Preseason Week 1 is upon us! The Green Bay Packers are set to face off against the San Francisco 49ers on Friday night in their first game of the year. As they travel to Santa Clara, California here are a few Packers storylines to follow before the game kicks off.
Jordan Love Back in Action
This one should go without question. All eyes should be on Jordan Love facing off against Trey Lance on Friday. For the Packers, Friday is a great opportunity to get another look at their former first-round pick in action. The last time Love was on the field for the Packers was in Week 18 against the Detroit Lions. The last time Love started a game for the Packers was on November 7 against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Last preseason, Love got the start in Week 1 and Week 3. Love got dinged up in the first game and was forced to sit out the second half as well as Week 2. Getting dinged up in a preseason game should be something to worry about this season. However, it’s a necessity that the Packers get Love on the field as often as possible throughout the next few weeks.
Going into his third season in the NFL, not much has been seen from Love. The Packers need to get some more clarity and impressions from the quarterback they traded up to select with the 26th overall pick in 2020. Head coach Matt LaFleur said last Friday that Love has “shown a lot of growth.” It’d be nice to finally see some of that growth flow into a true game.
Defending the Outside Zone Run
Over the last few seasons, defending the outside zone run has consistently been a challenge for the Green Bay Packers. Time and time again the Packers’ defense has been gassed on the edge and after the catch. This offseason, the Packers finally looked to address that concern once and hopefully for all.
The easiest way to attack an outside zone rushing offense is to attack the speed off the edge with a speed of your own. That speed on defense effectively needs to come from the middle of the field at the linebacker position. The Packers started this year’s draft by selecting Quay Walker out of Georgia who showcased a 4.52 40-yard-dash at the NFL Combine. Pairing Walker with De’Vondre Campbell gives the Packers the speed on defense to defend this scheme on offense. However, we may not get to see Campbell, and perhaps even Walker, take the field on Friday.
That doesn’t mean the Packers still can’t get a solid look at how to prepare for this type of offense. Green Bay will get plenty of looks at their defensive depth against the 49ers’ offense. More importantly, the Packers’ defensive coaches will have a front-row seat in viewing the best and most well-coached linebacker room in the entire league. There should be plenty of film to dive through after Friday’s game to see how far along this new defensive scheme looks in Green Bay.
This position group has been the talk of the town in Green Bay all offseason long. Between the trade of Davante Adams and the emergence of rookie Romeo Doubs in training camp, plenty of headlines have discussed the wide receiver room in Green Bay. Now, we finally get to see the new group of pass catchers (at least some of them) take the field at Levi’s Stadium.
The first thing Packers fans should keep an eye on Friday shouldn’t be which receivers take the field on the first drive, it should be which receivers do not. In last year’s preseason opener against the Houston Texans, the only starting receiver who saw some action was then-rookie Amari Rodgers. Therefore, we should not count on Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb taking the field.
The one to keep an eye on is Sammy Watkins. In Green Bay, Watkins seems to have a lot of support from his fellow players and coaches. On the outside, there is still some skepticism on if Watkins will make the Week 1 roster. As our own Zack Upchurch laid out Wednesday, “if [Watkins] sits for a significant chunk of Friday’s game it may imply he’s being treated as a starter — much like he has throughout all of training camp.”
As for the rest of the room, Rodgers, Juwann Winfree, and Doubs should have the most playing time early on in the game. Then we will get a good look at Samori Toure, Malik Taylor, Ishmael Hyman, and Danny Davis. All of these players will be looking to earn their spot on the final roster throughout the preseason. Friday serves as our first look. As for second-round rookie Christian Watson, Dan Graziano of ESPN says “the Packers are hopeful that Watson will be cleared to practice within the next week.”
Continuing with the logic that the Packers will attempt to rest the majority of their starters on Friday brings forth another question at another position on offense. If Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon do not see any action against the 49ers, how will the running back position shake out?
For starters, the Packers announced yesterday that they have re-signed running back Dexter Williams. The former sixth-round pick in 2019 failed to make the active roster last season but now gets a chance to make some plays for the short-handed position group. LaFleur said “you can always count on Dex giving maximum effort” and that he’s excited to see him back in Green Bay.
Beyond Williams, the Packers will also be relying on undrafted rookies B.J. Baylor and Tyler Goodson to work out of the backfield. Another name we may see take the field against San Francisco could be Patrick Taylor, although he’s currently working his way back from a groin injury. A name we will not see on Friday will be second-year Kylin Hill, who is still battling back from a torn ACL suffered last season.——————
Kole Noble is a lifelong Packers fan currently living in North Carolina and is a huge NFL Draft nut. You can follow him on twitter at @SlawSportsShow.