Though the preseason games represent just one part of the evaluation process, they provide the biggest and best stage for those working towards a bigger role or even just a roster spot. The competition for jobs creates a game-like atmosphere, and teams can test the mettle of unproven players.
Though not everything went right for the Green Bay Packers on Friday, they had more than their fair share of encouraging performances on both sides of the ball.
Datone Jones' move from the interior defensive line to outside linebacker has garnered plenty of attention this offseason. Though one game cannot make or break his transition, the early returns look very positive. Lining up mostly off the edge -- though he did move inside as a down lineman at times in some sub packages -- Jones repeatedly penetrated the backfield and pressured the quarterback. He even notched a sack late in the second quarter. With Mike Neal unlikely to return to Green Bay, Jones has a tremendous opportunity ahead of him if he can maintain his fast start.
As the Packers' leading receiver from Friday's game, Justin Perillo certainly stood out in the stat sheet. However, he displayed much more than the numbers suggest, regularly creating separation from coverage and making three receptions to move the chains. On the occasions he found himself with a defender on his hip, Perillo still reeled in his targets. With the Top 2 spots at tight end seemingly locked down by Jared Cook and Richard Rodgers in some order, Perillo appears to have distanced himself from the rest in the race for the No. 3 job.
This training camp, second-year tailback John Crocket made improving his pass catching a focal point. Crockett caught few passes in college (43 receptions over three seasons) and none during his first season with the Packers. With Eddie Lacy and James Starks entrenched atop the depth chart, Crockett determined that by becoming a more versatile weapon out of the backfield, he could carve out a niche for himself in the offense.
On Friday, he revealed the fruits of his labor. The reserve running back caught three passes for 17 yards and a touchdown. If not for missed blocking assignments on screens, he could have produced much more. Though other backup running backs had decent nights, none outshined Crockett.
As a fourth-round pick, Blake Martinez likely didn't envision working so heavily with the No. 1 defense during his first preseason contest. Yet, with Sam Barrington sidelined until just this week, he managed not only to break in with the top unit, but shine when given the opportunity. Martinez made mistakes in his debut, like the tackle he missed early in the first quarter, but he demonstrated good discipline and better-than-expected pass-rushing ability, knocking down Robert Griffin III to blow up a play. Barrington should get his opportunity to make this a tighter race over the next few weeks, but Martinez holds a decisive early advantage.