Packers vs. Chargers: 5 Things to Watch for Green Bay
With Aaron Rodgers at the helm, the Packers enter the year with Super Bowl hopes. The Packers will look to make up for last season after they dominated the regular season, but got bounced in their first playoff game. The Packers' record setting offense is back intact this year and an influx of talent will look to improve the defense.
The game begins at 7:00 p.m. CT.
1. Marc Tyler
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Entering Thursday night, the Packers will only have two healthy running backs. Du'ane Bennett, Alex Green and Brandon Saine all missed practice last evening with various injuries. That leaves James Starks and Marc Tyler as the only running backs likely to suit up against San Diego.
With Starks the likely starter entering the season, it's unlikely he gets a significant amount of playing time Thursday night. Most of the running back duties will fall on the undrafted rookie free agent out of USC, Marc Tyler.
Tyler began camp a long-shot to make the roster behind Starks, Saine and Green, but by staying healthy will have as big an opportunity as any to state his case on Thursday night.
2. Left Tackle/Offensive Line Depth
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Marshall Newhouse is doubtful after suffering a concussion in the Packers' Family Night scrimmage. That leaves Herb Taylor as the Packers' starting left tackle against the Chargers. Taylor was signed at the end of last season after Derek Sherrod broke his leg.
With a mostly untested Taylor in the starting lineup, the Packers are unlikely to give Aaron Rodgers more than a couple passing attempts, if any. Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman will see plenty of time, but may struggle behind shaky offensive line groups.
Beyond the starters on the offensive line, the Packers aren't very deep. They will need Taylor or rookie Andrew Datko to step up to feel comfortable going into the season. Derek Sherrod's return from injury will give the unit a boost, but the time frame remains up in the air.
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There has been no secret early in camp that Sam Shields' job is up for the taking. For the last two seasons, Shields has spent a great deal of time as the cornerback opposite Tramon Williams. After struggling last season, Shields is now facing stiff competition from Davon House, Jarrett Bush, Casey Hayward and Brandian Ross.
Sam Shields missed practice Tuesday night, which means his playing status for Thursday night is questionable. If Shields can't go, the other cornerbacks will get even more opportunities to fight for playing time during the regular season.
It will be interesting to see the amount of playing time each player gets and at what point in the game.
4. Dezman Moses
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Dezman Moses was one of the biggest surprises coming out of minicamps and has continued his strong play in training camp. Undrafted out of Tulane, Moses is hoping to follow in the footsteps of Vic So'oto and Jamari Lattimore and make the team as an undrafted free agent.
Much like the running back position, injuries have impacted the outside linebacker position. Frank Zombo and Brad Jones missed practice on Tuesday, which should leave Moses with plenty of opportunity to play on Thursday behind Nick Perry and Clay Matthews.
So'oto has been extremely unimpressive in camp so far and is a long-shot to make the roster. Jamari Lattimore has been quiet, and Erik Walden is facing a one-game suspension and coming off a poor season.
5. Defensive Line
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Entering training camp, the defensive line was and still is one of the most precarious units on the team. After being a weak link last season, the front office brought in a ton of new players to refresh the group in an attempt to find a couple players that can stick and make an impact.
B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett are the definite locks for large amounts of playing time, but beyond those two, playing time is up for grabs. Against the Chargers, the defensive line should be the most intriguing group to watch. Whichever players can find success getting to the quarterback will do wonders towards making the roster and ensuring playing time going forward.
Another aspect of the defensive line is the suspensions of Mike Neal (four games) and Anthony Hargrove (eight games). They are allowed to play in preseason games before the suspensions begin Week 1, so it will be interesting to see when they play and how much time they get.