The Green Bay Packers take on the St. Louis Rams in each team's second preseason game Saturday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. CT on the regional Packers TV Network and simulcast nationally on the NFL Network.
The Big Picture: What's at Stake?
It's still the preseason. The games don't count in the standings, but the more important takeaway is how individuals perform, especially those on the bubble, fighting for spots on the team's regular-season roster. In the second preseason game, the starters might play slightly more than they did in opener, but the backups will still get a majority of the playing time.
What to Watch When the Packers Have the Ball
A) Jordy Nelson and Jordy Junior: After missing last Saturday's game against the Tennessee Titans and two practices with a hamstring injury, wide receiver Jordy Nelson was eased back into action during training camp this week. Neither he nor head coach Mike McCarthy would say whether Nelson would play against the Rams, but if he does, it bears watching how Nelson looks in his recovery.
When the reserves take over, all eyes will be on rookie Jeff Janis—nearly a Nelson clone from a height, weight, speed and body control perspective—who will be making his preseason debut after being withheld from the Week 1 preseason game as he makes a comeback from a case of Shingles. Janis is making a push to win a spot on the Packers' 53-man roster.
B) The quarterback rotation: Aaron Rodgers was a healthy scratch from last week's game, although McCarthy acknowledged Rodgers will, indeed, play on Saturday. The only question is "How long?"
Once Rodgers leaves the game, both Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien should get nice, long looks, although the order is yet to be determined as McCarthy declined to share that information leading up to Rams game.
Tolzien may have looked the more impressive of the two against the Titans, but it may be unfair to judge Flynn in view of the deluge the offense had to endure during a rainstorm.
C) J.C. Tretter: From all indications, Tretter had a successful outing against the Titans considering it was his first game as a professional. With the starting center job up for grabs, he'll be looking to put up back-to-back inspiring campaigns.
"I think J.C. is off to a great start," said McCarthy. "I think the Tennessee game was definitely impressive, so you know, I want to see him stack success. Anytime you can play well … we're getting ready to play against an extremely talented, a very good defensive front, so this will be great work for us."
Entering the team's third preseason game when the starters historically play the longest, Tretter perhaps has an opportunity to wrap up the starting job if the coaching staff wants to pair him and exchange partner Aaron Rodgers for an extended period of time.
What to Watch When the Rams Have the Ball
A) Morgan Burnett's impact: Burnett sat out of the preseason opener with a strained oblique muscle, but he's since been inserted into the starting lineup despite coming off a subpar season in 2013 and a strong showing by several other safeties during training camp this summer.
After Micah Hyde and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix started and played nearly an entire half a week ago, It appears Burnett will be paired with Hyde as the starting tandem on Saturday. It remains to be seen, however, if they want to see Burnett receive some time with Clinton-Dix too.
Sean Richardson isn't to be overlooked either, and it's worth watching how he's worked into the mix.
B) Inspired defensive linemen: The young players on the Packers defensive line may have gotten a boost of confidence following the trade of Jerel Worthy to the New England Patriots.
Worthy was a longshot to make the team in 2014 to begin with, but the rest of the players on the team can view it as one less opponent to potentially steal a roster spot.
The likes of rookies like Mike Pennel, Carlos Gray and Luther Robinson have to be excited at the opportunity they've been presented with, especially as long as Letroy Guion remains out with a hamstring injury.
C) Outside linebackers: The Packers are as deep at outside linebacker as any position on the roster, at least from a numbers standpoint, making it difficult to evaluate players in a game environment.
Bear in mind, fourth round draft pick Carl Bradford played just eight snaps in the Week 1 preseason game against the Titans, while fellow rookies Jayrone Elliot and Adrian Hubbard each played six snaps.
If the Packers want to give these young players a fair shot, they'll have to figure out how to balance playing time with the numerous other outside linebackers: Julius Peppers, Clay Matthews, Mike Neal, Nick Perry, Andy Mulumba and Nate Palmer.
What to Watch on Special Teams
Punt returners: It was rather surprising the Packers put rookie Davante Adams back on punt returns last week, particularly in light of his inexperience doing so in college and in practice at training camp.
However, it's difficult to place too much blame on Adams for muffing two punts in the monsoon-like conditions during the first quarter.
The coaches have given no hint whether the Adams experiment is over, or if they want to start giving the veterans like Hyde and Randall Cobb a refresher course in fielding punts in a domed environment.
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor at Cheesehead TV and its "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].
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