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.
Now two games into the exhibition season, the Green Bay Packers can begin to identify the young players capable of stringing together good performances and those that struggle with consistency.
Last week, John Crockett made his first real impact on the passing game, catching three passes for 17 yards and a touchdown. The young tailback nearly doubled his yardage on Thursday, hauling in another four passes for 27 yards.
But Crockett's running ability will still determine whether or not he makes the Packers' 53-man roster. If the team's second preseason game serves as any indication, his skillset should keep him on the right side of the final cut.
On six carries, Crockett produced 26 yards, including a parade of broken tackles that concluded in the end zone for his second touchdown of the preseason. Through it all, Crockett's elite balance helped the second-year man stay alive and fight for extra yards. The Packers have faster backs vying for No. 3 tailback job, but Crockett seems like the best player of group so far.
Blake Martinez saw his stock rise last week despite missing a tackle early in the game against the Cleveland Browns. One performance doesn't earn a starting job, but after an even better showing on Thursday, the time to buy the hype has arrived.
Once again, Martinez's speed limitations do not seem to prevent him from reaching all corners of the field. On an early third down, he cruised from the other side of the play to tackle a Raiders ball carrier short of the sticks and force the punt. Later while playing on punt coverage, Martinez beat out his fleeter teammates to tackle the returner for a minimal gain.
Don't expect the coaching staff to make any pronouncements regarding Martinez's standing with the defense. Still, barring a significant change in his play, look for him with the starting defense when the Packers face off against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 1.
The punting competition between incumbent Tim Masthay and Peter Mortell appeared a stalemate during the opening weeks of training camp, and last week's preseason opener did little to distinguish one from the other. That may have finally changed, as Mortell dramatically outperformed Masthay against the Raiders.
Mortell punted twice on Thursday, producing two booming kicks of 58 and 56 yards while landing one inside the 20-yard line. Masthay averaged 45.7 yards on his punts, though one did fall short of 40 yards.
Perhaps as significantly in the eyes of the coaches, Mortell also held for Crosby on a field-goal attempt. While seemingly innocuous, the Packers have cut punters in the past --most recently Cody Mandell in 2015 -- for the quality of their holds on kicks. Mortell appears to have won over the staff's trust in that area, which could aid his chances of winning the competition.
After a solid first appearance last Thursday, second-round offensive tackle Jason Spriggs struggled against the Raiders. Granted, much of his work came against All-Pro pass rusher Khalil Mack, an assignment that should terrify even the most accomplished pass protector. Still, mistakes are mistakes, and Spriggs made two notable ones during the game.
Early in the second quarter, Spriggs allowed Mack to beat him outside, allowing a hit on Brett Hundley that ended the quarterback's night. Later that same drive, Mack turned the corner on Spriggs again, this time reaching home on replacement signal-caller Joe Callahan to register a sack.
Spriggs' poor showing shouldn't overshadow his strong start to the preseason. The Packers expected to use 2016 as a learning period for the young blindside protector and allow him to ascend to a starting role later on. One down performance doesn't impact those plans.
Statistically, nothing Marquise Williams did against the Raiders stands out as overly positive or negative. He attempted zero passes and ran the ball four times, barely enough to even quality of action.
Yet, the fact that Green Bay's coaching staff waited until just over eight minutes remained in the game before inserting Williams suggests that he has fallen behind in the race for No. 3 quarterback.
Callahan remains a work in progress; he continues to hesitate to pull the trigger on throws past the sticks and he relies on his legs far too much for an NFL signal-caller. Regardless, he played most of the second quarter and all of the third, more than double the playing time of Williams.
Perhaps that reverses next week against the San Francisco 49ers. But unless it does, Williams looks like a long shot to even make the Packers' practice squad.