Thursday’s matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers could be our first glimpse at the Green Bay Packers’ starting offense in 2018. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers said earlier in the week that he expects to play, but the team would only let the happen if his blindside protector, David Bakhtiari, is able to return from injury. Bakhtiari practiced with the first team offense this week for the first time since spraining his ankle on Family Night, which is a good sign he should be available. Tight end Jimmy Graham was also back with the team practicing after sitting out last week’s preseason game against the Tennessee Titans. Graham has been dealing with a banged up knee, but he also returned to the starting lineup on Sunday. Unless there are ANY major changes, it looks like the Packers starting offense will get at least one series in their second preseason outing.
Green Bay obviously wants to figure out who will backup Rodgers this season, however, they also want their starters to get a few in-game reps prior to the regular season opener. Traditionally, Rodgers has played in at least one preseason game in years past and things are shaping up for that to be this week vs the Steelers. On Monday Rodgers told reporters, “I think I’ll probably play this week. I’d like to in front of our fans, being that we have the first two (regular-season games) at home it would be nice to get out there, back on Lambeau.”
Rodgers hasn’t played in front of the home crowd since week four of last season when he faced the Chicago Bears on Thursday Night Football. He suffered a broken collarbone two weeks later and returned for the team’s week 15 matchup with the Carolina Panthers, but the game was held in Carolina. Even if it’s for only one series, the Lambeau faithful would be excited to see their highly celebrated quarterback take the field.
Even though the games don’t count Rodgers sees value in reps outside of a practice setting.
“I’d like to get some snaps on the field because the new guys need to see the rhythm and the tempo and also understand that when I’m out there, everything is up,” he said.
The Packers clearly want a healthy offensive line to protect Rodgers and outside of the good news for Bakhtiari, it also appears right tackle Bryan Bulaga is ready to play as well. Bulaga has had a remarkably fast recovery from his second career ACL tear as he’s already returned to practice just nine months after surgery. Earlier this week, head coach Mike McCarthy said he was pleased with how Bulaga looked in 11 on 11 team periods.
Aside from Graham, Rodgers could have another weapon available against the Steelers in receiver Randall Cobb. Cobb also sat out the first preseason game but practiced on Sunday, which is another good indication he will play a few snaps this week. Cobb has been practicing since the start of training camp, however, he missed all of OTAs recovering from ankle surgery he underwent during the offseason.
For those of you who tend to gloss over preseason action, you may want to at least catch the first quarter of the Packers game Thursday night as it might be your only chance to watch the starting offense at least until the regular season begins September 9th.
___________________Brandon Carwile was a Cheesehead at birth. His dad grew up attending games at Lambeau and passed on the legacy. He has covered the Packers for over five years and currently works with packerstalk.com. Find him on twitter at @PackerScribe.