NASHVILLE—Mike McCarthy is looking for "someone to jump out" tonight, when the Packers open the preseason against the Titans at LP Field. It would be especially helpful for the Packers if that "someone" was to be a member of the defense.
Most fans and media consider improvement on defense to be the cornerstone to the Packers' championship hopes in 2014. This past offseason, the Packers acquired Julius Peppers in free agency, drafted a safety in the first round and continued the team's youth movement up front by drafting another defensive lineman.
Who will jump out against the Titans? Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers wants to be able to answer that question following tonight's game.
"You don't spend much time game-planning. You want to put guys in positions to show you what they're capable of. It steps up a level in the first preseason game from what we've been doing," Capers said.
Safeties Sean Richardson and Chris Banjo were prominently mentioned by McCarthy as players that have jumped out in training camp to date. Starting safety Morgan Burnett is out of action with an oblique injury, and that's opening the door for Richardson, Banjo and first-round draft pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
"We've got a lot of it," safeties coach Darren Perry said when asked about competition at the position. "It's a chance to establish some roles."
"He's made some plays. Sean's working on being consistent. He looks so much more comfortable," Perry said.
"He's coming along. He's on pace. He's not there, yet, but he's coming more every day. We understand it's a process," Perry added.
"The reps I do get, I have to make the most of those. I'm just fighting to compete to make a name for myself. There's no doubt in my mind I can play in the NFL. You're not just playing for one team; you're playing for the other 31, too. My ultimate goal is to be here," Banjo said.
Competition on the defensive line is apparently for playing time behind the trio of B.J. Raji, Mike Daniels and Datone Jones. Josh Boyd and third-round pick Khyri Thornton are expected to get long looks tonight. Jones, the Packers' first-round pick in 2013, is attempting to nail down a starting defensive end job in the preseason.
"The one thing I've been very pleased with about him is the way he's running to the ball. He's not perfect technique-wise, but you can see the resolve. He has the focus and determination we want right now," defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said of Jones.
"It's an important step for us as a young defensive line," Trgovac said of tonight's game. "I'm expecting a lot of energy from them, and some growing pains. This is our start of coming together as a group."
Capers said fans will be seeing "different combinations" tonight. "That's what we're looking for."
The strategy tonight is to put young players into position to react instinctively. It's all about using this game as an evaluation tool.
"If a guy has to think too much, you're never going to see his speed and explosiveness," Capers said.
Who will show their speed and explosiveness? Most importantly, will it be on the defensive side of the ball? Additional pregame coverage -