I watch the preseason games intently because this is the only time I'll have a chance to evaluate many players. It's typically the only time we see extended looks from QB Matt Flynn and LB Desmond Bishop. Are any of the hidden gems that I've been reading about all offseason and training camp, guys like CB Sam Shields, really all that good when in a game situation? PackApologist wrote about several players to watch, and here's a few specific things I'll be watching.
First team offense: It won't tell me anything if they start the game with a 68 yard TD bomb, and it won't tell me anything if they struggle either. I'll be most interested in how the offensive line is playing. Will OL Bryan Bulaga start at left guard? Do the veteran tackles look healthy or are they not quite 100%?
First team defense: It'll be interesting to get a first look at rookie 3rd round SS Morgan Burnett, but it's not certain he'll be tested either. The Browns have a talented, young center in Alex Mack, so it could be a good challenge for new starting NT B.J. Raji. The pass rush might be lacking with LB Clay Matthews sidelined, but it's likely he'd have trouble against LT Joe Thomas anyway.
Special teams: It's a good opportunity to see who's the better punter - Tim Masthay or Chris Bryan? With so many players on the special teams that are likely to miss the 53-man roster, it'll be hard to tell whether there's any improvement from the return or coverage units.
Second team offense and defense: I'll be watching individual performances. There's so much chaos on these units, with make-shift groups of players thrown together for only a couple weeks, that it's not likely to look pretty. But you can see a couple plays here-and-there revealing a quality player. Unfortunately there will be more plays proving why many of them won't make the final 53-man roster.