The veterans don't generally enjoy the preseason.
And you can't blame them. They've got nothing to gain by performing well and everything to lose - Dustin Keller (or Desmond Bishop, for an example closer to home) can tell you that any guy out on the field is an awkward landing away from missing the season.
But with the third week of the preseason comes a different approach. The starters won't make quick cameos and then retreat to the safety of the bench. In all likelihood, Aaron Rodgers won't lead a quick drive down the field and call it a night. We'll get to watch the bubble guys, especially after halftime, but we'll also get the chance to see the big names in action. Obviously, the first objective is that everyone leaves the game without serious bumps and bruises. That aside, here are some other things that would make my Friday night a happy one.
The Packers' O-line holds up versus the Oakland defensive front.
Green Bay's front five passed a difficult task this past Saturday against the Rams, effectively pass protecting and run blocking versus one of the most dominant defensive lines in the league. While the task will probably be easier this week, do not underestimate the talent that the offensive linemen will face. Justin Tuck is coming off a double-digit sack season, and Lamarr Woodley is a very effective player when healthy. Add in rookie Khalil Mack, and this is not a group to be ignored. If the Packers can continue to give Rodgers a clean pocket and open holes for the backs, it's a sign that this offense may be reaching a new level of potency.
A safety gets an interception versus the Oakland starters.
I don't care which one it is, frankly. It could be Sean Richardson, Micah Hyde, Morgan Burnett or Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Perhaps Matt Schaub isn't an All-Pro quarterback, but it would do good things for the defense's confidence to have last year's weakest positional group come away with a pick. (It would help our confidence as fans, as well.)
Richard Rodgers makes a tough catch.
Rodgers II has had one reception this preseason. His lack of catches isn't his fault; he's been targeted only once, by Flynn on the opening drive of the Tennessee game. Reports out of practice say that he's made some contested grabs, and I want to see that ability on display, especially since he won't be burning past safeties any time soon. It could be a diving grab along the sideline a la Jordy Nelson, or perhaps a high-pointed ball in the end zone. Either way, it would bode well for a player who seems to have climbed into the driver's seat for a starting role.
Datone Jones makes a standout play.
Vic mentioned it earlier this week: it's hard for a 3-4 end to become a household name (with JJ Watt being the glaring exception.) So nobody in their right mind will expect double-digit sacks from Jones this year; at his best, he'll allow the linebackers to make plays while nabbing a few himself. It would be nice to see Jones jump out on tape versus Oakland, though, whether it's a sack, a well-executed tackle for loss or perhaps a high number of pressures and/or quarterback hits.
DuJuan Harris redeems himself.
So let's revisit the past two weeks for Harris. He was bad against Tennessee, and decent versus St. Louis save for the much-discussed fumble. While (knock on wood) he won't need to carry the load on offense, or even among the running backs, having a third back who can contribute on offense and return kicks is a great way to keep Mike McCarthy from putting starters on kick returns. Though McCarthy is more open to that this year than in the past, he's probably not all that enthusiastic about it.
With kickoff tonight, what's on your mind? Feel free to chime in below!