Say it with me, people:
After weeks of anxiously awaiting his return, the Packers have finally activated Jordy Nelson off the PUP. This was somewhat expected, but man does it feel good to see #87 as an active member of the Packers roster again.
That being said, we definitely will not be seeing Nelson tomorrow night when the Oakland Raiders come to town, led by Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper. Due in large part to that preseason injury Nelson suffered last year, the Packers have taken a conservative approach with all of their stars this season. As such, both Rodgers and Cobb are expected to sit out a second straight game. Aside from just keeping the veterans healthy though, this will also allow coaches to take a longer look at the team’s young talent, and against stiffer competition than what Cleveland offered last week.
The 2016 Preseason was supposed to be Brett Hundley’s time to shine, but a combination of factors (re: ankle injury; paint) have delayed his debut a few weeks. Now that Hundley’s healthy, head coach Mike McCarthy has said he will return and play “a bunch” this week. My best guess is he will play the entire first half, with Joe Callahan and Marquise Williams splitting the second. This is huge not just for his own development, but perhaps more importantly for the young receivers who weren’t able to showcase much last week with two unpolished QB’s playing the entire game.
While some fans may not want to hear this, the hand injury that will sideline Jeff Janis for the next month could prove to be a blessing in disguise for an offense searching for game-ready wideouts. The receivers group has become crowded with guys playing well in camp who need more reps, led by Jared Abbrederis and Geronimo Allison, and Janis had fallen drastically behind them even before getting hurt. Coaches have been testing the versatility of Abbrederis early in camp, and he should get more punt return looks after an electric return vs Cleveland last week. Ty Montgomery will likely see an increase in snaps after shaking off the PUP rust last week as well. And with Janis no longer breathing down his neck, Davante Adams would do well to make some plays and build some confidence after not drawing a target last week.
Eddie Lacy broke a few tackles in a solid debut last week, but it was Brandon Burks who looked the most explosive in Green Bay’s backfield. If he keeps this up, he could threaten to steal John Crockett’s spot on the 53-man roster. Aside from Lacy successfully handling four consecutive touches and not needing to get carted off the field, the biggest relief had to be the performance of Jason Spriggs, who held up extremely well in pass protection in his rookie debut. It will be interesting to see if he gets some valuable reps against the All-Pro caliber Mack to gauge how NFL-ready he really is.
We’ll start in the trenches here where Kenny Clark has gotten his career off to a solid start. He played with tremendous leverage and strong hands vs. Cleveland, but Oakland’s top-tier offensive line will be a much better measuring stick for where he stands. Christian Ringo displayed excellent quickness himself when he took down Cody Kessler for a safety last week, and could solidify a roster spot with another strong performance Thursday night.
Datone Jones might’ve had the most impressive night of all however, looking like a new man in his new OLB role and showing off tremendous burst and power off the edge. This game will be a good barometer for him as well as he continues to adjust to his new position. You also can’t help but feel good for Carl Bradford, who was all over the field making bone crunching tackles last week. It seems something may have finally clicked for him in his third season after initially struggling mightily with the transition from pass-rushing OLB in college to ILB in Green Bay. If he can prove last week wasn’t a fluke going forward, he may earn himself a surprising roster spot. Blake Martinez looked bad on a missed tackle, but was very solid overall vs. Cleveland and truly looks the part as a potential 3-down ILB.
Expectations are high for second year corners Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins, and cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt further upped the ante for this game after calling out the entire group for not stepping up enough around Sam Shields. You may remember the pair making a few plays in Oakland last season, and they’ll be looking to make their mark with a few more tomorrow night. I mentioned Kentrell Brice’s name in my post last week, and he was consistently around the ball vs. Cleveland. He could be ticketed for the practice squad, and maybe more, if he continues his strong play.
As is usual with the preseason, the Packers’ primary goal will be to get out of this game healthy. But with the regular season rapidly approaching and Brett Hundley back under center, look for the offense to come out sharp and focused in this game. Also, did I mention that Jordy Nelson is off the PUP? I did? Well, here’s a GIF of him roasting Darelle Revis any way to celebrate. Enjoy!