Packers XLV

Ten Things I'll Be Watching For in the Preseason Opener

Posted August 10th, 2015 @ 05:08pm

We're about set to start the four week grind where the main aspiration is to get through them without injuries to any significant players. As we see every year, it's not possible (Bulaga and Raji are only the most recent casualties). So knowing that health is the main thing we want to see, here are ten other things I'll be focusing on in Foxborough.

1. Somebody better check the damn footballs before the game. OK, that was a bonus. Here we go.

1. Mike McCarthy on the sidelines, sans headset. This is the first game PPC (post play calling). It is bound to feel very strange for the Pack's head coach. OK, maybe he'll still wear a headset, but he won't be calling the plays. Not a big deal in the preseason, but it's the most significant storyline for this team heading into the season. I have little doubt that Tom Clements will handle the job seamlessly, particularly since Aaron Rodgers is afforded significant input as he steps up to the line before each play. But McCarthy will need to figure out what to do during the game. How much to communicate with Dom Capers and Ron Zook. The preseason should allow him to start to get comfortable in his new gamely shoes.

2. Special Teams. Speaking of Zook, he takes over a unit that finished dead last in the league last year and was singularly responsible for the loss in Seattle. Is Zook up to the challenge? I have my doubts. What I don't doubt is that each unit will look significantly different from a year ago. There's a competition at punter (update: Packers cut Mandell on Monday) and rookie Ty Montgomery will look to secure the kick returner position. The Packers are younger at key special teams positions like the secondary, LB and WR. The preseason will provide much needed reps as the four units start to come together.

3. Raji's Return. Don't know how much he'll play, but BJ Raji's return from injury should bolster the defensive line this season. He's playing for a contract and all reports out of Titletown indicate that he looks good and is hungry (I mean look at him, of course he's hungry). With a couple of line mates suspended for the first game or two, Raji will be counted on to complement Mike Daniels and fortify the defense's front line. Looking forward to watch the big man shake off the rust.

4. The wide receiver battle, after the top three. It's probably safe to say third round pick Montgomery will be the #4 receiver, but what happens after that? We all thought second year guys Janis and Abbrederis would step up and claim their roster spots, but so fat that has not happened. With the starters likely to get very little action, those two guys need to start making plays. Right now, Myles White is the #5 guy. But he plays mostly inside like Cobb and Montgomery, so Janis or one of the underrated guys has a chance to earn an outside spot. Can't see the team carrying six unless a couple of guys really step up in the next month. That means a bunch of guys could be fighting for one roster spot, barring injury.

5. Tolzien's Command. For the first time, Scott Tolzien enters a season as the unquestioned backup. Since Rodgers is no lock to get through 16 games unscathed, Tolzien needs to show that he's ready to prove he's a worthy understudy to the MVP. He's been with McCarthy for enough time that progress needs to be evident. He'll get plenty of playing time in the preseason to show us. Rookie Brett Hundley and Matt Blanchard will also see duty, but Hundley sounds like he's nowhere near ready. Blanchard will likely outplay him and earn a roster spot somewhere else.

6. The Rookie Corners. Let's face it, most of us watch preseason games to see the rookies for the first time. When the season ends, we gear up for the draft and then once the team has its new players and we hear all about what they can do, we want to see for ourselves. The Pack's first two picks are guys with not a ton of experience at cornerback, so we should get a good long look at Damarius Randall and Quentin Rollins. Randall looks like he'll step into the dime corner spot, which means he's an injury away from being on the field about half the time. Since he was drafted, we've heard he has a nose for the ball--I'm looking forward to seeing how he holds up. Rollins likely won't be counted on much this season, but these four games will be huge for a guy who two years ago played basketball only in college.

7. The Linebacker Mess. Injuries have hit the outside linebacker position. What? Nick Perry and Mike Neal are hurt? Shocking. Clay Matthews' knee is also a concern, though we should hear more about that as the week goes on. It's likely all three will miss the preseason opener, so we'll see a lot from Andy Mulumba (back from the ACL), Jayrone Elliott and Adrian Hubbard. With the starters' injury history, there's a real opportunity for one or two of them, if they can be productive. On the inside, the Packers list Sam Barrington and Nate Palmer (!) as the starters. We know Matthews will be inside a lot in base coverage as well, but they need to show something, with rookie Jake Ryan lurking behind them, along with Carl Bradford, Josh Francis and Joe Thomas. The depth chart inside could be kind of volatile over the next four weeks.

8. Brett Hundley. OK, as I said earlier, he appears to be miles away from being ready to run an offense. But the most surprising move the Pack made on draft weekend was trading up for the former UCLA QB, a guy who some thought would be a first round pick a year or two ago. I don't know how much time he'll get in the first game, but I want to see what he looks like. A couple of years of tutoring from McCarthy, Alex Van Pelt and Rodgers could do wonders. His athletic ability is off the charts and he appears to be an eager learner. A nice combination.

9. Year Two for Richard Rodgers. It's trendy to say the Pack is rock solid in 10 of the 11 offensive positions, but the tight end is a black hole. Rodgers has a chance in the preseason to remind folks that he's just getting started and is feeling a lot more comfortable in his second season. He is earning Aaron Rodgers' trust in the red zone and with Andrew Quarless' potential suspension looming, he could have a much more productive season than most predict. With defenses trying to account for Lacy, Nelson, Cobb and Adams, Rodgers will have a chance to make a lot of plays. The preseason is a good time to give him reps and get him the ball.

10. The Rise of Rip. One of the interesting roster battles may come down to Pro Bowl FB and fan favorite John Kuhn vs. rookie Aaron Ripkowski. The team could end up keeping both, if they don't keep three tailbacks. But Ripkowski has an opportunity to be on the receiving end of the passing of the torch if he can show off his blocking abilities in the preseason. He's off to a slow start, but should get ample opportunities, starting Thursday night to show he belongs.

Now, for those wondering, "Packer Preview" returns for a 20th season on KFAN on Sunday, September 13th from 7-8am (and podcastable at kfan.com and iTunes). Also we will have a Packer viewing party on Sunday, August 23rd at the Park Tavern in St. Louis Park to watch the Pack against the Steelers at noon. Hope to see some of you there.

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Comments (7):

The thing to most look forward to is all the camo and FUPAs in the stands

on August 10th, 2015 at 02:37pm

1. McCarthy not calling plays gives you a chance, given he was the one who called run after run in the 2nd half of that Seattle game. 2. Zook? LOL, I'm sure a failure in college football will succeed in the pros. 3. Last time Raji was playing for a contract (2013) he had his worst season. 4. Adams is very over-rated 5. Tolzien the unquestioned backup? That game he had for you guys a couple years ago against Phili must have been what sealed the deal, eh? 6. Replacing big $ CB's like Tramon/House with safeties and basketball players. Sounds like it should work.... 7. Audie Cole would by far be your best ILB. My God........ 8. Nothing like trading up for a guy whose contract will be up before you need a new starter. Nice one TT. 9. Bostick > Richie Rodgers 10. Lacy is fat enough to be his own fullback

on August 10th, 2015 at 12:52pm

11. What I'll be looking forward to is more uninformed drivel from Cane, who can't back up 90% of what he spews out. More of the same-o, same-o. Should be fun!!!

on August 14th, 2015 at 10:04am

well boys, I waited a week, wondering where OSSG and Packerlifer,and Lynndickey guy's thoughts are this week. everyone is on vacation I bet. I am a little disappointed Dave I never got any rube cred on picking , Ripkowski,before draft, and saying I wanted Diggs and Locket who returned a 103 yd.kickoff already for seattle and Diggs was 1/2 yard away from doing a punt return. maybe someday you guys will realize sometimes I do know my football.for those who think I make it up, look at the april 22nd predictions blog. I sure hope they TT was right on Montgomery, he is the talk of training camp so far.. Ryan looked good so far MLB, hope he starts. TT made steal of draft on CB Rollins, he is just a football player and has great hand Eye coordination.almost had a pick in 1st game. vikes lose loadholt, still will win 10 games and will be 3rd in division behind Pack and Lions. Packer should win 12 if most stay healthy. another great year to look forward too. we are spoiled. GO Pack.

on August 16th, 2015 at 10:39am

Although would have liked to see them get into the end zone early, I though the offense played well. Tolzien looks like he is ready to take over the back up position.

on August 17th, 2015 at 01:15pm

I too will be looking for more idiotic commentary from cane. I will also be looking forward to the latest season of futility from the pathetic viqueens who once again have been anointed by their delusional fans as paper champions for the 55th straight year.

on August 18th, 2015 at 03:53pm

damn it!!! pre season I hate it, but Jordy could have done that in his backyard too. well Janis, time to step up to the limelight. he reminds me a lot of 87, not because he is white, but same body and strides, let just hope he can learn to run routes like 87 did. NO more injuries, I could hear the yelling and joy from minny all the way to my home in wisconsin, that is how they live, hoping we lose and get hurt. where are you Dave? GO Pack

on August 24th, 2015 at 07:41pm

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