It’s finally here! Actually here! Football is back in Green Bay for 2016 and it’s the Browns who help us christen the season. And yes, it is a lowly preseason game but we get to see so many new faces and fresh talent. It’s beyond exciting for us fans.
Now winning, while it would be a nice cherry on top, isn’t the most important thing. Staying healthy and evaluating the team is. That is why we won’t see many starters, including Aaron Rodgers. And that is part of why I’m excited. All the rookies and guys on the roster bubble get their chance to shine in front of a Lambeau crowd to start their careers. And that leads us into this season’s first addition of 3…2…1…
For those of you who didn’t read here last year, the 3…2…1… series is a countdown of things the team needs to do to win. I highlight 3 key matchups, 2 bold predictions, and 1 key stat. Since it’s the preseason, I’m tweaking it a little bit and if I like the tweaks, it might carry over into the regular season. So today we will have 3 key players to watch tonight instead of matchups, and 2 bold predictions staying, with 1 key stat. Let’s just get right into it now.
3 KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH
- Blake Martinez
Martinez is an intriguing rookie. Only a mid-round pick, he has been entrusted with a lot of responsibility already. Wearing the communication helmet after only a couple weeks of camp says a lot of what Dom Capers thinks of him and where he is at in his development. He has shown in practice that he has the potential to be a starting ILB in the NFL. Now comes the time to prove it and step up as the guy in the middle in a game. He’ll be fascinating to watch as he directs traffic during the game.
- Jeff Janis
Janis has gotten the reputation now of the receiver who is better in games than in practices. And we all hope that it is true, because the folk hero of the internet Packer fandom has been poor at best in practices. He has continued to struggle with routes and at times adjusts poorly to throws, leading to breakups and interceptions. His spot on the team should be secure thanks to special teams but he needs to really wow us with his receiving skills if he is to be anything more.
- Nick Perry
Perry is probably the most maligned high pick of Ted Thompson since he took over as GM. He doesn’t have the numbers we all expected of him and he has at times disappeared from games. But in the playoffs he was downright dominant and showed the potential that Ted saw at USC. He is back on a one-year contract and now has to prove his worth. The big thing here is that we’ll actually see him in the first preseason game as he is healthy for the first time in his career in camp. Look for him to step up as a starter-caliber linebacker early on.
2 BOLD PREDICTIONS
- Geronimo Allison scores at least 1 touchdown
Allison has been a star in camp, drawing praise from Aaron Rodgers in national interviews and wowing fans at least once per day with his body control and hands. A big target, Allison is built for the red zone like Anquan Boldin. He will get a lot of opportunities tonight and may have a chance to build a case for the roster. He has outshone Trevor Davis and Janis for sure so far in camp, which is really helping him. I think he scores early in the game and may get a second later in the first half.
- The Defense forces at least 3 turnovers and records at least 5 sacks.
The Browns aren’t a good team. We all know that. They are going into the season with Robert Griffin III as the starting quarterback with little depth besides Josh McCown behind him. And their backups are poor right now as they rebuild. That should allow the Packers backup defense to wreak havoc. Think of the guys Cleveland’s bench will be facing: Datone Jones, Nick Perry, Quinten Rollins, Kenny Clark, Micah Hyde, LaDarius Gunter, and more. I think the team gets sacks from Jones, Perry, Dean Lowry, Carl Bradford, and Kyler Fackrell, with Perry’s being a fumble recovered by Clark. And to top it off, Kentrell Brice and Gunter will get interceptions to top I off.
1 KEY STAT
- Pre-Snap Penalties
Mike McCarthy has made it known early on that the penalties have been too high in practice, especially pre-snap penalties. With so many young guys that it to be expected. But still with all these youngsters out there in their first NFL action at Lambeau Field, expect some jitters and some jumps offside but after the early portions of the game, it needs to drop down dramatically. Coach McCarthy has little tolerance for mental errors.
Mike Wendlandt is originally from Iola, Wisconsin and graduated from Drake University in 2015 with a degree in History. With a significant journalism background both in writing and broadcasting, Mike can be heard as the play-by-play voice of Central Wisconsin High School sports on WDUX FM 92.7 and on Twitter @MikeWendlandt.
Mike Wendlandt is a writer covering the Green Bay Packers for PackersTalk.com.