The Green Bay Packers begin their slate of preseason games next Thursday against the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. Over the course of the month of August, the team will also play the Pittsburgh Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints.
All four of the Packers’ opponents have legitimate playoff aspirations heading into 2015, which will hopefully provide Green Bay some stiff competition to fine tune the team and help prepare them for the regular season. Ultimately, the team’s preseason record does not have much of a bearing on how the season will play out, but what can be expected of the team as the first football games of the year approach?
Packer fans can once again count on a majority of the snaps being taken by backups who look to earn and solidify their respective roles on the team. There are a number of position battles that have yet to be resolved, and the in-game action that the preseason provides is necessary to determine who makes the final roster.
The Packers will likely use their starters very scarcely once again. Aaron Rodgers missed a combined two preseason games from 2008-2013, but sat out two in last year’s preseason alone. It is highly likely that Rodgers sees very little game action again this year, giving Scott Tolzien and Brett Hundley the opportunity to compete for the backup role.
Many other key players will likely see very little field time. Jordy Nelson is coming off of hip surgery, Josh Sitton has been held out of portions of training camp as a precaution, and Clay Matthews is a little banged up once again. But for these experienced veterans, missing out on preseason games will not hurt them in the long run.
Green Bay will be watching closely to determine a number of competitive position battles. On both offense and defense, a number of slots for both starters and reserves have yet to be determined.
On offense, Rajion Neal, John Crockett, and Alonzo Harris will split reps to determine the third string running back. Richard Rodgers will likely begin the year as the starting tight end due to Quarless’ legal issues but could use the preseason to show why he deserves the spot anyway. Ty Montgomery, Jeff Janis, Jared Abbrederis, Myles White and a number of undrafted rookies will look to fill out the remaining wide receiver spots behind Nelson, Cobb, and Adams.
On defense, there will be competitions for backups as well as some starters. With Datone Jones and Letroy Guion suspended, the defensive line for early in the season remains an open competition. Casey Hayward is the favorite to start opposite Sam Shields at cornerback, but rookies Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins, and Ladarius Gunter could emerge as potential starters. Multiple linebackers will be playing for the chance to be high on the depth chart as well.
Training camp is a big factor in determining who ends up making the team, but seeing these players in real game action can be the deciding factor between making the roster and getting shown the door. The preseason provides the opportunity for younger players to grab the attention of coaches and teammates on a much bigger stage than just practice.
The fact that the Packers face more challenging opponents this year than they did last year (when they played the Tennessee Titans, St. Louis Rams, Oakland Raiders, and Kansas City Chiefs) should hopefully help Green Bay avoid yet another slow start. It has been a major point of emphasis that Green Bay needs to be ready out of the gates, especially with a division rival and the NFC’s reigning champion on the schedule in the first two weeks.
The Packers will get the opportunity to face a ticked-off Patriots team, a Steelers’ offense that is one of the best in the league, a fast-paced and explosive offense in Philadelphia, and a Saints team looking to rebound from its sub-.500 season last year. All in all, the Packers defense is in for a tough test against four of the league’s best offenses from last season.
The overall win-loss record in the preseason will be of little consequence once the regular season rolls around. The main point of these four games is to fix the flaws that arise and determine who is worthy of a spot on the 53-man roster. With so many slots still available to be filled, the Packers should look forward to a competitive preseason from a majority of their players.——————
Sean Blashe is a Packers fan who grew up in Bears territory and is currently a journalism and history major at Marquette University. Sean is a writer with PackersTalk.com and you can follow him on twitter at @SeanBlashe .