The Packers kick off their third preseason game of 2014 this Friday against a team that on paper, looks a lot like a fantasy football roster from 2009. There's Justin Tuck, Maurice Jones-Drew and former Packers great, Charles Woodson. Hell, there's even Matt Schaub, who, holy crap have you seen Matt Schaub lately? It's nice to know that even though the Raiders players barely resemble their former selves in terms of talent, Schaub is still keeping with his storied tradition of incredibly awkward photos. Way to keep it going, Matt. On the field, this is the kinda-more-important-but-still-pretty-meaningless penultimate preseason game, meaning we should get a look at the starters for a bit longer. Wondering what to keep an eye on besides James Jones looking sad? Here are 5 things:
THE AARON RODGERS DEATH GLARE
There are plenty of reasons to be excited about the potential of the passing game, but it's important to remember that aside from Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, the Packers crop of receivers are young. Real young. There's already been a few instances of Rodgers shooting laserbeam eyes at Jeff Janis for poor routes. And while Davante Adams and Richard Rodgers might be a bit more polished, they're still going to make mistakes. With Aaron Rodgers expected to get extended playing time this Friday, it'll be important for everyone to get in sync before the season's kickoff which, lest we forget - is against the league's stingiest pass defense.
PLAYERS KNOCKING ON THE DOOR
If there's one game that Mike McCarthy can use to gauge how some of the players further down on the depth chart fare against starting-caliber talent, this is it. And while nothing at this point is bound to impact who starts Week 1, it should be a sign of just how comfortable those starters should be at their positions. Based on some of the play so far by Jayrone Elliott, Mike Pennel, Adrian Hubbard and Sam Barrington (among others) the answer should be - not very.
Here's a little game to play to make the preseason a bit more interesting - create a drinking game in which every time the announcers use the term, "vanilla defense" you take a drink. You'll be drunker than someone who thought Colt Lyerla was winning rookie of the year. But while Capers won't be deploying any exotic schemes (another good one) it stands to reason that the defense will have to show at least glimpses of what's in store. Considering how "creative" McCarthy has said he wants to get on defense this year, it might be necessary to show even more than that before the real games start.
THE EMPTY HUSK FORMERLY KNOWN AS NICK PERRY
I know, I know. People love Nick Perry. He's strong, he's physical, he's got a good smile and he once nursed a unicorn's broken leg back to health. Speaking of health, that's one thing Nick Perry hasn't had. He spent the entire off-season rehabbing from surgery and thus far in preseason, has been pretty much invisible. That's not to say anyone should give up on Perry. The coaching staff clearly hasn't and when he has been healthy, he's actually been decently productive. Still, this is a team suddenly carrying lots of talented players vying for the outside linebacker position. If Nick Perry wants to keep his spot, he'll have to prove he's the best one for it.
THE FIRST TEN (OR SO) PLAYS ON OFFENSE
The same "vanilla" rules apply here as well but that's more for the latter parts of the game on offense. Starting out, I'm interested to see how things are scripted. We all saw what happened to the Broncos when they went down early to the Seahawks in the Super Bowl. If the Packers want to avoid a similar curb stomping, they'll need to establish at least some offensive rhythm (if not outright points) early on. And while the Packers aren't likely to give away too much in those opening few series, their tempo, play selection and a formation or two should be signs of what to expect come September 4th.