GREEN BAY—A kicker of Mason Crosby's esteem isn't supposed to be facing this kind of challenge. A kicker with his leg strength, six years of experience and a Super Bowl ring in his possession are supposed to ease through the preseason, but it won't be that way for Crosby on Friday night.
Crosby will be the central figure in the game's No. 1 drama, and what will likely be the largest crowd to ever watch a football game at Lambeau Field will witness a game that could go a long way toward deciding the Packers placekicker's fate.
"There's always a mental aspect to it. Mason has an extremely strong leg," Packers Special Teams Coordinator Shawn Slocum said.
Crosby has been in and out of a slump for the past year. He rallied late last season and the hope was that he had found the space between the uprights, again. Then came a three-for-eight performance on Family Night last Saturday, and Head Coach Mike McCarthy said "that's not going to cut it."
"That was the biggest stage to this point. Now we're going into some ballgames and he needs to make some field goals," Slocum said.
It's come to this: Crosby is running out of time to recapture the esteem he achieved in 2011, when he was the NFL's fourth-leading scorer among kickers with 140 points, converted 24 of 28 field goal attempts, including a 58-yarder that is a Packers record, and was third in the league in touchbacks with 49, despite kicking in frigid Green Bay.
"It's just technique. It's a lot like a golfer's swing. You just need to make a smooth swing on it and make kicks," Slocum said of the fundamentals that would end the drama and secure Crosby's place as the Packers' placekicker.
Crosby will be one of several featured performers in Friday's preseason opener against the Arizona Cardinals.
Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman will continue their battle for the backup quarterback job. This week, the competition was joined by former Titans star quarterback Vince Young. Harrell is expected to replace Aaron Rodgers early in the game, Coleman is likely to get a long look, and Head Coach Mike McCarthy said he also plans to get some snaps for Young.
"He's still developing," Offensive Coordinator Tom Clements said of Coleman, who threw a couple of interceptions in last Saturday's Family Night scrimmage. "He has a lot of physical tools that are intriguing."
The Packers worked out Young on Monday and signed him to a contract. He was out of football in 2012 after being released by Buffalo during the preseason.
"He's played in a lot of games and he's won a lot of games," Clements said of Young.
Inside linebacker is a place of intense competition, as seventh-round pick Sam Barrington and third-year man Jamari Lattimore have distinguished themselves through the first two weeks of training camp. They'll each have a chance to raise their stock in the preseason.
"I've been impressed with his ability to play tough and hard. We're going to give him an opportunity," Inside Linebackers Coach Winston Moss said of Barrington.
"Lattimore has brought a different energy. Look at when he's been out there. Every time he's gotten on the field, you notice him. He wants to be impactful. I like guys that show up and let me know what they are. (Barrington) showed up in the Family Night scrimmage," Moss added.
"The preseason is the tiebreaker," McCarthy said of the importance of preseason games in the evaluation process.
Not since he was a rookie in 2007, has a preseason game been this meaningful for Crosby.
For a recap of the training camp coverage over the past week, click here.