Packers XLV

What I'll Be Watching Tonight...

Posted August 26th, 2011 @ 02:08pm

It's week three of the preseason, the week where you get an extended look at the starters and at least one half of a legitimate game. Of course, getting dealt the Colts is like drawing a 7-2 offsuit in Texas Hold 'em. Indy doesn't care about preseason games and shows virtually nothing (remember last year's preseason demolition at Lambeau? And that was with Peyton Manning).

Dom Capers expects his unit to play three or four series and Mike McCarthy said he'll evaluate how long he'll keep the offensive starters in, sometime in the second quarter. But unlike past seasons, they will not come out and play a series in the second half.

I'm not sure how much we'll learn from tonight's game, but here are the things I'll be watching closely.

1. James Starks returns after missing last week's game. Much has been made about Ryan Grant's status this week, but after accepting a pay cut he was guaranteed a roster spot. That doesn't mean he'll be the feature back for this team. In short order, I expect Starks to earn the job, reducing Grant to "change of pace" status. Looking forward to seeing Starks get 5-10 carries in what will likely be his last significant action before the season opener in 13 days.

2. The wide receiver battle for a potential sixth roster spot should be spirited. I'll have my eyes on Chastain West and Tori Gurley, both of whom are good enough to stick and appear to be good special teams guys who could contribute right away. With Cobb and Jennings out tonight (Jennings is officially questionable with a bruised knee, but I'm guessing he sits) and Driver unlikely to get a lot of snaps, both will have a chance to showcase their WR abilities. Thompson may ultimately choose to keep only five, but these guys have a chance to make that decision tougher for him.

3. There's also a logjam at tight end, where four guys are in line behind Jermichael Finley. Rookie D.J. Williams, last year's John Mackey winner out of Arkansas, looks like he has the skills to be a future starter and seventh rounder Ryan Taylor has been a special teams standout so far. Those guys are pressing veterans Quarless and Crabtree. The team could elect to keep four this season, if they do, one of those veterans will likely be kicked to the curb. They need to play for their Packer lives tonight.

4. The young backups at inside linebacker need to step up and should get a long look in the second half. When you hear Capers throw around Sam Mills' name when talking about D.J. Smith, it makes you want to watch the kid. At 5'11" he was overlooked by most, but coaches say he's a natural in this defense. He and Robert Francois are looking to prove that the Packer braintrust was wise in letting Nick Barnett and Brandon Chillar go.

5. The nine lives of Brandon Underwood. After all of the off-field issues, he's still on the roster. And with the lingering concussion symptoms for the promising Anthony Levine, Underwood will get a chance to stake a claim to the fourth safety spot. He made the switch from cornerback and is battling only undrafted rookies right now for the fourth spot.

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Comments (4):

It's a shame we'll have to cut some really good players. I'd hate to see Gurley and West not make the team but we're stacked at WR. Not sure we have room for all the TE's either. Somebody else is going to pick up some decent ex Packers rookies.

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