When the Packers take the field this evening against the San Diego Chargers, a number of rookies will be thrust into the spotlight in their first NFL game action. A number of these players will be seeing substantial playing time, and are worth keeping a close eye on as the game goes on. We'll take a look at a few of these key rookies and whether they measure up.
The Blue-Chippers: Nick Perry and Jerel Worthy
These two are expected to give the biggest immediate impact of any of the rookies this season, and will be counted on to provide an instant boost to the pass-rush. Perry should see first-team reps for the first several series at left outside linebacker, while Worthy will likely rotate in with the first team in the base defense and nickel packages.
I hope to see Perry show signs that he can cover comfortably in pass defense. We haven't heard much of him in pass-rushing drills during practice, but he's been going against Bryan Bulaga, who has been a beast during training camp. Hopefully Perry will show his tools against the Chargers' right tackles, which may include Jeromey Clary and Mario Henderson. Worthy will also hopefully show some solid pass-rushing skills and provide an interior rush to complement Perry on the outside.
The Middle-Rounders: Casey Hayward and Jerron McMillian
Charles Woodson isn't likely to play tonight and Sam Shields is nursing an elbow injury suffered earlier this week. That gives Hayward and McMillian a better shot to get some snaps with the top dime package, and they will certainly see the field when the starters leave. I'll be curious to see if Hayward gets any snaps on the outside or if he remains exclusively a slot corner. McMillian will likely contribute both on defense and in special teams, and looks to be behind the Doctor for the second starting spot as nickel safety. Hopefully he'll play physically and make some noise with a big hit or two while remaining solid in coverage.
More to come after the jump.
The Late-Rounders: B.J. Coleman and Andrew Datko
Coleman looks to see most of the snaps in the second half, and his performance will likely be easy to measure. He's been inconsistent in camp, but has made a number of solid throws in the past week to give the team and coaches a little bit more confidence in him.
Datko has struggled mightily lately. He'll probably get reps at both tackle spots, especially with Marshall Newhouse out for tonight's game, but he'll need to perform better tonight than he has in the past few practices, if he wants to keep himself in the hunt for a roster spot. If another depth tackle like Shea Allard outperforms him, he'll be a long shot to make the team.
The Undrafted: Dezman Moses and Marc Tyler
These two will obviously have vastly different roles to play, but both will be put in a position to show their abilities. Moses has been a minicamp wonder, and has stood out as a young, fast playmaker from the OLB position. With Clay Matthews likely sitting out most of the game, Moses will have a chance to rotate in at the ROLB spot and rush the passer against both starter and backup competition.
Tyler, on the other hand, is thrust into duty because of injuries. Brandon Saine and Du'ane Bennett will be sitting out tonight, so Tyler takes over the role of the third-string running back behind James Starks and Alex Green. Plus, Green is still rehabilitating his torn ACL and will likely be limited in his snaps. This leaves Starks and Tyler to take the brunt of the snaps from the running back position.