Football is finally back, folks. Granted it’s only a preseason game, but when you’re a fan of the Green Bay Packers there is no such thing as meaningless football. After what occurred last season however, you’ll be forgiven if you’re less than excited about the Packers getting dealt an extra preseason game this year due to Brett Favre’s Hall of Fame induction. Still, this is our first opportunity to get a glimpse of the young players who will be expected to step up in 2016, which is exciting nonetheless.
Chuck Pagano has already confirmed all the starters will be playing for the Colts, which means we’ll be seeing at least one series of Andrew Luck. McCarthy has yet to make any similar proclamations, but at this point it is safe to assume we will not see any of the players currently on the PUP list – Ty Montgomery, Jared Cook, Corey Linsley, and Sam Barrington. Of course, that means we’ll have to wait at least another week for the return of Jordy Nelson as well (which is totally fine by me).
Irrespective of whether Nelson plays though, all eyes will be on the receivers as the search for a reliable #3 wideout continues. The early favorite for the job is likely Davante Adams, though his struggles with drops have continued this summer. I don’t need to tell you that Jeff Janis is another option, though he has had struggles of his own this offseason, and it is possible Jared Abbrederis has earned the right over both of them with his great start in training camp. I will also be eager to see how Trevor Davis handles his first test with physical NFL-caliber man coverage, and possibly punt return duties as well. UDFA Geronimo Allison has turned some heads early in camp, and will be another player to watch in this one.
This will also be our first look at a post-P90x Eddie Lacy. In a contract season, we can finally expect to see him hungry for all the right reasons (I promise that’s the last joke I’ll make on that topic this season. Maybe). He will also be running behind a new fullback, as Aaron Ripkowski assumes the role that John Kuhn filled so admirably for 8 seasons. A slimmed down Richard Rodgers will also be looking to flash some more play-making ability after reportedly shedding 17 pounds in the offseason.
Get ready to see plenty of Brett Hundley at QB, who will look to pick up where he left off last preseason when he completed 45 of 65 passes (69%) for 630 yards, 7 TDs, & 1 interception, good for a QB rating of 129.6. Hundley posted a lot of those numbers against third stringers, so it will be interesting to see if he can keep that up against second (and possibly even first) stringers this year. Protecting his blind-side for much of this game will be second round pick Jason Spriggs, who will be counted on as the top reserve swing tackle for Rodgers this season.
On Defense, the front seven is where things are really interesting. Jayrone Elliott would’ve likely been the team’s preseason defensive MVP last season (if such a thing existed) with his 4 sacks, and will hope to build on that success. Kenny Clark will get his first chance to prove he can hold his own in the trenches despite being only 21 years old. Blake Martinez will likely get the starting nod at ILB alongside Jake Ryan with Barrington sidelined, and the duo will hope to assure coaches that Matthews will not need to spend any more time inside. Datone Jones will also look to get more comfortable with his new OLB/elephant-rusher role. And although it was flagged, I’m sure Luck will be hoping Nick Perry doesn’t put another hit on him like this one from a few years ago:
While Damarious Randall will likely open as the starting CB opposite Sam Shields, it will be interesting to see whether he or Quinten Rollins slides inside to take over Nickel coverage duties for the departed Casey Hayward. Ladarius Gunter is the early favorite for the #4 corner, as he’s gotten glowing reviews from DBs coach Joe Whitt all summer, but Robertson Daniel has flashed some skills as well. One UDFA I’m excited to see is safety Kentrell Brice, who is hoping his eye-popping measurables (4.38 40-yard dash and 42″ vertical) translate onto the field.
Who will emerge as the #3 wide-out opposite Nelson? Can Kenny Clark handle double teams in the NFL? Are the ILB woes finally solved? These are just some of the questions facing the 2016 Packers that we’ll hopefully get some answers to on Sunday night.