Should the Packers play starters in the preseason?

To play the Packers starters or to sit them? That is the age-old question.

Packers head coach Matt LaFleur announced on Wednesday morning that at least some starters would be making an appearance in the preseason opener.

The team from Titletown takes its talents to Levi Stadium to face the 49ers on Friday night. LaFleur says the No. 1 offensive line will open up the game.

After that? Who knows which starters will make appearances this preseason.

Which brings us to the great August debate: Should the Packers play their starters in the preseason?

Last season was the first season in which the NFL played three preseason contests instead of four, which was a welcome sight for most NFL fans - as many of the snaps taken, especially near the end of those games, were generally meaningless.

There are pros and cons to everything, and everyone seems to have an opinion. Put the starters out there in preseason and they'll get game reps, shake off the rust and put some things on film for coaching purposes. But keeping those players out there also puts them at risk for a major injury in a relatively meaningless game, i.e., Jordy Nelson in 2015.

LaFleur and his staff chose to hold out most starters for the entirety of the preseason in 2021.

At the time, it was considered a smart move. I mean, the season before, the Packers finished 13-3 and barely lost in the NFC Championship game with the majority of the same players. Surely an experienced team wouldn't be rusty in the first game right?

Well, we all know how the Packers started the 2021 season off. A 38-3 season-opening blowout loss to the Saints in Jacksonville wasn't fun for anyone.

Which has, of course, made LaFleur reconsider whether or not he should do the same this season.

“When you have a stinker like we did last year in Week 1, there’s always going to be the second-guessing of what happened in training camp," LaFleur said earlier this preseason. "Should we have played more? Should we have played the first game? The second game? Whatever it might be."

LaFleur said he's considered playing many of his starters in the last preseason game on Aug. 25 in Kansas City, including Aaron Rodgers, who made his preseason stance clear earlier this week.

“I don’t see any benefit to it. I definitely don’t see any benefit to playing one series,” Rodgers said. “If we’re going to play, we should play and play a quarter, a couple of series, two to three series. Just suiting up for four plays, to me, is a waste."

To Aaron's point, one series is probably not going to make a break how the team plays in the first regular season game. A few series or a whole quarter of action, however, might be beneficial.

It will be interesting to see what decisions the coaching staff will make this preseason.

And, as always, time will tell if those decisions were the right ones.

__________________________

Gunnar Davis is a lifelong Packers fan and a recent graduate of Simpson College, where he was a 3-year letterwinner on the offensive line and graduated with a degree in multimedia communications. You can follow him on Twitter at @Gunnar57Davis.

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3 points

Comments (28)

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Coldworld's picture

August 10, 2022 at 12:14 pm

Yes. A one or two (substantial) drives with Rodgers and the two or three with Love and a drive or two for the D ( more if they 3 and out). If the D is as good as many think, that should be a half at most. Let all the moving parts work together as one. I’d play the starting ST groups throughout a game too, probably the one in which the started play to avoid overload on players playing for a roster spot later.

Either the longer post preseason break I’d be tempted to use the last game for that, to get as close as possible to finalizing the rosters, including the ST groups. Before that I would not play anyone whose spot is genuinely beyond doubt unless necessary for QB safety, to see them in a different role/ position, injury problems or some other short term exigency.

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LLCHESTY's picture

August 10, 2022 at 06:11 pm

I'm not sure if preseason games help all that much besides maybe some OL cohesion but I do think they should scrimmage/hit more. I guess we'll see how live next week's practices with the Saints are for the 1s.

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Coldworld's picture

August 11, 2022 at 08:26 am

Yes, the Scrimmage could change things depending on how they conduct it, but Rodgers doesn’t like dual team practices either. So I really don’t know.

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Leatherhead's picture

August 10, 2022 at 07:58 pm

If it were up to me, I’d play the starters, minus Rodgers and Dillon Jones. I’d throw. It’s not about winning, it’s about getting ready for games that count. I’d probably have the starting Oline playing most of the first half. Can we play like we’ve practiced🙁? Line up 11? Avoid turnovers?

Second half is mostly just taking a last look at guys you might cut. The big preseason game for the Packers is next week, imo. The last one is just avoid injuries and play a bunch of guys you will cut .

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T7Steve's picture

August 10, 2022 at 12:31 pm

When they played 4 PS games the 3rd game was the dress rehearsal and the first team played at least the first half (Gunnar's ref to Jordy). Everyone watched that game. They had most of their roster figured by then.

This year I'm afraid even Jordon Love is too valuable a test for the O-line. But, when else can he continue learning?

Does anyone see a scenario where the O-line 1s shouldn't play some major 1/2s at least? Maybe Nij and Runyan can let some backups get some reps.

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splitpea1's picture

August 10, 2022 at 12:40 pm

Sparingly. I like the MLF approach to open up with the top OL unit--he'll need to see what he has and what adjustments need to be made from the get-go.

I want to see as much of Love as possible. Probably so does Gute.

Defense: Once again, sparingly. Last season's opening debacle was largely due to inexperience in a new system, and there was definitely some confusion--so throw that out the window. Give the rookies and reserves plenty of playing time in the preseason.

ST: They'll be a work in progress throughout the season. I would strongly prefer not to play any starters here until the regular season begins.

It's really not the end of the world if we lose the first game, but two of the next three are against quality opponents, so I think it would be beneficial to take more of a long term view than just concentrating on the opener vs. the Vikings.

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T7Steve's picture

August 10, 2022 at 01:04 pm

Agree. We evidently can get by on ST till the end of the year. Don't know how they shuffle guys around with injuries and fatigue at the end.

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TarynsEyes's picture

August 10, 2022 at 12:53 pm

Sit every player that you already KNOW is your IST string starter. Everyone else is trying to make the team or take a previous 2nd team player's role or roster spot, You have more than enough to cover for sitting the locked 1st string starters.

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Guam's picture

August 10, 2022 at 02:06 pm

Lots of thumbs up if I could Taryn. Bubble wrap the starters. Avoid not only injury, but additional wear and tear on the starters. 17 games is a long football season and wear and tear has become a much more serious issue than when they played 12 games.

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Since'61's picture

August 10, 2022 at 07:52 pm

Totally agree Taryn!!! Thanks, Since ‘61

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HarryHodag's picture

August 10, 2022 at 01:39 pm

If the Vikings opening game looks like the Saints/Packers opening game last year we'll start the debate again. I don't know how you can get game ready playing touch football.

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mrtundra's picture

August 10, 2022 at 02:45 pm

I agree. We had better be prepared to play starters, for a bit, in the preseason, just to prepare for our week 1 game against the vikings .The vikings will be ready to hit our players, hard, in week 1. Count on them trying to get to Rodgers, often. Our O Line starters need to be ready for those blitz packages and A gap bull rushes. No way are they ready, if they do not play in the preseason.

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Since'61's picture

August 10, 2022 at 02:25 pm

Give the OLs some reps in the preseason since we’re still working out who the best 5 will be. Also the receivers besides Cobb and Lazard. Bubble wrap Rodgers, Jones, and Dillon.

On defense, bubble wrap Clark, Gary, P.Smith, Campbell, Alexander, Stokes and Amos.

Another factor is that this season we have 16 days between the last preseason game and the start of the season. Therefore any alleged benefit the starters would gain from playing in the preseason will be mitigated by the 2 week plus break between games. Therefore protect the starters as much as possible and let practice before the season begins.

Rodgers and Vince Lombardi are correct, “Practice is more important than preseason games.” Thanks, Since ‘61

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ImaPayne's picture

August 10, 2022 at 02:51 pm

My two cents says they should play starters but in a limited capacity. Mostly to get some dust off the jersey is all. Its not like Gary needs to practice rushing the pasher. Lets keep guys safe. Lets see what the scrubs can do.
PS, if you start the starters what if the other team doesnt, your playing against scrubs. Its a crap shoot on both sides.

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701Packer's picture

August 10, 2022 at 03:55 pm

Generally, I agree with ARod. Play a bunch or don't play at all. I would like to see a few series in one game from the starters. As long as they are ready to go week one it doesn't matter, but it will be scrutinized if they lay a stinker again. It could be a 1-2 start if they aren't ready to go, with tough road games at MIN, at TB in the first 3 weeks.

Lafleur has done a good job overall starting the season, but last year against the Saints was brutal to open. One or two losses in the first month won't kill your season, but it can hurt in seeding late in the season.

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Rarescope's picture

August 10, 2022 at 04:07 pm

Not worth it, but if you're gonna play, play a whole quarter with the starting offense like Rodgers said. And do it in the first game - more time to recover if someone does get hurt. Personally I'd rather see them lose the first game of the season again than risk an injury playing against hot-headed young D players trying to make their own team.

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PackyCheese500's picture

August 10, 2022 at 04:13 pm

No No No No No! Maybe some new or newer starters, like Newman, Hanson, Tom, and maybe the starters could play a teensy bit, but playing starters in the preseason seems like asking for injuries. Besides, the Preseason is when we get to see the second and third string players in action to help work out the depth chart.

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PackyCheese500's picture

August 10, 2022 at 04:13 pm

No No No No No! Maybe some new or newer starters, like Newman, Hanson, Tom, and maybe the starters could play a teensy bit, but playing starters in the preseason seems like asking for injuries. Besides, the Preseason is when we get to see the second and third string players in action to help work out the depth chart.

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Swisch's picture

August 11, 2022 at 09:15 am

Even in theater there is a dress rehearsal before the opening of a play, which seems to be a worthwhile event beyond just a regular rehearsal.
Perhaps the idea is to get in a performance as close to the real thing as possible.
In NFL football, it seems of significant benefit for starters to play in the preseason (about a quarter) in a realistic game (even if it doesn't count) with fans and refs and a clock and so forth.
It would seem much different than even a scrimmage in practice.
Football is such a team game of synchronization and rhythm that preseason games would seem invaluable for getting guys working together.
***
Also, as I've previously opined, the vanilla defenses of the preseason would seem to be a good place to fine tune the offense before facing the blitzes and stunts of defenses in regular season games.
Plus, preseason games seem better than joint practices with other NFL teams, because there are real referees blowing the whistle within the real structure of a real football game. The players are used to all of this, and it would seem to naturally rein them in with familiar parameters.
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It's interesting, although perhaps just coincidental, that Aaron Rodgers has sustained two of his major injuries during his career (if I remember correctly) in the first games of two different regular seasons: once against the Bears, and once against the Vikings.
Were either of these injuries due to Rodgers and his offensive line not getting enough time on the field together in the preseason? It's worth asking.
Again, it seems much better for players to gel as a team in relatively tame preseason games.
I would guess the regular season games are much more chaotic and vicious.
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It's worth pointing out that the major injury to Jordy Nelson in a preseason game was a fluke with no defender anywhere near him.
Didn't Bakh initially suffer his current knee injury during an ordinary practice in the regular season, or before a playoff game?
There are risks to everything -- including sending a team on the field for the first game of the regular season that is not properly prepared as individuals working together in units.
***
So, let's play some good hard and clean football in the preseason, with some precautions, but without fear.
For one thing, it's a good way to reinforce Rodgers in getting the ball out of his hands without dawdling in the pocket.

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Since'61's picture

August 11, 2022 at 10:59 am

Swisch, Rodgers suffered his first collar bone injury against the Bears during the 8th game of the 2013 season.
The Packers were 7-2 at the time. He suffered his second collar bone injury during the 5th game of the 2017 season against the vikings and the Packers were 4-0 at the time. Neither injury had anything to do with the preseason. Not to mention that Rodgers played at least one or two series in each of the preseason games during both of those preseasons.

Another point to consider is that this year's final preseason is on August 25th. The Packers first game of the regular season is on September 11. That is a 16 day period between games. Veteran players will game nothing from playing a very limited number of snaps during the preseason with such a large gap between the end of the preseason and the beginning of the regular season except unnecessary exposure to injury.

We should also note that while Rodgers and most of our other starting players have been held out by MLF over the last 2-3 preseasons the team has had 13 game winning seasons. It's pretty conclusive that not playing starters in the preseason has not hurt the Packers performance during the regular season.

I do believe that our OL and our receivers besides Cobb and Lazard need to play this preseason because the Packers have yet to settle on who our best 5 will be on the OL and who will start at receiver besides Cobb and Lazard. But beyond that we need to bubble wrap Rodgers, Jones and Dillon until the regular season begins.
Thanks, Since '61

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Swisch's picture

August 11, 2022 at 12:11 pm

Since'61, I'm glad to get one of your thoughtful comments, even though we largely disagree on the value of the preseason.
It's worth noting that in the season opener of 2018, Rodgers sustained a serious knee injury against the Bears. As I remember it, the injury came when Rodgers dropped back to pass and was hit by a rusher, which opens the question of whether the offensive line was fully in synch to start the season.
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Your point about this year and the 16 days between the last preseason game and the first regular season game is worthy of consideration. I still think that reps in the preseason with Rodgers would carry over to help the offense of the Packers even two weeks plus two days later.
Your point also raises a question about Rodgers playing in the meaningless Lions game at the end of the past regular season. The Packers had already clinched the top seed in the NFC and a bye in the first round, meaning there were about two weeks from the Lions game until the first playoff game.
According to your reasoning, it was totally unnecessary for Rodgers to play in that Lions game, because the snaps in that game were so far away from the opening snap in the playoffs. It seems Rodgers was recklessly risking injury in general -- and specifically, remember his fragile pinky toe that was on the verge of keeping him out of action if aggravated -- for no good reason (apparently only to pad his stats and those of Davante).
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Finally, as your comment indicates, Rodgers has sustained at least three significant injuries in the regular season, but none in the preseason.
As I recall, he used to play in the preseason without complaint or even concern -- but then again, as I see it, those were before his diva days of arrogant uncoachability.

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Since'61's picture

August 11, 2022 at 04:16 pm

In 2018 Rodgers was injured during the first quarter of the game against the Bears. Rodgers and the starting OL did play during the preseason that year. IN any case the sack which resulted in Rodger's injury mayor may not have been the result of lack of readiness by the OL. Sometimes the pass rushers just win their 1 on 1s against the OLs. In the end Rodgers reentered the game for the 2nd half and led the Packers back from a 20-0 deficit to win the game 24-23. The comeback proved to be one of the few highlights of the 2018 season as MM was fired during the season and Rodgers played hurt throughout the season which ended up with Rodgers going out with a concussion against the Lions (again) in the 2018 finale.

The decision for Rodgers to play in the final regular season game against the Lions was made by MLF. He chose to play his starters for the first half including Rodgers. I don't think it was up to Rodgers and I'm not sure how he felt about playing in the game.

The speculation that he was playing to pad his stats is IMO off base because why does Rodgers need to pad his stats. He is a first ballot HOF and a 4 time MVP. By the time of the final game of the season it seemed nearly a certainty that Rodgers was going to win his 4th MVP award.

Is it possible that he wanted to help Davante with his next contract? Of course it is. I would not put anything past anyone when it comes to players or owners. On the other hand whatever benefits Davante received he certainly earned. He is a great receiver and he was a great Packer while he was in Green Bay. I wish him the best in Oakland.

As for Rodgers I'll take 13 wins, with 37 TDS/4 Ints, 69% completion rate and 4100+ yards every season from Rodgers or anyone playing QB for the Packers. Thanks, Since '61

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PhantomII's picture

August 10, 2022 at 08:43 pm

1st Pre-Season Starters play 1-Quarter....Starting OL Plays Half the Game.

2nd Pre-Season Starters Play 2-Quarters...Starting OL Plays 3 Quarters.

3rd Pre-Season Starters Play 2-Quarters...Starting OL Plays 3 Quarters.

Everyone needs some contact and OL needs to work TOGETHER as much as possible. AR can Play 1 Quarter in all and then Love take over until 3rd game then AR plays a half. GB has ALWAYS STARTED THE SEASON SLOW.
This year we play in Division and we need to start out the Season with a -Win

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Tundraboy's picture

August 10, 2022 at 08:50 pm

Play all the subs. Practice for the Starters . It's a long season.

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Since'61's picture

August 11, 2022 at 11:00 am

Spot on Tundraboy as usual. Thanks, Since '61

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RichBeckman's picture

August 10, 2022 at 08:59 pm

If this preseason stands as perhaps his last chance to show where he is, I think Love deserves to be able to play with the starters for a quarter, preferably against defensive starters, but either way.

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GregC's picture

August 11, 2022 at 06:29 am

That's what I'm thinking too. Give Love some time with the starting OL, probably Doubs, Winfree, and Amari Rodgers at WR (maybe some Allen Lazard as well), and Deguara and Tyler Davis at TE. That's probably as close as we'll get to a starting lineup. On defense, maybe give Rasul Douglas some time in the slot, but other than that maybe just Eric Stokes and definitely Quay Walker.

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ImaPayne's picture

August 11, 2022 at 09:28 pm

If Love doesnt have it by now he never will. I just keep reading how he is throwing picks all over the place. Got to see his progress tomorrow night. No more training pants. time to put it together.

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