Here are five questions I'll be looking to have answered starting Saturday night against the Browns. Feel free to add your own in the comments section.
- Can Morgan Burnett take the next step?
The rookie safety out of Georgia Tech has been the talk of the rookie class since his name was announced at Radio City back in April. He's taken a positive step forward at every stage of his young career up to this point, from stepping in with the first string during OTAs and Mini-Camp to putting the pads on and flying around so far in camp.
But as Matt Bowen of the National Football Post pointed out yesterday, the next step in Burnett's journey is to show what he can do in game conditions. Matt is spot on when pointing out that seeing the rookie do some actual tackling is the number one thing I want to see. After that, just seeing him in a game. From Bowen:
Use a little disguise before the snap, but get to your landmark and play football. We want to see if the rookies can handle the basic calls, know their run fits and when they are in coverage keep everything in front of them. The worst thing you can do as a rookie safety is to play too shallow and get beat over the top. Know the defense and know what the coach expects.
He doesn't have to take a pick to the house Saturday night. (Though that would be nice...) He just needs to take another step.
- Is this the year Breno stops stealing money?
I know the Packers like Breno Giacomini. I know there must be a reason they've held onto him. There must be a reason they let Jamon Meredith walk and kept him around even though they didn't activate him for ONE GAME last year, despite the fact they were having insane protection issues at the position he just happens to play...right tackle.
I want to see Breno excel beyond my wildest dreams during the preseason. I want to be amazed, awed even. But I suspect we'll see a lot more of what we saw last preseason - Breno getting beat by guys who have marginal shots at making an NFL roster.
- How will the tight-end position shake out?
This should be a fun "battle" to watch.
Obviously, Finley is the man and will continue to be the matchup nightmare we all saw at the end of 2009. Donald Lee is having a surprisingly solid camp. It will be interesting to see what kind of case Andrew Quarless and Tom Crabtree make for themselves. And Spencer Havner showed his added value today by switching over to his old position, linebacker, for an entire practice.
My hunch is that the loser of the Quarless/Crabtree "battle" will either end up on the practice squad or traded away before final cutdown.
- Can Matt Flynn "turn it on" when the lights come on?
I know a lot of Packer fans are nervous about Matt Flynn right about now. He hasn't looked particularly sharp in camp, he looked scattered during the Family Night scrimmage and he threw another horrible interception in practice this morning.
All that said, and at the risk of being beaten with a nightstick by the cliche police, Flynn is a gamer. Fans don't remember how Flynn looked pretty much the same last camp as well. But when he gets in games, the guy does what he needs to do to move his team down the field. He has good pocket awareness and is adept at finding guys when things breakdown. And because he works with mostly backups, things break down a lot.
That's one thing I'd really like to see this preseason. Give Flynn some meaningful time with the first string against first string defenses. Rodgers is your guy, obviously. So why not see what Flynn can do with and against top-flight competition? It's next to impossible to read right now how much of Flynn's struggles are a result of his play and how much are a result of always having to play with a mish-mash of personnel.
- Who will grab the nickel corner job?
Early camp gave this nod to Brandon Underwood but Pat Lee has been steadily building throughout camp and had a decent Family Night showing.
I know this will be a moot-point if Al Harris comes back in time for the season opener - but I don't see that happening, no matter what Harris and his agent say. Will I be pleasantly surprised if it does? Of course. Woodson, Harris and Williams as your Top 3 corners is the dream. I just don't think it will come true.
So it will fall to Underwood or Lee with the loser no doubt manning the dime back spot. Of course, we can't count out Sam Shields, not after his strong start to camp. But Shields is beyond raw and would be much better served focusing on special teams to start.
My hunch is that Underwood will edge out Lee at nickel to start the season. The Packers like his growth from last year and you can tell he's worked on his footwork this offseason. In the time I was there, I saw very few false steps on his part while Lee seemed to drift from time to time. That said, Lee is a bit more physical, at least to my eye.
Should be a great battle. Can't wait for it all to start Saturday night.
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