After falling to the Arizona Cardinals 17-0 in a lackluster performance a week ago, the Packers will travel to the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis to take on the Rams to try to kickstart their season.
Though the Packers didn’t play particularly well in last week’s preseason game, there were still some bright spots and solid individual performances.
Undrafted rookie free agent Tyrone Walker turned in a solid performance. In fact, Walker was the Packers’ best wide receiver against the Cardinals a week ago. Walker finished the game with five catches for 41 yards. Fellow undrafted rookie Alex Gillet also played well adding three catches for 21 yards.
Tackle David Bakhtiari played very well for his first start at left tackle in the NFL. Everything about Bakhitari’s performance was encouraging for the future of the Packers’ offensive line. He will have to stay hot this week against a very good Rams pass rush.
On the defensive side of the ball, Johnny Jolly held up well for his first live action in nearly three years. He came close to sacking Cardinals’ quarterback Drew Stanton, but lost his footing on the play, which resulted in a 17-yard pass completion. What was encouraging was the strength and footwork he showed on the play, making quick work of the Cardinals’ line and getting after the quarterback. Jolly penetrated the line on numerous occasions — he showed quite obviously that he can still play football.
So what should you be watching for on Saturday night when the Packers take their talents to St. Louis? Without further ado here are your five players and position battles to watch when the Pack takes on the Rams.
A week ago Vince Young threw the ball only three times in a handful of plays, completing one of the them for seven yards. Young looked good when he was able to escape the pocket and tuck the ball and run. Young gained 12 yards on two beautiful plays in which he was able to use his legs to extend the play.
This week, as Young becomes more comfortable with the playbook, he should receive more reps as he battles Graham Harrell for the backup quarterback job. Though head coach Mike McCarthy hasn’t indicated exactly how many snaps Young will see Saturday it will likely be similar to last week’s game. Young will most likely enter the game sometime in the late third or early fourth quarter.
It will be important for Young to be precise and make the most out of his reps as he fights for a spot on the 53-man roster.
4.) Eddie Lacy’s pro debut
By rough estimates, Eddie Lacy turned in a marvelous Family Night game two weeks ago and by my count he carried the ball nine times for 65 yards, which was good enough for a 7.2 yards per-carry average. Obviously it would be tough for Lacy to maintain those kinds of numbers over the course of the season. However, it was an encouraging sign for a Packers’ running game that has been below average the last four or five seasons.
Lacy was not able to play last week against Arizona due to a hamstring injury he suffered in practice, but it appears he will play tomorrow night. Though McCarthy has stated that DuJuan Harris is the starter for the Packers, it appears Lacy has the best chance to be the opening day starter over the other running backs.
It will be good for both the Packers and Lacy to get him reps against an opposing NFL defense to see what he can offer the Packers’ running game this season. Another important aspect to watch is how well Lacy does in pass blocking situations as this is the key to playing time for running backs in the team’s offense.
When the Packers drafted both Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin just a few months ago, many experts tried to be bold and predict that Franklin would start over Lacy on day one — seems funny now. Franklin has been average so far in his time in the NFL. He hasn’t separated himself from Alex Green and James Starks and isn’t on the level of DuJuan Harris and Eddie Lacy quite yet, so he essentially is stuck in neutral.
Last week Franklin ran the ball six times for just 14 yards, he also caught two passes for 12 yards. It appears Franklin is more of a receiving running back at this point as he has done well catching out of the backfield. The biggest question surrounding Franklin’s game is his ability to run between the tackles and get the tough yards. So far he has earned a failing grade in his ability to churn out yards between the tackles.
Franklin will need to step up Saturday against the Rams and show the coaching staff that he belongs in the NFL. At this point, Franklin is fighting to make the 45-man roster, which is the number of players active for a regular season NFL game. He will make the 53-man roster just because of his draft position, but will need to fight for playing time.
2.) Will the real Packers’ place kicker please stand up?
Giorgio Tavecchio and Mason Crosby have been battling it out to see who will be the Packers’ place kicker this season and still the Packers are nowhere near a decision. Earlier this week the Dolphins made their decision when they cut Dan Carpenter and kept rookie Caleb Sturgis, a move that got Packers’ fans begging the Packers to sign Carpenter — sorry that won’t happen, folks.
In a nutshell, Tavecchio has been really good and Crosby has been really bad. Crosby showed off his inaccurate leg in the family fun night scrimmage going a whopping 2-for-8, while Tavecchio clowned him by connecting on seven out of eight kicks. It appears Tavecchio has the upper leg, no pun intended, but you never truly know what McCarthy and Ted Thompson are thinking.
Let’s just hope that these two can at least have an opportunity to kick the ball this week.
I’ll end that debate right now – YES he is.
Bakhtiari played like an eight-year savvy veteran last week and don’t expect anything to change. Bakhtiari could be the steal of the 2013 NFL Draft. The Packers scooped him up in the fourth round (129 overall) and he has been the best rookie on the roster by far.
Bakhtiari will have to be on his A-game Saturday night and continue to grow as the Packers’ future at the tackle position.
There you have it, five important players and battles to watch for Saturday night as the Packers go for their first preseason victory of the season.
Keep it here at Lombardiave.com for more pre- and post-game coverage and enjoy the game!