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Preseason Preview: Packers at Seahawks

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It's not exactly clear who is going to play for the Green Bay Packers on Saturday night. According to the Press-Gazette, 18 players were held out from Thursday's practice. Of those 18, some have missed all of training camp (SS Atari Bigby, CB Al Harris, RB James Starks), some were hurt in the first preseason game (RB Kregg Lumpkin), and some veterans were just allowed to sit out (CB Charles Woodson and WR Donald Driver). The Journal-Sentinel reported that Driver and Woodson are certain to have the night off, but neither is injured.

Last week, I really wanted the first team defense to take another shot at stopping QB Jake Delhomme, but he came out after the opening TD drive. It's not important, but I'd still like to see them shut down the Seahawks first team offense as a matter of pride. One thing the first team defense does have to prove is that they can generate a pass rush without LB Clay Matthews (who's still recovering from a hamstring injury). Unfortunately the Seahawks have issues with pass protection, and might not be a good measure of the defense's effectiveness.

QB Aaron Rodgers should have another near perfect night. The Seahawks secondary had trouble holding up against QB Vince Young last week (who went 5 for 6 but did throw an INT). Their secondary is coming off a poor 2009 season, but I doubt they're doing much to disguise their coverage schemes in the preseason.

Here are some players I'll be watching:

WR James Jones. I was really down on him at the start of the 2009 season, but he did finish the season strong. I expected WR Jordy Nelson would overtake him on the depth chart, but instead Jones looked great, grabbing hard to reach balls and getting open in the middle of the field. Will he have another strong game?

S Morgan Burnett. The rookie played like a rookie, taking some bad angles and missing tackles on a couple of big plays for the Browns. He has to show some improvement, or it's time to start asking whether S Derrick Martin or S Charlie Peprah are legitimate starting options until Bigby returns.

DE Mike Neal. He showed off some of his strength and created an inside push on passing downs during the first preseason game. Can he show an inside pass move that can register a QB sack? 

CB Brandon Underwood. He was picked on during the opening TD drive, but he played very well thereafter. He's certainly improved since this time last year. I'd just like to see that he truly deserves the nickel CB job.

LT Marshall Newhouse. I've been unimpressed with him. Right now I don't see how he makes the 53-man roster. RT Breno Giacomini is in a similar situation, but he looks good on most plays before he gets beat on one or two plays per game. It looks like Newhouse is getting beaten constantly.

A punt/kick returner who can hold onto the ball. CB Sam Shields might have a shot at becoming a gunner or a decent CB prospect, which could earn him a spot on the 53-man roster, but he dropped two returns in the first game. That might be excusable, but he's been struggling to hang onto the ball throughout the offseason and training camp practices. It's time to give someone else a chance.

Special teams return coverage. It's only been one game, and there are a lot of different players on special teams right now, but they looked awful. The special teams unit doesn't look any better than it did in 2009.

Nearly every other player who still has to earn a roster spot. There are several returning players who have to prove they deserve to keep their roster spot, and nearly 30 other players trying to take that spot away from them. I'm sure I haven't mentioned everyone who needs to have a big game at some point this preseason to earn a roster spot.