence is not a good sign for him: he can’t stay on the field and the Pack has gotten much deeper at his position.
In the secondary, I’m anxious to see Davon House and what he does with his chance as a starter. Second round pick Casey Hayward should get a long look tonight, especially with Shields out. As for the safeties, I don’t know how much Woodson will play, but there’s a lot of youth behind him and guys like Jennings, McMillian and Levine need the game experience.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Pack is thin at running back with Saine out and Alex Green being worked back in slowly. Expect to see former Trojan Marc Tyler (son of former Ram and Niner Wendell Tyler) get the lion’s share of the load. Starks in unlikely to play much and former Gopher Du’uane Bennett is out. Let’s see if Tyler can show a little bit of the talent that made him the #1 tailback in the country coming out of high school.
For me, the #1 thing I’ll be watching in this game is the play of Graham Harrell. He’s now one play away from being the team’s QB and needs to show that he’s ready to step in if needed. I have to give McCarthy and Clement the benefit of the doubt–they know how to develop quarterbacks. But for a team whose singular goal is a trip to the Superdome in February, it scares me a little that there is so little experience in reserve at such a cirtical position. There needs to be a belief from everyone in the locker room that Harrell is ready to be the #2 guy. Tonight is his first chance to show us he’s the guy.
Finally, with Jennings and Gurley out, and Nelson and Driver unlikely to play much, Diondre Borel will get a great chance to take an early lead on the #6 WR spot. That assumes the team will keep six, or that they will keep Donald Driver (not a given). Borel has turned heads in camp and seems to have taken that quantum leap from year one to year two that some guys make. Randall Cobb is the guy who has a chance to make a serious impact on this offense this season and he should get lots of reps tonight as well.
Let’s just hope the guys that are able to play all come out of it healthy tonight and that maybe we feel cautiously optimistic that some of the defensive newcomers are ready to make an impact.