5 Things To Watch For In Green Bay Packers Preseason Opener

By Michael Terrill

The Green Bay Packers will play their first preseason game of the year against the San Diego Chargers on Thursday night.

There will be plenty of compelling match ups to watch and it can get frustrating where to look on the field on any given play. This is why it is a good idea to figure out what training camp battles most interest you and watch that part of the game.

The starters typically do not play a lot during the first preseason game, which means it will be fun to see the players who are on the bubble competing for a spot on the 53-man roster. Expect plenty of physical play amongst the younger guys, especially since this will be the first time in two weeks they are able to hit someone who is not wearing a Packers jersey.

There are numerous positions and players to look at during the game, but here are five things every fan should watch for:

Nick Perry

Green Bay’s first-round draft pick will finally get an opportunity to go up against someone not named Bryan Bulaga. Perry has spent all of training camp going up against the best offensive lineman on the team, which means he should be well-prepared for anyone on the Chargers that is assigned the difficult task of covering him. Do not expect Perry to come out of the gates recording sacks left and right Thursday night as this is still a learning phase for him. If he can show the Packers he get penetration into the backfield and hold his own on the left side, then it will be considered a win for his first outing.

Who can tackle and who can’t

It is no secret the Packers struggled tackling on defense last season, which eventually cost them the NFC Divisional playoff game against the New York Giants. Head coach Mike McCarthy and the Green Bay staff has made it perfectly clear they will not tolerate anyone who is incapable of wrapping up and making a fundamental tackle. There is a reason why Charlie Peprah was released and Sam Shields is practicing with the No. 2 squad. McCarthy was not happy after the Family Night scrimmage last weekend when Tramon Williams, Shields, and other players could not make simple tackles. It will be important to watch who is capable of bringing playmakers to the ground and who is not.

Left tackle position

Derrick Sherrod has yet to practice and starter Marshall Newhouse will sit out the game with a concussion. That means Herb Taylor, who’s only playing time came in 2008 with the Kansas City Chiefs, and rookie Andrew Datko will be the only left tackles playing. This creates a new problem for McCarthy because now he must decide how long to keep MVP Aaron Rodgers in the game because the last thing he needs is an inexperienced player giving up a hit on his franchise quarterback. With it still being unknown when exactly Sherrod will be able to start practicing, Taylor is the leading candidate to be Newhouse’s backup. Therefore, Newhouse being ruled out is not all bad because it will give fans a good idea of how the second-string lineman match up against San Diego’s No. 1 defense.

Defensive backs

Charles Woodson playing safety for at least 25% of Green Bay’s snaps this season has opened up a competition for defensive back positions. Fans will get a good idea of who is capable of filling Woodson’s shoes at cornerback in the base package, while also seeing how well Morgan Burnett and the 15-year veteran play together as the Packers last line of defense. When Woodson is back playing his natural position, it will give fans a good look at M.D. Jennings, who is the heavy favorite to start at safety opposite Burnett. Once again, who can tackle will have a big influence on which players the coaches allow more playing time, therefore, giving those defensive backs a better chance at winning a starting role. Remember, more offenses are spreading four or five receivers wide, which means even the fourth or fifth cornerbacks have a good chance of playing during the regular season.

Run game

The run game is another area the Packers must improve on in 2012 if they want to get back to the promise land. Green Bay proved last season that having the game’s best quarterback and receiving core will only take a team so far. Without a solid running game to keep defenses honest it will be very difficult to repeat last year’s stellar season. Second-year running back Alex Green has made waves in camp and has the coaches excited with what he is capable of doing on the gridiron. The Packers have proven they have the running backs that can get the job done so it also falls on the offensive line for opening up holes to drive through.

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