The preseason is rolling right along as scheduled and the Packers welcome the Arizona Cardinals for the Lambeau Field preseason opener. Last week the Packers suffered a disappointing, but of course, meaningless 27-17 defeat to the Cleveland Browns. Following the loss, head coach Mike McCarthy clarified his feelings on the game stating:
“We were able to get everybody in the game. Personnel evaluation was the No. 1 priority. We wanted to win the game. We always play to win the game, but personnel evaluation, operation and management of the sideline, management of your personnel, those are the three focuses that were expressed to the team, with the personnel evaluation being the A-1 priority.”
When asked whether McCarthy was satisfied with the tempo/performance of the team he responded: “I told the football team at halftime that I thought we needed to pick up the urgency in the operation of how we get in and out of the huddle, on and off the sideline. But with that we did have a lot of different substitutions for the first time. It was great to be in live action, but I definitely think we have a lot more to offer as far as energy and tempo [are concerned] and that will be a part of our focus as we move on to next week’s preparation”
The highlight of Friday night’s game will be the position battles at left guard, right defensive end, and right outside linebacker. Derek Sherrod and T.J. Lang are the leading competitors for the final spot on the offensive line vacated by Darryn Colledge, who is now the starter for the Cardinals. However, Nick McDonald, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Caleb Schlauderaff, and Marshall Newhouse will all be given the chance to compete against the favorites for a starting position as well as guaranteed roster spots. At defensive end C.J. Wilson and Jarius Wynn will join currently injured favorite Mike Neal in the battle for the spot vacated by Cullen Jenkins. McCarthy has yet to determine whether or not Neal will play, but I do not expect Neal to miss this game. Opposite of Clay Matthews will either be Frank Zombo, Erik Walden, or Brad Jones at right outside linebacker. Erik Walden has been receiving the most first team snaps this week, but at this point in the year the position is wide open to all three players.
Among these critical position battles will be the traditional battles to earn one of the 53 roster spots for the regular season. One of these positions is tight end, where the Packers currently have 5, and will likely cut one before the season starts. Jermichael Finley is still out with the glute injury, so we will see lots of Andrew Quarless, D.J. Williams, Tom Crabtree and Ryan Taylor. One of those names will not be on the roster come opening day.
As I mentioned in my previous article about Randall Cobb, the first five receivers have locked their positions. That leaves Chastin West, Diondre Borel and Tori Gurley to compete for the sixth and likely final receiver spot. Each player has received praise and criticism during camp and will likely be under the microscope for the remaining preseason games.
Matt Flynn seems to have cemented his position as the No. 2 quarterback after a brilliant performance against the Browns. Graham Harrell has made considerable strides as a professional quarterback and will likely be No. 3 on the depth chart.
The Packers will meet a rebuilding Arizona squad and their new $67 million dollar man, Kevin Kolb. Kolb will be throwing against one of the better defensive secondaries in the league. Charles Woodson will likely have limited time on the field, but names like Sam Shields, Jarrett Bush, Pat Lee, Bradian Ross and Tramon Williams should get enough playing time to get into their game.
The game kicks off at 8:00 pm EST/7:00 CT.