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Key Battles: Packers vs. Ravens

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Key Battles: Packers vs. Ravens

Tomorrow's contest against the Ravens will be the preseason debut for many key members of the Packers week 1 roster.  It will be important for many of the week 1 starters to take the field briefly and knock off some of the rust so they can be as sharp as possible for the Packers regular-season opener against the Bears.  

Many of the fringe players on the Packers 2019 roster helped lead the team to a 28-26 win in the Preseason opener.  Many of these players will look to continue to make their case for why they should be included on the Packers 53 man roster when the preseason concludes.

With the week 3 dress rehearsal just one week away, I will be looking at a few key battles that will provide us with a midterm preseason progress report.

Key Battles:

1. Mason Crosby vs. Sam Ficken

It is clear as day that the Packers want to move on from Mason Crosby as they claimed Sam Ficken in April and tried to trade for Kaare Vedvik last week.  Crosby had a down year last year which was, largely due to the debacle he had in Detroit.  Either way, my gut feeling is that the Packers will give Sam Ficken every opportunity to win this job as moving on from Crosby would save them $3.6 million in cap space.  I think the Packers should be careful in this process and remember that the grass isn't always greener on the other side and that Crosby is a proven commodity.  

2. Special Teams

The special teams unit must show that last weeks performance was not a fluke and that there has been real improvement during the offseason.  I do not need to see any forced turnovers in this weeks contest.  However, I do need to see a clean contest, with made field goals/extra points, no turnovers, limited penalties, and a win in the field position battle. 

3. The Packers Offensive Line vs. The Ravens Front Seven

Although the Ravens have a bit of a different look to their front seven, they are an organization that has always been defined by their defensive unit.  Ozzie Newsome dedicated his career to building a superb defensive unit that consisted of veteran and young players and now it is time for the Ravens young players to step up.  Now Eric DeCosta, John Harbaugh, and Don Martindale have built a new defensive unit with a secondary led by Earl Thomas and a very young and unproven front seven.  Although the Ravens front seven does not consist of any household names other than Michael Pierce, the Packers starting offensive line needs to be playing its best football as young players like Jaylon Ferguson will be looking to make a name for themselves at the expense of Aaron Rodgers.      

4. The Packers Offense vs Itself

The Packers offense has been struggling with consistency early on during the LaFleur era which is to be expected when learning a new system.  As a result, the prescription to fix the inconsistencies of the new offense is to play the entire first quarter of their preseason debut.  The offense does not need to reinvent the wheel by taking unnecessary risks and calling any trick plays.  Instead, they need to focus on grasping the terminology and mastering the foundational plays of the playbook.  If the offense can master foundational plays and become more consistent by the end of the preseason they can really hit the ground running during the early part of the season and be running on all cylinders for a potential playoff push in December.      

5. The Packers Starters vs. Injuries

Matt LaFleur said that he expects many of his starters to make their debut tomorrow night and play for one quarter.  It is paramount that the coaching staff airs on the side of caution and calls a very conservative game to protect their starting unit.  Conversely, the defensive starters need to play intelligently and not take ANY unnecessary risks when pursuing the ball and stopping the ball carrier.  This game should be seen strictly as a contest to knock the rust off and get some game reps.  This is a new era of football and teams often take 4-5 weeks to get in-game shape.  The players must work themselves into game shape gradually and save their hard hits and heart-stopping plays for the regular season.   

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David Michalski is a staff writer for Cheesehead TV. He can be found on Twitter @kilbas27dave 

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (50) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

wildbill's picture

Nice breakdown and have to agree about Crosby, don’t make a change just to make a change or save money. He has kicked very well in the nasty conditions that can be encountered at Lambeau although his short kickoffs can be a problem. Let him play out his contract and draft one next year if there is one worth bringing in

jannes bjornson's picture

Let the best man WIN.

Matt Gonzales's picture

I would add our defensive front vs. the Ravens OL. The defense had a lot of trouble containing Webb last week, bringing back memories of Kaep burning us for huge yardage on the ground and killing our playoff runs.

If the base defense can't get home and make Jackson uncomfortable without having to bring the blitz or keep an ILB or safety back as a spy, this could bode very poorly for some regular season matchups, as the Packers will be playing several mobile QBs this year that will be able to find those coverage holes and make them pay if we have to sell out up front to stop the threat of the run.

ThxJackVainisi's picture

I look at individuals more than overall success in these exhibition games. Just re the DL: How good do Clark & Z look? Will Gary show progress from last week, etc? What's most exciting to me is how will Pettine scheme his newly talented D? We wont see that until the Bears game but we should get an idea of how talented the new pieces are. I was impressed with what he did with little talent last year, this year watching the D could be all kinds of fun.

Coldworld's picture

Will Gary even play with the ones? That will be interesting in itself.

cheesehead1's picture

Couldn’t we use Scott on kickoffs to fly it through the end zone. Didn’t he do it a few times last season?

Matt Gonzales's picture

Not sure about Scott but Masthay definitely did some kickoffs.

Coldworld's picture

Scott had one kick off last year that went out of bounds before the end zone. He has the leg but has he been practicing and is he accurate?

Lare's picture

I think we'll see some vanilla schemes both offensively and defensively for the Packers.

As noted, the key is to come out of this healthy. A win would be nice but not at the expense of having a key player get injured.

kevgk's picture

How about the Packers passing game versus one of the most stout secondaries in the league (starters of course). Can they complete passes in rhythm? Gain separation, even if schemed up? I'd like to see some presnap motion executed well, and a pass over 20 years completed. No more than one or two throwaways either.
They'll probably only run 2 drives or so, so we'll see.

GreenInMo's picture

I'd add that we need to see a variety of tempos from the offense in general. A few quick snaps is all it will ever take to make QB12's hardcounts extremely effective and an up-tempo offense is always more difficult to defend against.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

Variety in the snapcount has been sorely missed.

jannes bjornson's picture

Just open it up and let it rip. Give the Fans in the stands a show. They're paying good money to the plutocrat owners.

EdsLaces's picture

How about our defense causing turnovers again? Savage vs the competition?

jeremyjjbrown's picture

I want to see Savage stay in position. The talent is there on tape. I just want to know he has grocked Pettine's system.

SterlingSharpe's picture

Only one thing really matters tomorrow night. Again.
As always, it's injuries.
I'm still pissed off about Jordy's ACL in the 2015 preseason game.
I thought that team would be great coming off the chokejob in Seattle, they'd be on a serious mission. Losing him killed the offense.

That's all I care about tomorrow. Injuries.

LeotisHarris's picture

If our offense can reinvent the wheel by taking necessary risks and calling trick plays, I look for it to hit the ground running by running on all cylinders while turning wannabe household names into players trying to make a name for themselves. Conversely, if they can't, they should "air on the side of caution," especially if they're grasping terminology.

EdsLaces's picture

That was painful ..

BradHTX's picture

I hear you, but it’s a fan blog written by amateurs, for the most part. It drives me crazy too, but hell, I don’t think even the Milwaukee Journtinel pays an editor to proofread the sports articles any more; reporters just write and post without even proofing their own work. The most egregious offenders on this site, I just skip their stuff.

Tedlyflyfisher's picture

If you’re going to be a writer, you should at least have a grasp of the language. Even if you don’t have a proofreader, a writer normally will try to be his/her own proofreader. Some of these articles are incredibly sloppy and poorly written. There’s really no excuse for that. Come on, at least TRY to show excellence!

t-wrecks's picture

There is no excuse for sloppy writing in 2019. It's called Grammarly. It's free.

BoCallahan's picture

Leo,
What do you have against overused phrases which betray a lack of original thought?

Jonathan Spader's picture

Bo,

When they "throw error balls"

dobber's picture

Only to "air" on the side of caution.

IceBowl's picture

I would like to see special teams reinvent the wheel. The O will be vanilla, and so will the D ... mostly. The D will not show any hybrid formations. But I do expect blitzes.

Holecrap's picture

I hoping coaches get a good evaluation of where the team is at game 2.

PackersWinning's picture

Sorry guys but I’m so worried about Gary. High first round pick who produced nothing in college. He was Mr. High School though. Now he’s the wonder athlete but produced what last week? Let’s see how he does in Baltimore. Unfortunately...I. Predict zero sacks, tackles etc....but he looks good in a uniform. Please prove me wrong!

Jonathan Spader's picture

Save yourself some time. Get a Gary drum and play it whenever you worry. Packers aren't counting on Gary in 2019. He's a rotational player with a HIGH ceiling. It's a boom or bust pick that's going to take some time to develop. If anyine can develop him it's Mike Smith who helped Dee Ford finally develop. R-E-L-A-X

jannes bjornson's picture

Smith takes no prisoners. KC tried to blame the Defense for their collapse, but they could not run the ball and were shamed by Big Bad Bill at Home.
I'm glad Smith is on board with Pettine.

Bear's picture

You criticize Gary when you don’t even know what his job assignment is on each play. His assignment may be that of containment and you want sacks. If you look just for stats you need to understand the game better.

jannes bjornson's picture

Gary will be ripping it by mid-season, just like Matthews in 2009. Go worry for the poor and homeless. They need the help, not the players.

Coldworld's picture

I’m so over the Gary thing. There is as much evidence out there that the initial buzz was baseless as I have ever seen in a player.

Since then we have seen his behavior with the team. On the field we have seen his physical prowess. Can’t deny that.

The team has made it clear that initially they have him playing a new position to develop his all round skills and that they understand that he has a learning curve in the edge but need him to be credible there.

Further, the team is clear that Gary will be supporting not a cornerstone this year. I wonder how many snaps he will get with the starters today.

The background canvass is out there for anyone who cares to look. Now the only thing that can add definition is play in real games. There is no doubt that Gary is a stupendous athlete and raw in some aspects.

As far as preseason goes that’s about as much validation as anyone can get except one thing. In preseason one the Texans actually altered their scheme to account for him. If you want independent compliment on a rookie playing his first preseason game, that’s huge in an otherwise unschemed game.

Beyond that, only time will tell.

SmallmouthBass's picture

If you wanna break out with overreactions and have panic attacks online about a first round rookie that needs to perform this season. It's Darnell Savage. We are counting on, and arguably dependent of, his production and availability this season to be a play-making free safety on the starting defense. Remember we gave up two fourths and a first to trade up? That's A LOT. Why aren't you panicking over him when we haven't seen him... at all really?

FYI I don't support or encourage any overreactions to Savage this early to begin with

Coldworld's picture

And it’s his first game action. I expect some issues.

SmallmouthBass's picture

Myself as well. Only trying to play devil's advocate for the online trolls. Although I do want to see promise from him early on, mistakes in the preseason are not a problem for me. I am only interested in what he does when the games count on the schedule.

dobber's picture

"FYI I don't support or encourage any overreactions to Savage this early to begin with"

Absolutely! It will be a process...

greengold's picture

Knowing of him through really delving into his history, work ethic, intelligence and other info available, Darnell Savage should be the least of your worries.

There was not a better FS in the draft, and Gutekunst used two R4s to secure him on his team. No one shot up draft boards faster than he. There is a reason for that. No other FS had the speed, ball skills, football acumen and ability to tackle and make plays, regardless of run or pass better than Savage. That's not an overreaction either. It is a learned one. I anticipate he will perform quite well.

When Tramon Williams states how surprised he was to see a rookie pick up Pettine's D scheme as quickly as Savage did, you listen.

SmallmouthBass's picture

I'm not actually worried. I said I was playing devil's advocate....

SterlingSharpe's picture

Packers 47
Ravens 0

Kumerow 2 TDs
Shephard 2 TDs

Summers 15 tackles

Tundraboy's picture

Gary: Forced fumble,Strip Sack and Interception TD.

PAPackerbacker's picture

Injuries are the biggest key battles on my list especially at QB. And the next one would be tackling. The Packers have to do a better job of tackling. And eliminate penalties. I know it's preseason but now is the time to correct these issues before the regular season starts. I guess these key battles could fit under Packers versus themselves.

A Pickled Packer's picture

Curious to see how this Danny Vitale guy will do he seemingly came out of nowhere. Will be nice to see a fullback again. In a Lefleur offense, can he become even better than Kuhn?

Coldworld's picture

Bohanon will be the only fullback playing tonight. Curious to see if they use him just to block or more like that have with Vitale, though may be a little too soon for that.

Much as I loved Kuhn, Vitale is a far more diverse weapon in the passing game. It remains to be seen how he does in blocking and in the ground. The Vitale role is not your father’s FB.

dobber's picture

I think Kuhn is a good comparison until we see more. Remember, too, that Kuhn saw a lot of 3rd down snaps that might normally go to pass-catching backs because he was such a sure blocker.

Coldworld's picture

But looking at camp, seems very different and Kuhn was a former college RB, so much more experienced running and a lot less athletic in the passing game.

PackfanNY's picture

I am looking to see how our defensive pieces fit together. The idea to me of signing free agents like Z Smith, P Smith and drafting R Gary to add to what we already have is fitting them together as a whole. The sum of what they can do as a pass rushing unit and the total defense has not been seen yet. Pair that with a speedy young secondary and they might really have something.
In other words, I think the sum of the parts should be higher than the individual players.

Donster's picture

Priority one is to get out of Baltimore with no major injuries.

I want to see some improvement in tackling, especially with the starters. To me, that should have been cleaned up by now. I just don't understand why the Packers haven't tackled well for a number of years now. It's not because of the CBA, because other teams are very good at it. Maybe the past coaches haven't put that much emphasis on it, worrying about injury.

I want to see how much the Tight Ends get involved, and who. Especially Lewis. It's been crickets about him since camp opened.

Tedlyflyfisher's picture

It’s “errs on the side of caution”, not “airs”.

Mark S's picture

I think I'm looking for promises kept. We all know the drums beaten all off season. So in the 1st quarter I want to see some evidence of the following
DEFENSE:
Is the pass rush really better? More physical, fast and able to prevail on key downs?
Is the back end coverage really better?
Did the young corners make any jump?
Do these combine into turnovers again?

OFFENSE
Can we run the traditional inside & outside zone plays without anything but vanilla formations (as I'm sure will be the case)?
Can we use that run success and pace to help open the underneaths & crosses so receivers are schemed open as advertised?
Do these 3 in combination a)keep Rodgers upright, b) allow them to play with the faster tempo like they used to? A few shot plays will be nice but unnecessary.

Realize 1/2 the playbook is unavailable because Vitali is hurt, so the 12 and 22 packages won't be used I'm sure . Also suspect motion & alignments will remain in the closet.

Players to watch are too many to list, a big credit to Guty. If we can get some of these glimpses into the future and come out injury free tonight is a win regardless of score

Mark S's picture

I think I'm looking for promises kept. We all know the drums beaten all off season. So in the 1st quarter I want to see some evidence of the following
DEFENSE:
Is the pass rush really better? More physical, fast and able to prevail on key downs?
Is the back end coverage really better?
Did the young corners make any jump?
Do these combine into turnovers again?

OFFENSE
Can we run the traditional inside & outside zone plays without anything but vanilla formations (as I'm sure will be the case)?
Can we use that run success and pace to help open the underneaths & crosses so receivers are schemed open as advertised?
Do these 3 in combination a)keep Rodgers upright, b) allow them to play with the faster tempo like they used to? A few shot plays will be nice but unnecessary.

Realize 1/2 the playbook is unavailable because Vitali is hurt, so the 12 and 22 packages won't be used I'm sure . Also suspect motion & alignments will remain in the closet.

Players to watch are too many to list, a big credit to Guty. If we can get some of these glimpses into the future and come out injury free tonight is a win regardless of score

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