The Packers won against the Browns with their 3/4th string quarterbacks and a lot of looks at young players that are trying to make the team. Thursday night’s game against the Raiders will be a much
- Offense: The Raiders have an offensive line that is in flux and will need to keep the offensive linemen in (as they did in the pre-season game against the Cardinals) for extended reps. Also on offense, the Raiders will continue to make sure that Derek Carr is continuing to develop his chemistry with Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper. That tandem has a lot of promise and Crabtree looks like he is even more comfortable in the offense as well. The Raiders are moving to a pulling, smash-mouth style running game rather than the Chip Kelly “nifty” offense that OC Bill Musgrave was used to as quarterbacks coach of the Eagles. Once that gets going, the Raiders will want to continue to spread out defenses using their Cooper/Crabtree tandem.
- Defense: The Raiders pass rush is Khalil Mack, one of the best in the business. At the same time, their defensive backfield faces a rebuilding period with future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson’s retirement. The Raiders drafted Karl Joseph to help fill that gap. Other than an ACL tear in the fifth game of his senior year, Joseph was a stalwart of the West Virginia defense and was a ball-hawking safety who liked to throw his body into tackles. The Raiders will continue to figure out their defensive backfield and have starters and potential starters in the game while Dom Capers will be trying out young players in different combinations and roles.
For the Packers’ part, I see “business as usual” and we got a taste of what that is versus the Browns.
- The Packers will sit key starters. The Packers learned last year what a lot of teams are already learning this year…that losing a key player in the pre-season can have a domino effect on a team’s
entire season. Mike McCarthy is going to do everything he can to ensure that the Packers don’t have a repeat performance of last year. That said, the Packers will not see Aaron Rodgers and hopefully will finally have a chance (after a cancellation and an ankle tweak) to see Brett Hundley. As coach McCarthy has said, the medical report will govern the play time but after that, it will be business as usual. Run the ball…I expect to see Eddie Lacy again for a series or two, though I hope we don’t risk him too much. And then in the passing game, look for receivers who get separation whether our qb’s get the ball to them or not. If Hundley plays, I hope to see him for an entire half and then I expect Williams and Callahan to swap places so that the Packers can get a better look at Williams before the third pre-season game. I expect to see good things with Hundley versus the Raiders pass-rush if the Packers can run the ball and get in third and manageable situations.
- The Packers have shown this pre-season that the tight ends are going to be a big part of the offense this year. Not just Jared Cook, but Perillo and Backman have been significant contributors thus far with the only missing player being the re-tooled Richard Rodgers. Look for the Packers to continue to use the tight ends, especially in light of the Raiders pressure scheme and ability.
- Defensively, this game will be a major test. David Carr, Amari Cooper, and Michael Crabtree will be a significant test for the Packers defensive backfield since Matthews and Peppers will not be providing the pressure. The Raiders changes on the offensive line make them liable to make a mistake or two but they will want to pound the rock and if Blake Martinez gets in early, he will have a chance to show that he can respond. At the same time thumpers like Palmer and Barrington (if he gets in) will have their chance to shine. Ryan needs to get reps and Bradford will have a chance to stack successes. Bradford has shown that he knows exactly what he is doing and now he needs to show the same activity a second game in a row and against a higher quality opponent. Up front, Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry will get a ramped up set of reps. I expect to see the D-line struggle overall due to its youth and the Raiders focus on giving the starting offensive line reps. In the backfield, another test awaits but the Packers are deeper back there. The Raiders will attempt to isolate on the outside and the Packers’ young corps of db’s will have their mettle tested.
So tomorrow is the big day and Packers fans couldn’t be happier. Pre-season football is still Packers football and a chance to see what kind of team is developing “under the hood”. We will see a lot of players out there who will stand on the sidelines for most of the season but may be called upon at any time for extended action. I cannot stress enough how important these pre-season games are for our young players. And their development could instantly affect the team and the Packers’ chances of getting to the Super Bowl if one of them has to step in for a starter. It takes just one injury to change the entire cast of a season and the Packers have shown in the past (2010 to be exact) that when the injury bug bites, it is pre-season preparation on the part of the youth of the team that makes the difference.
So here is to Wednesday, the Wednesday before yet another pre-season game. Here is to another chance to see this team develop, and here is to the hope that regardless of the outcome, the Packers can stay healthy.