The Green Bay Packers probably couldn't ask for a better Week 1 warmup than facing Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks in the dress rehearsal round of the preseason schedule Friday night.
For at least a half of work during a nationally televised contest from Lambeau Field, the Packers will get a true sense of where they stand before traveling to San Francisco to take on the 49ers in the regular season opener Sept. 8.
Head coach Mike McCarthy would likely agree.
"This will be an excellent challenge for us," McCarthy said Tuesday.
Facing the Seahawks offense, which features a physical running game led by Marshawn Lynch and a Pro Bowl quarterback in Wilson, should give the Packers defense their best look at what's eventually coming when Green Bay faces Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers in the opener.
"He's a dynamic player," McCarthy said of Wilson. "It will be a great test for us and will definitely get us ready for Week 1."
The Seahawks have been arguably the most dominant team to start the preseason. Seattle beat the San Diego Chargers 31-10 to open the exhibition slate before steamrolling the Denver Broncos 41-10 last Sunday.
No team is averaging more points through two preseason games than Seattle's 35.5, a number that can be at least partly attributed to how well Wilson has played early on.
The second-year quarterback has completed 10 of 18 passes for 150 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. His passer rating is a shiny 120.8.
After leading three drives that ended with punts in the preseason opener against San Diego, Wilson helped the Seahawks scored 20 points (two touchdowns, two field goals) over just five drives against the Broncos. By the time he had exited the game, the Seahawks were leading, 33-7.
Without much doubt, Wilson will present the stiffest challenge to a Packers first-team defense that hasn't allowed a single point over limited work this preseason. And in the process, the Seahawks starter can help give Green Bay its closest comparison to what Kaepernick will bring to the table in Week 1.
In neither practice or the two preseason games have the Packers faced anyone like Wilson, a mobile quarterback who can execute the read option, create with his legs and throw with accuracy outside the pocket. Kaepernick possesses each of those attributes, too.
The Packers likely know that fact as well as anybody, as Kaepernick ran for 181 yards and threw for another 263 during the 49ers' 45-31 win over Green Bay in the Division Round of last year's playoffs. He also found the end zone four total times, twice each by land and air. The Packers can only hope that facing Wilson over two-plus quarters Friday night will help prepare a defense that has spent all offseason focused on getting better against quarterbacks like Wilson and Kaepernick.
Even the first-team offense will receive its truest litmus test of the preseason.
Despite scoring just six points over four series, Aaron Rodgers and the No. 1 offense has been productive and efficient. However, the top scoring defense from a season ago should give Rodgers, the two starting offensive tackles (David Bakhtiari and Don Barclay) and rookie running back Eddie Lacy (eight carries for 40 yards in NFL debut) all they can handle over an extended look Friday night.
In Seattle last season, the Packers managed to score just 12 points as Rodgers was sacked eight times in the first half. So far this preseason, the Seahawks have eight sacks and seven forced turnovers.
McCarthy knows his team isn't currently ready to go to San Francisco and beat the powerful 49ers.
"We have a lot of work to do," McCarthy said. "We're not ready to play games. I'm not going to sit up here and give you a bunch of false BS say we're ready to go get the 49ers. We'll be ready when that time comes, but there's a lot of work that needs to be done."
Facing Seattle Friday is one important step in the process of regular season preparation. By all accounts, McCarthy couldn't have received a better matchup for measuring his team against the 49ers than facing Seattle in the dress rehearsal game of the exhibition schedule.
Zach Kruse is a 25-year-old sports writer who contributes to Cheesehead TV, Bleacher Report and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He also covered prep sports for the Dunn Co. News. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at [email protected].
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