The third wave of preseason games are upon us. This is the game that’s typically when teams like to play their starters for about three quarters in order to simulate a regular season game. This is the game that teams use to refine concepts and install final packages to be used in the regular season.
After the Green Bay Packers dreadful week one performance against the Arizona Cardinals the Packers bounced back with a dominating road win over the St. Louis Rams. In the win over the Rams, three players really stood out not only when watching the game live, but when I watched the film afterward.
In his first NFL action, Eddie Lacy did not disappoint. He rushed for 40 yards on eight carries and added a catch for 11 yards. He showed great toughness and his ability to break tackles was a breath of fresh air for a running game that has struggled a long time in Green Bay. Also on the offensive side of the ball I thought Jermichael Finley played very well. Finley caught four passes for 78 yards, including a 33-yard quick seam route that he turned into a big gainer.
On the defensive side, one guy showed up time and time again – Johnny Jolly. No question Jolly was the MVP of the game against the Rams. In fact, his performance earned him a roster spot, in my opinion. There is no way the Packers can cut Jolly now after the way he played in St. Louis.
For the first time since the infamous “Fail Mary” play, the Packers will matchup against the Seahawks in what may be the most talked about preseason game of 2013. Though “that play” means nothing anymore, the media has tried to make it relevant again this week. Do everyone a favor and ignore it. Instead, focus on the five key things to watch for when the Packers and Seahawks square off Friday night.
5.) Kicking game
The kicking competition between Mason Crosby and Giorgio Tavecchio has been a roller coaster ride thus far in training camp. First it was Tavecchio gaining the upper hand after Crosby went two-for-eight in the Family Night scrimmage. Then last week, it was Crosby separating himself from Tavecchio after going three-for-three against the Rams, while Tavecchio was just one-for-two.
However, once again it appears Crosby has left the door open for Tavecchio after going just one-for-four in practice Wednesday, while Tavecchio connected on his only opportunity. This competition has been painful to watch, to say the least. Honestly, neither Crosby nor Tavecchio deserve to be on an NFL roster at this point. The backing of Crosby over the last three years has been baffling to say the least. When someone doesn’t do their job right they get fired, plain and simple. Crosby’s leash continues to get shorter and shorter, so this week again we will be on kicker watch.
Lombardi Ave’s own Dan Dahlke wrote a great article on DuJuan Harris on Wednesday, he explained just how important this preseason game is for Harris especially with the emergence of Eddie Lacy. Harris was the Packers best running back down the stretch a season ago and played well in the playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Harris played in a total of four games (two playoff appearances) last year, starting two, he finished with 157 yards on 34 carries, good enough for yards per carry average of 4.6. He has great speed and could be a great one-two punch with Lacy.
Harris has been battling injuries during training camp, but now appears to be healthy. He should see a lot of carries against Seattle so head coach Mike McCarthy can see what they have in Harris. McCarthy has already named Harris the team’s starting running back, but that may just be a formality. It will be interesting to see how Harris carries the ball on Friday.
3.) Will Datone Jones play?
After re-injuring his ankle in practice this week, first round pick defensive linemen Datone Jones looks like he will miss another preseason game. Jones originally injured his ankle in the first preseason game against the Cardinals – on his very first defensive snap. Jone didn’t return to the game after the injury and missed all of the next week’s practices and the game against the Rams.
Jones again injured that ankle during a drill in practice Wednesday and will likely sit out the game against the Seahawks. Its been a frustrating camp for Jones, as he has not been able to stay healthy. It has equally been frustrating for Packers’ fans because they have seen their first round picks get injured in some capacity every year for the past four years. The Packers need Jones on the field and Jones needs the reps in order to be effective his rookie season.
Hopefully Jones can heal up quickly once again and be ready for the regular season opener against the 49ers.
The Packers drafted Charles Johnson in the seventh round along with Kevin Dorsey. However, both have been hampered by injuries suffered early in training camp. I am more interested in seeing Johnson perform because at 6-2, 215 pounds, Johnson has the ability to be a talented NFL player. In addition to his large frame Johnson possess great speed (4.3 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine) which is something the Packers have never really had in a receiver. Along with Jolly, Johnson’s story is equally interesting and is a guy for which many are pulling. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tyler Dunne wrote a great piece on Johnson back in May, which details his fight to be in the NFL.
This week has been Johnson’s first week of practice so it might be a stretch for him to play. Time is running out for Johnson to make an impact in camp especially with undrafted rookies Tyrone Walker and Myles White playing well in camp. It looks like 2013 will be spent on the Packers’ practice squad for Johnson, unless he can make an impact Friday or next week when the Packers play the Kansas City Chiefs.
1.) How will the defense handle the read-option?
It’s no question that the Packers struggled against running quarterback a season ago. Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson got the best of the Packers’ defense a season ago. The Packers made stopping the read option a point of interest this summer when they drafted Datone Jones, cut Desmond Bishop and let Erik Walden walk. The Packers were embarrassed by Kaepernick in the playoffs ( I will save your heart the hurt and forego the exact numbers).
Hopefully the Seahawks show the Packers some looks at the read-option. However, the Seahawks would be smart not to show any important looks or schemes to the Packers as the two teams could meet sometime later in the season when the game matters a bit more. The Packers could really benefit from some read-option looks from Wilson, a quarterback that is one of the best at it in the NFL.
If anything else, the looks will help the Packers prepare for Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III who they play the first two weeks of the season.
There you have it. Pay attention to these five keys and look for other players to step up and earn a roster spot in the most important preseason game of the year. Stay with Lombardiave for more pre- and post-game coverage of the Packers-Seahawks game.