I'm not going to lie, I felt a bit bad about the quick tour through the "5 Starters To Watch" for today. To make it up to all of you, and to myself feel better, I'm going to give all of you a bonus two backups to watch, making seven!
The backups should get an extra long chance to shine tonight. So buckle up for more of that explosive Packers second team offense. You know the one that has been lighting it up so far this year! Wait......you're saying they've been terrible? That opposing defense have actually scored more points than the second team offense in the last two games? Oh. Then prepare yourself for more of that tonight and just remember that the starting team offense is still awesome.
Really this game is the last, best chance for many guys to make the team. In the case of the guys on the Packers' roster this is doubly so since most of the moves to get the roster down to 75 included cutting injured players or moving guys to IR. Those that have stayed healthy thus far will be rewarded with an extra long chance to put some good tape together. Let's meet a few of those players....
1. Graham Harrell. You didn't think I would start anywhere else did you? Harrell has to show something tonight. Moving the offense and getting first downs is good.....getting points on the board is better. Fortunately for Harrell he's probably not playing for his job tonight. Short of an unmitigated disaster he will make the team and be the backup. The key for Harrell is avoiding said disaster and also making something positive happen. I'll really take anything at this point. Get more first downs than punts and turnovers, lead the team to multiple field goal drives, (dare I say it....) a touchdown. Just one touchdown...is that too much to ask for?
2. Tori Gurley. With all due respect to Diondre Borel and the other depth WR's, that last roster spot is going to be Tori Gurley's or no one's. Borel has done little with the offense and even less with special teams. Gurley hasn't done much either, but at least has found a way to contribute on special teams. He has even done this in a way that he could do during the season, namely, as a blocker and cover man. A big night for Gurley may allow him to push on to the roster. At the very least some good tape should help him catch on with another team. As for Borel, well a good night can help his chances (either with the Packers or elsewhere) but he still looks like a work in progress. That's not a bad thing....it's just not a this year making the roster thing.
3. Sam Shields. Shields needs to have a good night tonight more than anyone else on defense. His roster spot isn't in danger (yet), but his long term future might be. Shields has come a long way since getting back from his elbow injury, but there is a good amount of young talent at the CB position right now for the Packers and he just hasn't quite matched their level of play yet. A good night tonight can secure the dime position for him. This sort of limited action should still give him the playing time he needs but the reduced load enough for him to master his technique and even out his play.
4. Don Barclay. Someone has to snag the seventh offensive lineman spot right? Well, maybe it would be eighth technically with Derek Sherrod also figuring into the picture. We know the starting five will make it, and Evan Dietrich-Smith is pretty certain of a spot too, but that last one is up for grabs. None of the backup offensive linemen have looked too great in the games, but Barclay has quietly gotten more responsibilities and may just good enough to cut it at the NFL level. A good night tonight (at least individually) could make sneaking on the roster past seasoned vets like Reggie Wells and Sampson Genus
5. Terrell Manning. One of the most interesting discussions happening in Packer circles right now is what could happen with the LB corp. With Bishop out for the season now, D.J. Smith has to step up and be the starter. This leaves four guys fighting for two or three backup spots: Robert Francois, Brad Jones, Jamari Lattimore, and Manning. Manning has shown the least of all four of these guys but also has the most upside. A good performance tonight should secure his spot on the roster if only for the future potential that he may bring in a year or two.
6. Vic So'oto. It was the last preseason game of the year last year that gave So'oto life as a cult hero. He should get the time tonight to do the same...maybe parlay that into a roster spot. If he can't make it here some good tape should help him catch on somewhere else.
7. Jarrett Boykin. Boykin has been the lone bright spot of the second team offense. He's had some good receptions and has been consistently productive through the preseason. A strong night tonight should help him make another team's roster Chastin West style. If that doesn't happen this year then he should be able to land on the PS and make a push next year when things won't be as crowded in the WR room.
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