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Packers vs. Chiefs: Things You Could Watch During Thursday's Preseason Finale

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Packers vs. Chiefs: Things You Could Watch During Thursday's Preseason Finale

The Green Bay Packers conclude their 2013 preseason schedule on Thursday night with a trip to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.

The matchup will mark the fourth straight season in which Green Bay has played Kansas City in the preseason finale. The Packers have won two straight meetings and hold a 7-6-1 advantage all-time against the Chiefs in exhibition play.

Here’s five things you could watch during Thursday's fourth and final preseason game:

1. VY's Extended Look

In this very game last August, the Packers were saved from looking elsewhere at backup quarterback when Graham Harrell finally put together an NFL-caliber performance against the Chiefs. After three straight uninspiring showings, Harrell was nearly flawless (13 of 15, 223 yards, two TDs) in the preseason finale. He has since been released, leaving backup front runner Vince Young to start in Kansas City. Young obviously doesn't need to post a perfect 158.3 passer rating to win the backup job, but the Packers would like to see him continue taking steps forward, both in terms of the offensive playbook and the subtle fundamental changes the coaching staff is making with 30-year-old quarterback. A strong couple of quarters, in which Young flashes the same improvisational skills that helped lead a touchdown drive against Seattle last Saturday, should be more than enough for the Packers to declare him Aaron Rodgers' backup to start the 2013 season.

2. Sorting the WRs

Randall Cobb (biceps), Jordy Nelson (knee) and James Jones (rest) are unlikely to play Thursday night, leaving the Packers with an opportunity to sort out the bottom of their receiver depth chart. Jarrett Boykin appears locked in as the No. 4 receiver, and he should get a majority of the early snaps with Young at quarterback. The four remaining receivers—Jeremy Ross, Tyrone Walker, Charles Johnson and Myles White—will take center stage opposite Boykin. Ross offers special teams value, but is he accomplished enough as a receiver to warrant a roster spot? Walker has caught everything thrown his way in camp, but is he a good enough athlete to consistently win against anything more than backups? Johnson has been nicked up all camp, leaving Thursday as his last opportunity to show he belongs, either as the No. 5 receiver or on the practice squad. White might be the biggest roster long shot of the bunch, although a spot on the practice squad still remains a realistic goal. The Packers should get the film they need on the bottom four receivers Thursday night. Whoever grasps the opportunity might put themselves on the fast track to a roster spot. Remember, Boykin caught five passes and a touchdown in the finale last year to secure his spot.

3. Keeping the Crosby Roller Coaster Trending Up

Mason Crosby all but wrapped up the kicking job Tuesday, making 14 of 14 kicks (or 13 or 14 if his one long kick actually did come up short) during the two-session practice while challenger Zach Ramirez missed 10 of his 16 attempts. The Packers sent the rookie packing a few hours later to get to 75 players. Giorgio Tavecchio might still be in play long term, but barring a mental and physical breakdown against the Chiefs, Crosby will be the Packers kicker in Week 1 against the 49ers. The coaching staff will once again want to see Crosby's strong week translate to a live game setting, where he has been flawless this preseason. Crosby can still be an above average kicker in the NFL; he just needs to avoid having any one mistake snowball into a bigger problem. An uneventful Thursday night from the kicking game would be welcomed.

4. Decisions in the Return Game

Randall Cobb's battle with a biceps injury could be a season-long affair, making the discovery of a replacement kick and punt returner all the more important. Ross has looked confident catching the football this preseason, and he leads the team with three kick returns for 77 yards. He is still the most talented returner on the team save for Cobb. However, Alex Green has put his name into the kick returning competition, and Micah Hyde is a natural for punt returns. Both players also have more security in terms of roster spots and roles than Ross, who is still fighting to be the No. 5 receiver. If Green and Hyde prove capable in the final preseason game, Ross could see his spot on the 53-man roster evaporate.

5. Position Battles 

The fourth preseason game will offer a final battle ground for these positional groupings:

  • Linebacker: Inside linebacker is especially jammed, with six players worthy of a roster spot. Can the Packers keep all six? On the outside, Andy Mulumba has become a favorite to win a backup role. But will the Packers keep four, and is Dezman Moses, who has struggled this month, still a roster lock?
  • Backup offensive line: The starters are likely locked into place, but the backups are far from settled. The Packers will get a full game's worth of film to decide who are the sixth, seventh and eighth offensive linemen to start 2013.
  • Safety: Will Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings play? Maybe, but Thursday night might turn into the Chris Banjo show. He's flashed in each preseason game, and another big night might lock up his spot as the team's No. 4 safety.
  • Tight end: The Packers were able to keep all seven tight ends for the preseason finale. The position is a muddled mess behind starter Jermichael Finley, which turns Thursday night into a major deciding point for the other six.

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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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (34) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Evan's picture

All I know is I better be watching Rodgers and Matthews sitting on the sideline.

RC Packer Fan's picture

Completely agree. I honestly hope we don't see much of any starters to be honest.

TommyG's picture

too right!

Bibbon Hazel's picture

Banjo and Walker seal the deal. Book em, Danno. It stinks they will be using a roster spot on a one trick pony Ross. He can't catch. Green return kicks, Hyde return punts and Ross is dumped for Walker and or White. That be nice. Until Ross finds the endzone on returns I don't think he will ever make up for his bears bobble and niners playoff snafu. Not a fan!

Jamie's picture

I somewhat agree on Ross, but then think how much guys like Trindon Holliday and Jacoby Jones did for their respective SB contending teams, and see Ross as (or very close to) that type of guy.

RC Packer Fan's picture

I don't think Ross's job is secure. I think he has to have a big game returning kicks/punts for him to stay on the roster. Otherwise I see them using Hyde and Green or others for PR/KR duties.

packsmack25's picture

I honestly think Coleman is still the front-runner for the backup job. Whoever looks better tomorrow night doesn't get cut.

Jamie's picture

I honestly think you're way off.

Coleman's footwork is still sooo horrid, among his other questionable abilities, I think he has a better shot at not even being asked to join the PS than he does at retaining a roster spot as the #2.

packsmack25's picture

So you're saying if Young looks terrible tomorrow, he'll still make the team? Coleman just has to look semi-capable in that scenario.

Jamie's picture

Luckily, the Packers do not draw conclusions from such limited information.

There is zero chance the Packers are going into this last game, having seen virtually nothing from Coleman in two TCs, saying to themselves that the QB that performs best wins the job.

If Young looks terrible tomorrow, the Packers have extended examples of where he hasn't. At the same time Coleman has almost always looked terrible. One or two non-terrible outings isn't going to be enough for Coleman.

packsmack25's picture

Obviously you've never actually watched Vince Young play in the NFL, you've just watched the highlights.

L's picture

2-QBs: Rodgers, Young
5-RBs: Lacey, Green, Franklin, – Starks?, Kuhn?, Amosa?
5-WRs: J.Jones, Cobb, Nelson, Boykins, – Ross?, Johnson?, Walker?, White?
4-TEs: Finley, – Quarless?, Mulligan?, DJ.Williams?, Bostick?, R.Taylor?, Stoneburner?
9-OL: Bakhtiari, Barclay, Newhouse, Sitton, Lang, EDS, – GVR?, L.Taylor?, Datko?, Lewis?, Hughes?, Gerhart?
7-DL: Pickett, Raji, D.Jones, Jolly, Neal, Danials, – Wilson?, Boyd?, Miller?
9-LBs: Matthews, Perry, Hawk, B.Jones, Lattimore, Francois, Manning, – Mulumba?, Palmer?, Moses?, Barrington?, Savage?
9-DBs: T.Williams, Shields, Heyward, Burnett, House, Hyde, McMillian, Jennings, – Bush?, Banjo?, Means?, Fulton?, Powell?, Nixon?, Smith?
3-STs: Crosby, Masthay, Goode
IR: Bulaga, Worthy, Tretter, Harris, Dorsey, – Reed?, Cunningham?
PUP: Sherrod, – Richardson?
8-PS: Coleman, – Boyd?, Mulumba?, Palmer?, Johnson?, Bostick?, L.Taylor?, Barrington?, Walker?, White?, Datko?, Banjo?, Means?, Miller?, Stoneburner?…(or of course other team’s players)

Nick Perry's picture

Mulumba has played better than Lattimore. I know Lattimore is a player on ST but wonder if they like Mulumbas upside more?

L's picture

So you think the LB group will turn out like this...

LB: Matthews, Perry, Hawk, B.Jones, Francois, Manning, Mulumba, Palmer, Barrington

...with Lattimore being let go or traded?

I guess I could see this happening, but I thought the Packers would rather have Lattimore on the team for his ST play and because they thought Sam Barrington could make it through waviers in order to be assigned to the Practice Squad. Also, this would mean that Moses isn't retained which might lead to trade discussion on him unless he's kept over Palmer who they believe they can also get through to the PS too.

OLB depth breakdown: Matthews, Perry, Neal, Palmer, Mulumba, B.Jones (if injuries got really bad)

ILB depth breakdwon: Hawk, B.Jones, Francois, Manning, Barrington, Matthews (as a QB spy)

Brooklyn81's picture

Johnson will not stick on the ps

hayward4president's picture

Am I the only person that thinks White is a freakin badass?

Phatgzus's picture

I think he and Walker are the reasons Dorsey got the boot.

RC Packer Fan's picture

I just haven't seen enough out of white that has impressed me. Although he did have that great TD that wasn't called a TD from Young against the Rams. He got both feet in but was ruled out.
I just need to see a little more from him.

Lucky953's picture

Most important to me are backup OL and safety. Id like to see a trade for a good interior lineman. Watching our backups try to run the ball against Seattle was very disturbing. Backup QB? If Rodgers is out for an extended period, obviously it's season over. Who's more likely to win a game or two in an emergency-Young or Coleman? Young obviously. Coleman to PS makes sense. WR- I like Walker bc he's been pretty consistent catching the ball, but as far as "upside" I can't tell who's "got it". I'd even take Bostic as the 6th receiver, maybe as a hybrid guy. I'd take Mulumba over Moses, who seems like the return of Erik Walden to me. Mulumba's a more physical guy, who has seemed to pick things up pretty quickly. Perfect for Kevin Greene to work with.

RC Packer Fan's picture

our backups were running against the Seahawks starters for a good portion of the game.
Plus our running game will look a lot better without the opposing team stacking the box to stop the run as they did when Harrell was the QB.

Lucky953's picture

When they have to come in to replace an injured player, it will be against the other team's starters, unfortunately.

RC Packer Fan's picture

I agree with that. But they will be mixed in with our starters as well...
It won't be a whole line of backups...

Lucky953's picture

I can see what you're saying: a rising tide lifts all boats or something like that.
I hope you're right and I'm wrong.

Fi crane's picture

Something very unique about that walker. He runs funny he Looks funny and seems to cause defenders to lose timing or something??? Like Terrance McKenna said, "nature loves unique"

Phatgzus's picture

Terrance McKenna eh? Maybe Walker's one of those stoned apes he was talkin' about.

RC Packer Fan's picture

The things I'm watching is...

Who stands out. Almost every year you have a young player stand out in the final preseason game to make the final roster. I want to see who jumps out.

Rookies. I want to see how they look. One rookie I really want to see is Charles Johnson. I want to see if he steps up. I think the only way he makes the 53 right now is if he has a big game. Otherwise I think he will be practice squad bound.

Vince Young. If he shows he locked down the #2 job.

Players I am looking to improve their stock, Johnson, Chris Banjo, Jonathan Franklin, Andy Mulumba, Nate Palmer, Sam Barrington, Tyrone Walker and Jeremy Ross.

Positions I think are unsettled. TE (2-3), WR (1-2), OL (1-2), LB(2-3).

Phatgzus's picture

Good list, though unless Johnson absolutely dominates I think he's PS-bound, or plain old cut. I'm very interested to see how VY, Walker, Ross, White, and Boykin as a no. 1 all perform vs. a solid Chiefs (granted they'll be resting most of their starters).

RC Packer Fan's picture

Yeah, I think the only way Johnson makes it is if he dominates or at the very least shows real reasons to keep him. Him being injured as much as he has, he really needs to show something IMO.
I want to watch him though because I want to see what he can do. He has good measurable, just needs to put it on the field.

I agree with you on your list. I think Ross needs to have a big game returning the ball to make the roster. If he breaks a Punt or Kick for a long gain, I think they keep him. Otherwise I don't know if he'll make it.

Cow42's picture

White will have a big game because Young tends to lock in on him when they're on the field together.

RC Packer Fan's picture

Maybe Johnson will have a big game because Coleman might lock into him. He looked to go his way 2x's last week. one that drew a Pass interference penalty and another that Johnson made a diving attempt for.

Phatgzus's picture

I thought that diving attempt was Dorsey?

I bleed Green More's picture

Crosby had been scheduled to earn $2.4 million in base salary during the 2013 season. Under the restructured contract, Crosby will earn $800,000 in base salary, which will be fully guaranteed if he's on the team's roster on Saturday, Sept. 7. Crosby can make up the $1.6 million difference via roster bonuses throughout the season and through performance incentives.

Jamie's picture

PACKSMACK25 says...

"Obviously you’ve never actually watched Vince Young play in the NFL, you’ve just watched the highlights."

Says the guy touting the guy that has ZERO highlights to even watch. Vince Young has played very well in this league for extended stretches, and adds an element to the game where he can give a team a chance to score (and thus win) using his mobility (or threat of mobility).

Coleman? He's just plain terrible. Terrible feet, questionable accuracy, questionable decision making, questionable pocket presence, not very mobile.There is literally nothing to like about his game other than arm strength, which is negated by his accuracy.

packsmack25's picture

I didn't realize you were an expert on QB mechanics, but I do find it hilarious that you're belittling the mechanics of Coleman to tout the virtues of VINCE FREAKING YOUNG, who is basically the poster child for bad mechanics.

You're also leaving out the part where Coleman knows and can handle the whole playbook, whereas Young, who is a notoriously slow study, has had the playbook two weeks.

Let me ask you this: if the front office agrees and thinks Coleman is so horrible, why is he still on the team? Clearly they think he has talent, and if he puts it together in this final game and Young falters, why would they favor the guy that some think can't read a defense despite seven-plus years in the league?

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