Green Bay Packers: What to expect tonight

Jan 16, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) against the Arizona Cardinals during the NFC Divisional round playoff game at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 16, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) against the Arizona Cardinals during the NFC Divisional round playoff game at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

What should we expect to see from the Green Bay Packers in their game against the San Francisco 49ers? 

There should be a lot to be looking for as a coach and a fan. 

Usually, the third preseason game is when the coaching staff will throw out their starters for a half to see how they do against different colored jerseys than green, yellow and white ones they have been hitting since they started camp. 

This should be a barometer on how well the first team defense and offense all work together. 

Besides QB Aaron Rodgers the rest of the starters have been out for a set of downs or a maybe a little bit more during the preseason but now we’ll be able to see the team Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy wanted to see in action since the draft.

Rodgers has been patiently waiting for some playing time.  Rodgers has yet to even take a snap during the preseason this year.  His waiting time is about to expire.  He should see about a half’s worth of action on Friday.  This will also be the first time that we see Rodgers’ full arsenal of weapons at his disposal.  A healthy Jordy Nelson.  A health Ty Montgomery.  A hungry Randal Cobb.  An out-to-prove-himself Davante Adams.  The new guy Jared Cook and the leaner Richard Rodgers.  Rodgers has to be salivating at this opportunity to have everyone there and ready to go.  He knows last year was not one of his better performance years, for numerous reasons, so he should be ready to make the Packers faithful forget about last year and have reason to believe the passing game can return to its prior glory.

We should see who finally steps up to solidify his position as the starting punter.  Will it be steady veteran Tim Mastay or the surging rookie out of the University of Minnesota, Peter Mortell?  They both have had good camps but one of the two needs to grab the reins and run with it.  Don’t be surprised to see the first year guy take over.

Another attraction for the night will be the fight for the third string RB between the returning John Crockett and rookie Brandon Burks.  Crockett started to gain some speed toward the end of the year when Eddie Lacy seemed to be spent.  He seems to have taken that momentum into camp where he has looked good.  Burks has had a good camp as well and has shown the ability to run with a lot of power.  Like Lacy of old and new, he could run over the defense or around them.

At the beginning of the year last year the cohesiveness of the offensive line was the foundation of their 6-0 start.  The return of All Pro guards Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang along a healthy Bryan Bulaga and impressive David Bakhtiari should give Aaron Rodgers the time to create his magic.  The only new/different variable now is the re-emergence of J.C. Tretter filling in for last year’s starter, Corey Linsley.  Coach McCarthy announced that Tretter would get the nod to start the season so the position is his to lose.  He needs to continue to work with the other four starting lineman to create holes for the running backs and give protection to the Packers passing attack.

Since backup QB Brett Hundley may be out of this game, the battle between Joe Callahan and Q Williams should be a good one to watch in the second half of the game.  Both are fighting for a roster spot and also are looking to prove themselves capable alternative if Hundley misses more time than expected. 

Coach McCarthy has said that both guys have had good camps and are continuing to learn the offense.  Who will step up and make a bid for a possible third QB on the roster or maybe even the backup job.

Lastly, we should be watching to see how the group of inside linebackers perform.  There are a lot of unknowns at this position due to injuries and just being new to the team.  Second-year pro Jake Ryan is looking to take that next step to develop his game.  Rookie Blake Martinez is seemingly getting a lot of snaps with the starting team and has the radio helmet for the defensive play calls. 

Next: Kenny Clark's status is uncertain

Sam Barrington has the potential to do great things but he just needs to prove it on the field.  Third-year LB Carl Bradford has been turning heads this year and camp and is looking to reward the team’s loyalty to him.

We should see a lot of things starting to come together for the team this week.  The starters will get some time in the first half and the fights for roster spots for the guys on the fence in the second half of the game.  The season opener in Jacksonville is just around the corner.