Green Bay Packers training camp is a mere week away, a camp that leads directly into preseason play. The training camp and preseason periods offer a lot to analyze for fans, as players fight for positions, and the depth chart begins to form. Although the preseason is typically a relatively idle time for veterans, but an industrious time for young players, we are going to take a look at each of the Packer’s preseason opponents, and some potential headlines for each game.
1. @ New England Patriots (AFC East)
2014 record: 12-4 (Super Bowl Champions)
All-time series: 6-5, Packers
Key returns: Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Rob Ninkovich
Key departures: Brandon Browner, Vince Wilfork, Kyle Arrington
This will be the first action the New England Patriots see since their glorious Super Bowl run, and the Packers first game since they were thrown from the playoffs last year. Either way, this game is a precursor to both team’s disappointing offseasons, of which Tom Brady was suspended for the deflate gate scandal, and several Packers were suspended.
To date, there has been no ruling on the Brady appeal, however, Brady will likely be followed throughout the preseason if the suspension is upheld. Although week one of the preseason is regarded as a “line up and play game”, rookies will have their first chances to hit the NFL field. This game serves as the initial rookie appearances of first round draft selection Malcolm Brown, and second round selection Jordan Richards, among others for the Patriots.
Meanwhile the Packers will enter their first game with Mike McCarthy not serving as the offensive play caller. The responsibility will now go to Tom Clements, the Packers’ offensive coordinator. But this amendment to play calling is irrelevant at this point in the preseason. But one thing the Packers may watch is the play of the secondary and wide receiver core, several of whom are on the roster bubble when the Packers begin cutting ties with players.
Bottom line: This game will be a dress rehearsal for starters around the league, but it is the beginning of many player’s careers, and also the end of several others. Expect the players to be careful of injuries and the coaches to preserve gameplans. Starters typically play 1-2 series.
2. @ Pittsburgh Steelers (AFC North)
2014 record: 11-5
All-time series: 19-15, Packers
Key returns: Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown
Key departures: Troy Polamalu, Brett Keisel, Lance Moore
The second week of the preseason typically offers starters a bit more playing time, typically ranging into the second quarter of play (1-2 possessions into the second quarter). The Packers will likely see a little bit of Le’Veon Bell before he serves his four-game suspension due to the NFL substance abuse policy. Secondly, we will see enhanced play from Steelers’ rookies Bud Dupree, Senquez Golson, and Sammie Coates.
For the Packers, we will see Aaron Rodgers get more snaps behind center, as well as several key position battles heating up. After the departures of Tramon Williams and Jarett Bush, expect Sam Shields to acquire the first cornerback position, while Casey Hayward, Micah Hyde, Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins, among others, battle for the opposing position.
Bottom line: The second week of the preseason is when starters get a taste of more playing time, but then again, the outcome of the game really doesn’t stand for much. Watch for starters to rule the field during the first quarter, and into several possessions of the second, followed by second and third teamers.
3. vs. Philadelphia Eagles (NFC North)
2014 record: 10-6
All-time series: 26-16, Packers
Key additions: Demarco Murray, Sam Bradford, Ryan Matthews
Key departures: Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin
Week three, which can be known to closely resemble regular season play, establishes a game-plan for players, and a “regular season feel” for players and staff. This week is most known for allowing starters to play into the second half of the game, and as a game where teams typically name their starting quarterback.
The starting quarterback situation doesn’t necessarily apply much to the Packers, as they are dependent on the play of their MVP quarterback. As the depth chart begins to format itself from cuts, the Packers offense will find their starting wide receivers. Among the many on the bubble include: Jeff Janis, Ty Montgomery, Jared Abbrederis, and Javess Blue, among others. These players will likely find plenty of reps with the first team if suitable.
For the Eagles, they are entering a transitional season after folding on their centerfolds, LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin and Nick Foles. But don’t count the Eagles out. Head Coach Chip Kelly seems to have ideas brewing after making offseason splashes with Demarco Murray, Ryan Matthews, Tim Tebow, and Sam Bradford, many of whom Packers fans will see for the first time wearing midnight green and black. Tebow is facing a career filled with scrutiny after his failed affairs with the Patriots and Jets, the Eagles may be his last chance in the NFL.
Bottom line: Finally, we see the most time for the starters as they battle into the second half of play. The position battles will also take place as roster cuts begin, and regular season game planning commences.
4. vs. New Orleans Saints (NFC South)
2014 record: 7-9
All-time series: 16-8, Packers
Key arrivals: C.J. Spiller, Andrus Peat, Garrett Grayson
Key departures: Kenny Stills, Curtis Lofton, Jimmy Graham
As the final preseason game begins, the NFL regular season is only a few days away. The Packers and Saints square off in an NFC conference battle, a game that typically showcases rookies, and squares away the final roster spots. One rookie looking to make an impact for the Packers is Brett Hundley, a standout quarterback from UCLA, that has already drawn the label as Rodgers’ predecessor. Hundley will likely draw the second spot on the depth chart, following the departure of Matt Flynn. Hundley showcases great down the field skills as well as unprecedented athleticism, a near steal for the Packers in the fifth round.
A similar quarterback with potential talent at the NFL level is Garrett Grayson, the earliest quarterback selected by the Saints since Archie Manning in 1971. Alike Hundley, Grayson will see his time as a backup before starting over an elite quarterback in Drew Brees. Grayson, coupled with rookie offensive tackle Peat, the Saints could put up a fight with their 2nd team offense. Did I mention the Saints are sporting either Spiller or Mark Ingram as their backup running back?
Bottom line: This game is the last game for the Packers before heading into their regular season opener against the Chicago Bears on Sept. 13. The Packers will form their 53-man depth chart and prepare to dethrone the NFC champion Seattle Seahawks in week two.
Stay tuned for Packers training camp and preseason news here on atombash.com.