If you're like me, you spent most of the last week trying to forget that last Friday's game versus the Cardinals ever happened. It was an ugly game that, despite being the first preseason game of the year, raised some serious concerns. Who's the backup QB? Are the running backs who played just average? And when did Davon House morph into Ahmad Carroll minus the illegal contact penalties? Fortunately, this week brings a chance for redemption as the Packers head to St. Louis to face the Rams. It'll be a tough test particularly at certain spots that should give us a clearer picture of what to expect from the 2013 Packers. So with that in mind, here are our five things to watch for.
David Bakhtiari (again)
Really, this should probably be every game given the importance of his position. Bakhitiari faired well versus Arizona but this week he'll be matched up against Robert Quinn, the Rams' talented third-year defensive end who logged 10.5 sacks last year. If the Rams really want to test the 4th round rookie, they could send Chris Long - who might be the most underrated defensive player in the league - over to his side for a quick cup of tea. In a recent press conference, Mike McCarthy said they match Bakhitiari up with Clay Matthews ‘by design' to give him a taste of what it's like to go against an elite pass rusher. This week he could face two.
The "battle" at strong safety
I sincerely hope the cliché of "whoever wants it more" isn't in play here because right now, Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings are treating the safety spot like a game of hot potato. The conventional wisdom was that after a year in the league, McMillian's sheer talent would make up for Jennings' advantage in experience, but so far, that hasn't exactly been the case. McMillian did have a nice pass breakup last week, but neither player has really seized control. With a defense that frequently found itself with its pants down last season, the guy who's simply more assignment-sure might end up winning the job. Can we just crowd-fund Nick Collins a cybernetic neck or something? I'll chip in.
Push up the middle
Because they're the ones usually getting sacks, it's easy to harp on the linebackers (not named Clay Matthews) for failing to produce pressure on the quarterbacks. The reality is it's a two-way street. Last season we saw plenty of teams negate the pressure brought from the outside by simply creating space up the middle, allowing the quarterback to step up in the pocket. That issue is exacerbated even further with running quarterbacks like Colin Kaepernick who, in the playoffs, looked so dominant it was like he entered a cheat code in a video game. Without a consistent push up the middle, that could be more of the same this year.
Lacy. Eddie Lacy.
Unless his hamstring is still bothering him, there's no reason to think we won't get our first look at Eddie Lacy versus another professional team. All in all, I like to think about these things as rationally as possible, but I'm not going to lie. I'm freaking giddy. Like, what if he's good? Really good? Of course, he (and the offensive line) will face front lines much more stout than the likes of Johnny Jolly, C.J. Wilson and a 79-year old Ryan Pickett. But if his performance in the family night scrimmage and training camp thus far are any indicators, Lacy could give the Packers offense a dynamic they haven't had in nearly a decade. Screw it, I'm so buying an Eddie Lacy jersey tonight.
The Mike Neal experiment
The Packers have been particularly guarded with their practices this year, closing off access at one point and limiting the amount of photos and video that can be taken. This leads me to believe one thing: Dom Capers is in full-on mad scientist mode. One result of some of the more interesting things they could be trying we've already seen and that's Mike Neal at outside linebacker. At 275 lbs. (down almost 20 pounds from last year) he seems like an odd fit, but had an impressive showing during Wednesday's practice. Obviously, Capers and Co. will save the truly wacky stuff for the regular season, but moving Neal around in this game could be a sign of things to come.
More from Acme Packing Company:
- Cheese Curds: Green Bay Packers News and Links for August 16, 2013
- Packers vs. Rams: Preseason Week 2 Game Coverage
- Mike McCarthy Presser 8/15: Player Availability for St. Louis
- Packers vs. Rams: Q&A with Turf Show Times
- Donald Driver Attempts to Explain the Aaron Rodgers-Greg Jennings Situation