GREEN BAY – With the return of the games comes the return of what to watch for in those games.
Here are five things to pay attention to in the preseason opener vs. the Titans:
1. The inside linebackers: With Jake Ryan’s season-ending injury, the Packers have Blake Martinez and a bunch of NFL newbies. Third-round draft pick Oren Burks from Vanderbilt is the player the Packers most need to prepare for a big role this season, while other prospects such as Ahmad Thomas and Greer Martini have shown up on the practice field and will look to carry it over to the games. Development at this position is crucial over these four preseason contests.
2. The outside linebackers: Who will be next in line after Clay Matthews and Nick Perry? The chance for a host of prospects to make a statement starts against the Titans. Reggie Gilbert came on strong late last season, Kyler Fackrell is now in his third year, Vince Biegel is going through his first training camp and preseason after sitting out due to injury as a rookie, Chris Odom wasn’t in Green Bay a year ago at this time as a Week 1 waiver claim, and seventh-round pick Kendall Donnerson is an athletic specimen learning a new position. There’s the quarterback. Go get him.
3. The backup quarterbacks: This could make the list every preseason game so it might as well be on here for the opener. Brett Hundley and DeShone Kizer are competing for the No. 2 job, the kind of competition for Aaron Rodgers’ top backup the Packers haven’t really staged in quite some time. It’ll take all four preseason games to decide it, but the battle starts now.
4. The young receivers: Rodgers praised the progress of Geronimo Allison, DeAngelo Yancey and Jake Kumerow after Tuesday’s practice and sent a message to the rest of the young crop that it needs to pick it up. Draft picks J’Mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown have all flashed in camp but have had their rough moments as well. Consistency and trust is what QB1 is looking for.
5. The offensive tackles: With Bryan Bulaga just getting back on the practice field and David Bakhtiari recovering from a minor ankle injury sustained on Family Night, there are a lot of snaps to be had for third-year tackles Jason Spriggs and Kyle Murphy along with veteran free agent Byron Bell. Spriggs and Murphy are coming off injuries of their own from a year ago, while Bell has been settling in learning a new offense. The coaching staff wants to know which tackle to call upon first in the regular season if Bulaga or Bakhtiari has to miss any time. The evaluation is ongoing.