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Packers vs. Saints: Who to Watch in Green Bay’s Preseason Finale

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Packers vs. Saints: Who to Watch in Green Bay’s Preseason Finale

The Green Bay Packers will finish up the 2015 preseason slate by hosting the New Orleans Saints Thursday night from Lambeau Field. 

Here are some individual players to watch during the final exhibition game of 2015:

WR Jared Abbrederis: The former Wisconsin star practiced this week for the first time since July 30. He’ll now play in his first live game since New Year’s Day in 2014. It would probably be asking too much for Abbrederis to be on the field for a significant amount of plays against the Saints, given how much time he’s missed over the last two years. But he might need all the snaps he can physically handle to win a spot on the 53-man roster. Too little, too late? Abbrederis has one last shot. 

RBs John Crockett/Alonzo Harris: Rajion Neal looks like a near lock to be the third running back, but Crockett and Harris have one more opportunity to prove they belong. Both backs have run hard when given snaps this preseason. Yet Crockett missed a big chunk of the summer with an ankle sprain, and Harris doesn’t look comfortable as a receiver. They both played behind Neal last week against the Eagles. Plus, Neal has a year in the system. Crockett and Harris need to run over the Saints to have a chance to stick. 

TEs Kennard Backman/Justin Perillo/Mitchell Henry: Few spots are more wide open than the tight end position behind Andrew Quarless and Richard Rodgers. Backman is a draft pick, and he looks athletically capable of becoming an asset down the seam. Perillo has a lot of Tom Crabtree to his game, but he also suffered a concussion and missed a preseason game. Henry might have been a bigger factor had he not broken his finger early in August. Expect Thursday night to play a big role in which young tight end sticks. 

OL Don Barclay: The Packers need to figure out the offense’s reserve linemen. JC Tretter, Lane Taylor and Josh Walker have been the team’s best three backups, and it’s certainly possible that Green Bay will go into the 2015 season with the starting five and those three behind them. Barclay once appeared locked into a reserve role, but this preseason has been a nightmare. Playing left tackle coming off ACL surgery has done him no favors, but he likely won’t stick unless the Packers feel he can backup both tackle positions. Expect Green Bay to give him plenty of snaps at tackle again Thursday night. 

DLs Christian Ringo/Khyri Thornton/Bruce Gaston: Chances are the Packers will keep one of the three young defensive linemen to start 2015, especially with Letroy Guion and Datone Jones suspended for Week 1. Gaston has probably been the best player of the three this summer, with Ringo and Thornton trailing behind. Thornton is a high draft pick but doesn’t do anything particularly well, while Ringo is powerful against the run and Gaston can push the pocket from the inside. Jones and Guion are better pass-rushers than run-stoppers, so it’s possible Gaston will get the upper hand when it’s all said and done. Thursday night will be important for all three. 

LBs Carl Bradford/James Vaughters: Bradford has slowly but surely taken steps forward this summer, but the problem is Vaughters—an undrafted free agent—has been the more impactful player. He can rush the quarterback from the edge, and his cross-training at inside linebacker has gone more smoothly than Bradford’s. Based on three preseason games, Vaughters should be the easy pick. But the fourth contest should give both players a bunch of snaps, and the better player coming out of Thursday night will have the upper hand. Bradford isn’t buried yet.

LB Joe Thomas: Sam Barrington’s struggles as a nickel linebacker against the Eagles might open up a chance for Thomas, who is one of the team’s better coverage linebackers. He has some speed to burn, and he looks comfortable in space. Thomas isn’t going to win Barrington’s roster spot—the veteran is locked in as an early-down thumper—but he can force his way onto the roster by showing he’s capable in the nickel and dime packages. The Packers might be in trouble if Barrington is the defense’s go-to linebacker on passing downs in 2015. Could Thomas be the answer?

CBs Quinten Rollins/Ladarius Gunter/Damarious Randall: While the three all have roster spots locked down, don't expect the Packers to rest them on the bench Thursday night. The trio needs to play. Rollins can't get enough snaps as he continues his transition from college point guard to NFL cornerback, while Randall and Gunter must approach the preseason finale as an audition for serious playing time—especially if Micah Hyde's injury lingers into the regular season. The Packers will want to get as many snaps out of the three as possible to end the preseason. 

P Tim Masthay: The Packers will probably stick with Masthay regardless of what happens Thursday night, but it would sure be comforting if the struggling punter boomed a couple of kicks against the Saints. His funk has lasted too long. Masthay’s 39.9-yard average ranks dead last among the 50 NFL punters this preseason. He really needs a strong finale. Confidence is everything for a kicker. 

 

Zach Kruse contributes to Cheesehead TV. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (20) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

croatpackfan's picture

Nice review.. Nothing to add, nothing to take off. Lets hope after today Packers will clearly know who deserve spot at roster and PS... And that would not be new injuries, at least, not at important positions... Also, I would like Abby to shine and force Packers to bring him on 53...

EdsLaces's picture

Pennel needs to give us a good showing as well. Wanna play more than BJ this year? Prove it one last time.

RCPackerFan's picture

Yeah, you pretty much pointed out who I'm watching tonight.

WR-
Abbrederis is the first person I want to see. Since this is the first game that we are going to see him in a Packers uniform. If he shows he can make an impact I can see him getting on the 53.

RB-
Right now I think Neal has the 3rd RB spot locked up. But could Crockett force his way onto the 53 at the expense of someone else? Maybe even Kuhn?

TE-
Backman really impressed me last week. That catch he made with the safety hitting him and not even bobbling the ball was very impressive. He could be the receiving TE that we were hoping Williams and Bostick were going to be. Being a draft pick I think he will be our 3rd TE.

DL-
Gaston deserves a spot on the 53. He has been very good. IMO, the only DL that has been better this preseason has been Pennel.

ILB -
This should be the biggest competition tonight. Packers really need 1-2 ILBs to step up. Thomas could be a coverage LB, but needs to show it tonight.

CB-
Has there been a better group of rookie CB's then the Packers current trio? They all have made plays. I want to see who stands out tonight and is going to make a bid for playing time next week.

Evan's picture

Packers really could use a serviceable back-up OT and I don't think that player is currently on the roster.

4thand1's picture

You're right, i don't see one either.

DrealynWilliams's picture

Man, I'm hoping Abby shows up and shows out. The only thing not making this a perfect situation is this game being the Pre-Season finale.

vj_ostrowski's picture

I look forward to feeding my #Hundleymania for just a little longer

vj_ostrowski's picture

4 TDs.

#Hundleymania

Catch it.

Imma Fubared's picture

With all the talent they have available at receiver, I see no reason for Abederus to make the team. He has been injury prone and done little to earn his keep.
I don't get the 'oh there is potential there' theories. Potential doesn't catch footballs and score points and win games. Cut him.

vj_ostrowski's picture

A lot of this is Badger fan bias, but with Abby, there is definitely something there were it not for the health issue.

Unfortunately, in today's NFL, the health issue is just about the biggest issue you can have. You can't get away with playing with concussions anymore. Unless you're Russell Wilson in the NFC Championship game.

Christopher Gennaro's picture

Its all about the bubbles!!! Bubbles I say!!

the real russ letlow's picture

we're battling for depth on the roster tonight. I do have some concerns about our punting situation. We've lost a ton of yards in field position this preseason by being handily out-punted every game. Come on Tim! Get rid of that funk! I am hoping that Masthay takes punter right out of the conversation with a good game tonight.

jh9's picture

I think we're going to have some surprises at who makes the 53-man roster at LB. The way I have the roster looking is 24 players on offense, 26 defensive players, and 3 ST. On defense I see 8 DL, 9 LBs, 9 CBs & Ss.

Players I have as locks at LB are: Matthews, Peppers, Perry, Neal, Elliott, and Barrington. That means there are going to be only three spots left for Mulumba, Ryan, Palmer, Thomas, Vaughters, Rasco, and Bradford.

I dunno... Maybe Perry, Neal and Elliott aren't locks?

Evan's picture

I think Neal and Elliott very much are locks. Perry is definitely at-risk.

Spud Rapids's picture

I think Perry is too good when he is healthy to cut. He holds the edge just as well as Peppers does and they are not paying him a ton to keep his potential on the roster.

EdsLaces's picture

I believe a true dat is in order.

EdsLaces's picture

Mulumba is playing pretty well ..

vj_ostrowski's picture

I'm not on-board with the "cut Raji/Perry" crowd. I can make a 53-man with them on it and still keep the young potential guys that seem to be worth a damn.

I still have hope for Raji, but even if he ends up not being a starter as the season wears on, he'll prove to be one hell of a backup/rotational guy.

As for Perry, when the guy is healthy he has made impact plays. Sacks, forced fumbles, and great run stops. The "healthy" part is the issue, but in his case, keeping him on the roster in a contract season is MORE than worth whatever we're paying him right now. Let him play for a decent contract from some other team for next year, and we benefit for one more year.

gr7070's picture

Every snap Raji is on the field it's a negative for the Packers. It doesn't matter whether he's a starter or backup. He's bad. There are better options for the Packers on every play.

He really is not good. I don't understand how anyone sees otherwise. Guion , who isn't anything great, had as many sacks in 2014 than Raji in 11, 12, and 13 combined! And Raji is awful in run defense, too. All this shows up in traditional stats, advanced analytics, and both match up with every game I've watched of his the last four years.

He's awful.

Tundraboy's picture

Anyone know where to watch this game online?

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