As the Packers head out on the road for the first time this preseason, the Jacksonville Jaguars will provide a good test, so we should get to see some great action from two teams I think will be very good in 2004.
Traditionally, Coach Sherman likes to play the starters a little longer in the third preseason game, so look for the front-line guys to still be playing into the third quarter. They will be able to get into the flow of the game.
This will be a good test for the Packers, and the Jaguars will be coming to Lambeau Field in December, so this will be a good preview for that game as well.
This week against the Jaguars will be a very good test for the Packers' offense. The Jaguars defense was a top 10 defense last year, and they're built on stopping the run.
They have two big tackles, John Henderson and Marcus Stroud. The Jaguars are good at end, too. The development of Paul Spicer has given them the ability to release Tony Brackens, because of his injuries. Along with Hugh Douglas at the other end, these four guys are very good against the run.
Their linebackers are quick and strong. The secondary is where your opportunities really come in. Dewayne Washington is a journeyman cornerback, but he's very, very aggressive. That makes his susceptible to double-moves, as we say a 'slant-and-go' or 'out-and-up' patterns.
The Jaguars are very well-coached on defense. They play a traditional cover-two defense. The cornerbacks have run responsibilities. Against the pass, they drop seven, and against the run, they commit seven people against the run. Their defense will be a good test and provide the Packers with a nice tune-up for the regular season.
I look for the Packers to establish the run on offense. They are a run-first team. If they can establish the run against the Jaguars' tough defensive front, Brett will be able make some big plays down the field on some play-action passes. They will try to establish the run right away.
There have been some injuries on the offensive line. I think Mike Wahle's return will help them out a great deal. He really helps the perimeter running game because he is so good at pulling. They will be able to a lot more counters, and he will really help boost the play-action passing attack, because he's very good at showing run initially, and then getting into a pass block. He's a great leader and the guys will be excited to have him back.
On offense, Jacksonville has a second-year quarterback in Byron Leftwich. He hasn't been making the plays as of late in training camp, but I think he's a pretty good young quarterback. He forces the ball sometimes, but he's got help in receiver Jimmy Smith.
Smith, even though he's 35 years old, looks to be in the best shape of his life. He's been running past young cornerbacks, he's a good blocker, and from 1999-2001, he had more catches than anyone in the NFL besides Marvin Harrison.
The Jaguars will definitely try to get the ball down the field. Their offense is a down-the-field offense.
If running back Fred Taylor doesn't play, and he's been slowed by a sprained foot, rookie Greg Jones from Florida State will get most of the running duties. Jones is a big, strong running back, who weighs over 240 pounds. He's tough to bring down, so he'll be a good test for the Packers defense.
I think the Packers' defense needs to continue to show this week why Bob Slowik's system will work. They need to confuse Leftwich with some coverages that he's not accustomed to seeing. He will have studied the film from last week's game, so he'll know that this Packers defense is very aggressive with their blitzing.
This is the week that the Packers will be putting in a lot more of the schemes they will use throughout the season. I think the scheme will start to show, so the defense won't be quite as vanilla as it has been the last two weeks. They definitely have enough ammunition to be in position to win. I think they'll mix it up this week, and game plan a little bit more.
This will be the week that the offense will put some points on the board and get into the end zone. It would be nice to see them get a touchdown on the first drive, but the Jaguars have a tough defense to score on. The Packers are normally at their best against tough defenses, though.
I'm really looking for someone on the defense to really step forward and take over. I think that Friday night, either Mark Roman or Marques Anderson will rise up and make that starting safety position theirs. I'm also looking for one of the young cornerbacks to step up and show that they will be a reliable option on third down. I'd also like to see the defensive line show that they can stop the run without blitzing. Those are the key areas.
Also, the two young cornerbacks are going to have to be ready to play Friday night. The Jaguars' two receivers in Jimmy Smith and their first-round pick Reggie Williams will be looking to make big plays. ALLTEL Stadium is a tough place to play and all the rookies will get their first sense of a hostile crowd in the NFL.
It's coming down to the time where some cuts will have to be made, so this week's game is very important to a lot of guys. If you don't make some plays this week, you might not be playing at all in a few weeks.
It's going to be really nice to watch the players play in my home town of Jacksonville. I remember playing here back in 1995, and it's exciting. I'm not even playing, and I had to get 25 tickets for the game. Jacksonville a great place, and it's this year's Super Bowl city. It will be a good show for the Packers, and I'm looking forward to getting to see the Pack in my neck of the woods.
*LeRoy Butler played 12 seasons for the Green Bay Packers, helping them to two Super Bowls and earning NFL All-Decade Honors for the 1990s, before retiring in July 2002. This season Butler is again providing exclusive analysis to Packers.com beginning with training camp and later with a breakdown of the upcoming game on Saturdays, followed by a column and Q&A session on Tuesdays during the preseason and regular season.
Butler's autobiography, 'The LeRoy Butler Story ... From Wheelchair to the Lambeau Leap,' is available on his website, leroybutler36.com.*