As long as the Lambeau Field grounds crew doesn’t decide to apply some paint to the turf tomorrow, the Green Bay Packers should actually get their 2016 preseason schedule underway on Friday night with a home game against the Cleveland Browns.
With another handful of practices behind us and a few new players coming off the Physically Unable to Perform list, this week’s five players to watch have changed quite a bit. We also got our first look at the team’s depth chart, and a few of the more intriguing items there have us curious about some players’ positions.
Here are our five Packers to watch on Friday night, with a bonus sixth player (a Brown) thrown in for good measure.
WR Geronimo Allison
Allison has been the most impressive rookie wide receiver over the past week-plus, eclipsing even fifth-round pick Trevor Davis. Although Davis’ draft status and pure speed has had most who cover the Packers assuming that he is a lock for the roster, Allison’s play in practice is calling that into question. If he continues to impress in game action, look for this to be a full-fledged battle for a possible spot on the 53.
TE Jared Cook
The Packers’ biggest free agent acquisition since Julius Peppers came off the PUP list on Tuesday and dominated the team’s two open practices this week. Mike McCarthy said the reps he received were in an effort to get him ready to play, so he should suit up, and this will be Packers fans’ first look at Cook in live contact.
LB Blake Martinez
We mentioned Martinez in this space before last week’s Hall of Fame Game debacle; we expected him to start with Sam Barrington out, but now Barrington has returned from the PUP list but Jake Ryan is banged up with a hamstring issue. That means Martinez should still get work with the starters, which will help the team evaluate his performance against the run in addition to sub packages.
DT Kenny Clark
APC expects Clark to be the day-one starter at nose tackle, but for now the Packers’ depth chart has him listed as the second-string tackle behind Mike Daniels. That means little for now, but we will be curious to see how many positions - and which ones - Clark plays over the course of his first preseason game.
OLB Datone Jones
Jones’ transition from base end to linebacker is complete, a la Mike Neal, and he was one of the better players on Family Night about two weeks ago. Since Julius Peppers will likely sit on Friday and Clay Matthews probably will not play much, Jones should have plenty of opportunity to demonstrate why the move was a good one for him and that he can play in space at his lighter weight.
BONUS 6th player: Browns OLB Joe Schobert
For Schobert, a Wakuesha, Wisconsin native and former Wisconsin Badgers linebacker, it will be a homecoming of sorts as he gets to play his first NFL snaps in his home state. APC talked to Schobert at the Scouting Combine, and he called playing at Lambeau Field “every Wisconsin kid’s dream.” For Badgers fans, it should be fun to see the former walk-on line up as a professional for the first time.