It's finally here. Football is back.
Well, maybe not football that counts but hey it's still football!
The Green Bay Packers open their 2017 preseason tonight at home against the Philadelphia Eagles. With quarterback Aaron Rodgers not playing and many other entrenched starters likely to join him, this is the first opportunity those fighting for a roster spot to show what they have.
Here are five things to watch for tonight as the Packers face the Eagles:
-The backup quarterbacks
With Rodgers not starting, this is the first chance backup Brett Hundley will get to audition for a starting job elsewhere in the NFL.
After a brilliant rookie preseason campaign in 2015, Hundley spent last August dogged by injuries and unable to fully demonstrate if he made the year one to year two jump NFL coaches want to see in quarterbacks. This year he's healthy and ready to make a statement.
Hundley won't be the only quarterback worth watching, however. Joe Callahan earned rave reviews last preseason before being cut and later returning to the Packers. It will be interesting to see how he does with a full year in the offense under his belt. Rookie Taysom Hill will see his first NFL action and could challenge Callahan for the quarterback spot on the practice squad..
The Achilles heel of the 2016 Packers makes its debut tonight. We will finally get to see rookies Kevin King and Josh Jones in live action with expectations plenty high for both.
Veterans Damarious Randall and Quentin Rollins also will be out to prove that their poor sophomore campaigns were results of injuries and not indicative of their true potential.
They will face a test in rising star quarterback Carson Wentz and receiver Alshon Jeffery who gave Green Bay occasional fits as a member of the rival Chicago Bears.
It might only be a preseason game, but the road to redemption for the secondary begins tonight.
-The wide receivers
Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams are safe but it's a shootout for the spots behind them.
Will Geronimo Allison continue to emerge and can Jeff Janis finally show some growth as a pass catcher? Or will rookies DeAngelo Yancey and Malachi Dupre steal the show?
Don't forget camp star Michael Clark, either. He's made several stand out plays in practice and those have carried players like Allison and Jarett Boykin onto the active roster in the past.
-The inside linebackers
Blake Martinez and Jake Ryan return as the official incumbents, but Jones and Morgan Burnett also have been getting some time at the spot in practice.
The idea is bring some versatility to a position that has been lacking it in the past for the Packers. Placing one of the safeties there in the "Nitro" package will be one of the big things to watch from the defense as the season progresses.
You know your team is in good shape when the punter is someone to watch in the preseason opener.
No disrespect to Vogel, of course. He's impressed in camp and at family night and one or two strong performances in the first two preseason games could be enough for him to put the job on lockdown