Are you ready for some football? Like, actual running and tackling and coaches yelling at referees kind of football? Good, because it starts tomorrow night with the Packers taking on the Cardinals. Sure it's the preseason where only like four offensive plays are run, but still. Football. Since the Packers are another few injuries away from pulling guys sitting at Curly's Pub to fill in, we likely won't see the starters for more than a series or two. But there a few things to watch for. They are:
Perhaps no other player will have the spotlight on him more than the rookie 4th rounder now tasked with protecting the team's most valuable asset. No big whoop, right? He won't see any exotic blitz packages, but the Cardinals pose a real test defensively. They're a physical bunch that despite a shoddy team record, ranked 5th against the run last year and 6th in Football Outsider's Defensive Efficiency. With free agents Karlos Dansby and John Abraham added to the mix, we should see early on whether Bakhtiari's training camp success translates to live fire.
In last year's preseason opener Rodgers actually played the entire first quarter. I doubt that'll happen again but if the offense fails to establish a rhythm like they so often appeared to do last year, Rodgers might see more action than the customary one-and-done. Though the offense produced at a stellar level last year, the addition of new wide receivers and running backs (as well as the offensive line shift) will likely cause some initial hiccups in terms of cohesion.
The young Wide Receivers
Providing they're healthy for the regular season opener, the starting three receivers are set in stone. That leaves a fourth and fifth slot open. Promising rookies Kevin Dorsey and Charles Johnson (sadface) are out, but there are others who have stepped up. Jeremy Ross seems to have established a good chemistry with Rodgers and Jarrett Boykin appears to be a bit more comfortable in the offense than last year. Between those two and rookies Tyrone Walker (whose caught everything in sight) and Myles White (who hasn't, but can run like hell) there's going to be some tough competition for WR.
‘Dem fundamentals on defense
I for one am more excited about the defense than I've been for a long time. Datone Jones looks legit. Jolly's off the purple drank. Nick Perry is healthy. Even some of the young corners like Micah Hyde and James Nixon have performed really well in camp. But too often last year, defenders were either completely out of position or when they were in position, going for the highlight reel hit as opposed to bringing the ball carrier to the ground (I'm pointing at your Morgan Burnett). Also, remember when the Packers defenders used to rip the ball out for fumbles? That was neat.
This is really a two parter. On one side, the Packers need a kick returner who's at least reliable, if not as dynamic as Randall Cobb. Jonathan Franklin and Jeremy Ross will have first crack at unseating Cobb and I think I speak for most fans when I say that for the sake of Cobb's health - I hope they succeed. The other battle to watch tomorrow will be at kicker. Not only did Mason Crosby miss a ton of kicks last year, but half of them looked like a Co2 cartridge blew up midway through the air. His challenger, Giorgio Tavecchio thus far, has bested Crosby in camp both in name appeal (I fully expect if he wins the job to be the jersey of choice for 90% of women) and in accuracy. Maybe Crosby's only hope to keep his job is to flash his superior kicking power by booting a few 60+ yarders. Oddly enough, I wouldn't put it past him.
More from Acme Packing Company:
- Observations from the First Two Weeks of Packers Training Camp
- McCarthy Presser 8/8: Packers Gearing up for Preseason Opener
- Packers vs. Cardinals: Q&A with Revenge of the Birds
- Lambeau Field to host Wisconsin Badgers and LSU Tigers to Open 2016 Season
- Pro Football HOF Induction: A Look at Dave Robinson's NFL Career