The Green Bay Packers start their 2019 season with a preseason game against the Houston Texans. What should fans watch for in the first game?
The wait is finally over, Packers fans. The season is here, even if it is just the preseason. Tonight, Green Bay takes on the Houston Texans in their preseason opener.
This will be the first game action that Packers fans will get to see new head coach Matt LaFleur. He’s been busy implementing his scheme in offseason workouts and in training camp, and now we get to see some of what he wants to do this season on offense.
Fans will also see new rookies in action from the draft, with hopes their two first-round selections will bring something new to Mike Pettine’s defense.
What should fans be watching for tonight? Let’s detail five things right here.
1. The new offense
Everyone will be tuned in when Aaron Rodgers (likely) gets under center to start the game. All offseason, Packers fans have wondered how different the offense will look under LaFleur, and the time is finally here.
Will he be able to reinvigorate Rodgers’ career? It starts with a strong running game, which we know LaFleur likes to do. If Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams don’t play, we will see a ton of rookie Dexter Williams, who can bring some electricity to the running game.
Seeing how the Packers move around Davante Adams, should he play, is something to watch as well. Adams has talked about how he likes the new scheme and that he should get a ton of targets. Utilizing him in the slot will help create that instant separation and give Rodgers someone to look for on quick hitters.
The tight end position in this offense will be interesting as well. Bringing back Marcedes Lewis was a sign that Green Bay may use two tight ends more this year. Expect Robert Tonyan to get a ton of time tonight.
2. The wide receiver battle
It seems like Adams, Geronimo Allison, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling are locked into starting spots for the Packers this year. The real thing to watch is the group struggling for roster spots behind them.
The two other second-year receivers, Equanimeous St. Brown and J’Mon Moore, haven’t showed out a lot at camp so far. St. Brown did well at times last year in the slot and on back-shoulder throws from Rodgers, but Moore didn’t get a lot of playing time at all. Will either take a step in the right direction tonight?
Trevor Davis and Jake Kumerow are the other obvious names to watch. Davis is excellent on special teams, and that may secure him a spot, but seeing him grow at the receiver position could cement his spot on the roster in 2019.
Kumerow, on the other hand, had some nice games down the stretch last season and reminded some fans of Jordy Nelson. If he can be more reliable technically creating separation, it will be hard to cut him or even keep him on the practice squad. He already has that big-play ability.
3. The New NASCAR
Mike Pettine’s scheme worked pretty well last season, at least enough for LaFleur to want him to stay on. Pettine was rewarded with a ton of new additions on defense, especially on the defensive line. Za’Darius Smith has been the talk of camp so far, and fans and media have been impressed with rookie Rashan Gary’s athleticism.
Those two will likely be included in Pettine’s NASCAR package. If fans remember, Green Bay had this similar look a lot back in 2014. This package will have pass rushers across the defensive line. Moving Smith and Gary inside at times this year will allow them to get around interior linemen and create quicker pressure.
It will be interesting to see if Pettine uses that formation at all tonight.
4. Who steps up on the offensive line?
The Packers made a stunning move this week in cutting offensive tackle Jason Spriggs. This opens the door for someone to take a backup spot behind right tackle Bryan Bulaga. It’s likely that new addition Billy Turner will be the backup, but it would be nice to find more depth along the line.
Rookie Elgton Jenkins will be confined to an interior role, but someone like Lucas Patrick or Justin McCray could be in line for the spot. It will be interesting to see how the second and third groups on the offensive line perform against a Texans unit with a deep defensive line group.
5. The nickel position
Last, but certainly not least, is the nickel spot. With nickel becoming the new base defense, the Packers need to find someone who can be relied on there.
Rookie Darnell Savage could see some reps there if Green Bay is happy with what Raven Greene brings to the table at safety, but if not, the door is open. Former Alabama corner Tony Brown looked good last year and should be the favorite for the spot.
Don’t count out rookie Ka’Dar Hollman, though, who has gotten a lot of praise so far in camp. Second-year corner Josh Jackson could also snag the spot. It’s definitely a position many fans should keep their eyes on throughout the preseason.