Saturday, August 17, 2013

Packers-Rams Preview

Here are five things to watch for the Packers' second preseason game in St. Louis tonight.

1. The Offensive Line: The Packers' revamped offensive line will get a huge test tonight in St. Louis. The Rams boast a great defensive line in Chris Long, Robert Quinn, Michael Brockers and Kendall Langford. Long (11.5 sacks last year) and Quinn (10.5 sacks) form one of the best pass rushing duos in the NFL, and Brockers (four sacks) was a pass rushing force from the inside in his rookie season. They are buoyed from playing in the very loud Edward Jones Dome as well.

David Bakhtiari was very impressive in his preseason opener and he will look to continue that in a tough matchup against Quinn. Marshall Newhouse and Don Barclay will continue to  battle for the starting right tackle spot against one of the best pass rushers in the game in Long. If either Newhouse or Barclay show something against Long it could go a long way into who wins the job.

Evan Dietrich-Smith sat out practice on Thursday with a toe injury, and if he is unable to go Greg Van Roten would get the opportunity to start. Backup center is one of the biggest question marks on the team, so it would be interesting to see what Van Roten would do with the starters.

2. Eddie Lacy's Debut: Lacy missed the preseason opener vs. Arizona due to a hamstring injury, but he is expected to make his season debut tonight. Lacy looked awesome in the Family Night scrimmage, but Mike McCarthy says he still considers DuJuan Harris the starter, so Lacy still has some work to do to win the starters job outright. Harris will not go tonight, so this will be a great opportunity for Lacy.

No running back distinguished themselves at all in the first preseason game, which was good for Lacy. I still think that he is the best running back on the roster and will end up being the most productive Packers back. They have not had a downhill power running back like Lacy in a long time. With the offensive line's run blocking still being a question mark, Lacy's ability to always fall forward and to make something out of nothing is huge.

3. Backup Quarterbacks: Graham Harrell was absolutely atrocious against Arizona, as he was 12-19 for 76 yards with one interception. Harrell did not test the Cardinals down field at all and showed bad pocket presence. It was pretty much what we saw from him in the last preseason. In his fourth season he may know the offense well, but he certainly has not shown the ability to execute it, which is really what counts.

With Harrell struggling, the opportunity is there for Vince Young to win the backup quarterback job. Young looked o.k. in limited action vs. Arizona. The Packers kept it simple for him and gave him plays that he was comfortable with. Young was at his best win rolling and making plays outside of the pocket. Look for him to do more things tonight and hopefully take another step forward.

4. Mike Neal the Outside Linebacker- Mike Neal will get his first ever game action at outside linebacker. The reports about him from practice this week have been positive, but we really have no idea what he will look like at outside linebacker in a game or if he can play the position. It will at least be intriguing to see how he looks at his new spot. Having Neal at outside linebacker would allow Dom Capers to do more creative things with Clay Matthews, although I doubt we would see a lot of that tonight, as preseason defenses tend to be pretty vanilla.

5. The Kicking Battle- Mason Crosby and Giorgio Tavecchio did not receive any opportunities against Arizona. We have not seen them kick in a game setting since the Family Night Scrimmage, which is more of just a glorified practice anyways. We have not seen how Crosby respond from his brutal 3-of-8 showing in the scrimmage. Crosby made a solid 17-of-18 kicks this week during practice, while Tavecchio was a perfect 18-of-18, but games are what really counts.

It will be interesting to see how Tavecchio leg loks in a dome. If he comes up short on some over 50 yard field goals inside that would raise a major red flag. With Dan Carpenter being released from Miami, the Packers have somebody they can go out and sign if they are unsatisfied with their kicking situation. Crosby and Tavecchio will have to show them something soon.  

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