Packers XLV

Top 10 Things I'll Be Watching This Preseason

Posted August 10th, 2011 @ 03:08pm

It goes without saying that the number one goal throughout the interminably long preseason schedule is to get through it without any major injuries to key players. We've already seen ten guys pop their achilles tendon and other season enders like the injury to lions rookie running back Mike LeShoure.

No one knows how much the veterans will play in these four games, so most of my attention will be on the competition for starting spots, rookies and returning injured players.

1. First look at rookie WR/PR Randall Cobb. He was on my Packer draft wish list and one of the two I guessed correctly on (along with CB Davon House). I love Cobb's versatility on the field and his obvious intelligence and understanding of the game. He will give the offense a new wrinkle and I can't wait to see how McCarthy uses him. With Jennings and Driver expected to see very little action, Cobb will line up as the #3 WR for much of the preseason.

2. New look D-line. Once again, I don't know how much we'll see of these guys, but the move of Ryan Pickett back to his natural position, nose tackle, will give B.J. Raji the chance to blossom into the star we began to see as the 2010 season wore on. Raji will play Jenkins' old spot and that should give him a chance to be more of a playmaker. Double digit sacks is possible for him this season.

3. The return of Ryan Grant. Even if his workload is limited this preseason, it will be nice to see #25 back out there.

4. The other running backs. James Starks gave us a tantalizing taste of his talents in the playoffs and I have a hunch he will emerge as the Pack's top running back as the season goes on. Rookie Alex Green looks great on tape and has a chance to grab the third down role as well as the kick returner spot. Let's see how he handles his first pro games under the bright lights.

5. Morgan Burnett: It's rare that a rookie is handed a starting spot coming out of his first preseason, but the Pack liked what they saw. An early injury ended his rookie season almost before it began and now he's fighting Charlie Peprah to reclaim his starting spot. Anxious to see if he looks 100% healthy--he'll need the full preseason to get comfortable and confident again.

6. The outside linebacker competition: It's a dogfight between Erik Walden, Frank Zombo and Brad Jones and all three should get equal opportunities with the #1 unit to see who shines. The guess here is Walden wins the job--his explosive performance against the Bears in Week 17 is still fresh in my mind.

7. Flynn and Harrell. Since Aaron Rodgers is unlikely to break a sweat, the other two guys will get most of the action. Flynn is playing these games for a possible shot at a starting job somewhere else next season. He's in the last year of his deal and if Rodgers stays healthy all season, this will be the only tape teams have to study him (besides that impressive performance at New England last season). Since Graham Harrell couldn't take advantage of McCarthy's offseason QB program, this will be his big chance to show that the Pack is covered at backup, should Flynn leave. If he's shaky, the Pack may have to go the veteran backup route, if Flynn leaves after 2011.

8. The competition for the LG spot: Rookie first round pick Derek Sherrod has the inside track early, but TJ Lang has been waiting for this chance to find a spot and I expect him to give the rook a run for his money. Whoever wins this job needs to mesh with a solid unit that is expected to do its job and allow Rodgers to work his magic.

9. The return of J-Mike: It took a while for the Pack's offense to find its sea legs after Finley went down in the Redskins game last season. He was poised for a breakout season and a chance to be an elite tight end, mentioned in the same breath as Antonio Gates, Jason Witten and Dallas Clark. Now he has his chance, in a contract year. Yes, Rodgers has lots of receiving options, but Finley represents a mismatch against most defenses--that's why he was targeted most often by Rodgers when he was on the field last season.

10. Development of Sam Shields: The emergence of Shields as a nickel back was one of the main reasons the Pack brought home the Lombardi. From undrafted rookie to dependable nickel, Shields made fans forget about Al Harris and negated a potentially thin CB position. With Woodson likely resting most, if not all of the preseason, Shields will get valuable reps at starting corner. If he and rookie House show they're up to the task, it might ease Woodson's eventual transition to safety.

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Comments (9):

part of me want to see what Harrell can do. I dream of trading Flynn away and getting something for him. Also, that way we could control where he ends up more. I would hate to see him in purple, blue or orange next year.

on August 10th, 2011 at 02:13pm

I am excited about this whole season and so thankful that the lockout has ended. My focus is seeing how much of a jump our ST's units take this year. I think Cobb is going to be electric. Imagine our already great offense starting 10 yards closer on average everytime they get the ball. If we manage the year without too many injuries, our coverage teams should be much better than last season. I am almost embarrassed that I'm this excited about a first pre-season game and yet I can't wait to watch Saturday night. Let the title defense commence. GoPack!

on August 10th, 2011 at 11:37am

Davy: Loved your Top Ten. I would add one more to make it the "Engaged Eleven" 11- All facets of the kicking game...we need big time improvement on punt and kickoff kick coverage.....hopefully some of the new additions can help there. That was a liability last year. We need solid improvement in punting and field goal kicking. Lastly....Cobb and maybe Green to improve our return game. GO PACK GO !!

on August 10th, 2011 at 12:36pm

I too can't wait for the pre-season games to begin and want to see both QB backups especially Harrell since we have a good idea about Flynn. One other thing, I live in Eagan and am looking for someplace besides Hudson to watch the preseason, does anyone know of GB friendly bars that will show these four games?

on August 11th, 2011 at 09:25am

thanks monty, im glad i wasn't the first to have a problem with the braun comemnt .there is very clearly no knowledge of what actually happened involved in this previous statement his urine sample was mishandled and the testing agency couldn't even say they were sure it was his, so braun offered a DNA test to prove if the urine sample was actually his or not which the league refused to allow; he also repeated the same test the day after he was told he tested positive and the second one was negative, etc there were so many holes and unknowns in his case and fuck ESPN for leakin that shit which has permanently stained his reputation and anyone else who doesn't actually take the time to get the facts

on May 17th, 2012 at 11:52pm

What defines a bust? Is a stveneh round pick who gets released before the start of the season a bust? How many season does a player have to have under his belt? Two, three? What about injuries. Brian Bulaga in his second season missed time because of some injuries. Is he a bust?It's funny how quickly the tides turn. A perennial playoff team, a championship, and some of the best players in he game. Such hard times we've fallen under.

on May 18th, 2012 at 09:39pm

You raelly found a way to make this whole process easier.

on May 20th, 2012 at 02:29am

Great. This years def. was going to be shitty eungoh. No worries i am sure they will find fill ins in the 6th rd, 7th rd, and UFA's. Then we will be told by TT and the coaches that they are completely happy with their roster. I trust TT for the most part, and like that he doesn't overreact, but his complete lack of any urgency bugs me. Oh well, fingers crossed for the draft. Fuck.

on May 20th, 2012 at 06:47am

They should reaclpe this roid-raging cripple with Dontari Poe from Memphis. Bigger, stronger, and hopefully he took enough steroid cycles in college that his joints will be able to handle the workload in the pros, unlike Mike where's the IR Neal. Maybe Clay Matthews should get in on the college recruiting process so GB goes after guys who already know what they're doing.

on May 20th, 2012 at 06:58am

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