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5 Green Bay Packers to Watch in the Game Against the Cleveland Browns

GREEN BAY, WI - JANUARY 01:  Head coach Mike McCarthy of the Green Bay Packers talks to a coach on his headset during a game against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field on January 1, 2012 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeatedc the Lions 45-41.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Andrew GardaFeatured ColumnistAugust 15, 2012

Week 3 is the most critical week in the preseason, but for some situations and players, Week 2 has its pitfalls and issues as well.

With an underwhelming performance across the board last week against the San Diego Chargers, there is a lot to choose from.

Here are the five things I will be watching most closely from the Green Bay Packers when they take on the Cleveland Browns Thursday night.


Marshall Newhouse

One thing we learned last week was that Herb Taylor was not ready to protect Aaron Rodgers at left tackle. Nor was Andrew Datko

Taylor was one part rust, one part lack of skill. He may turn into a solid backup one day, but you can't depend on him right now. Datko is just raw, but he's not a guy who is ready right now, either.

Meanwhile, Derek Sherrod looks like he could be a member of the PUP list to start the season.

So Marshall Newhouse, who missed the San Diego game with a concussion, has to step up. Because we found out there aren't a heck of a lot of guys behind him who can adequately step in. 

That's not to say that he's going to be the world's greatest left tackle. Just that he has a competency level higher than a raw rookie, a guy who hadn't played since 2008 and a player on the PUP list.

He will face a front seven that is missing some key players, and he'll be facing Emmanuel Stephens at right defensive end since Frostee Rucker is out.

B/R's own AFC North correspondent, Andrea Hangst, says Stephens struggled last week against the Lions' left side, so it's hard to say how much of an indicator a good game against him will be.

Still, Newhouse needs to play well or the Packers might have to start shuffling players around on the line to make up for the lack of ability at a key spot protecting Rodgers.


Casey Hayward

With Davon House out for the next two to three weeks with a dislocated shoulder, rookie Casey Hayward has an opportunity to show his quality.

He faces a, frankly, underwhelming starting offensive unit, with rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden struggling while on the field and the usual collection of OK-but-not-great receivers to throw to and no Trent Richardson.

While House had been playing well, with a solid few weeks in practice and games, Hayward could certainly make an argument that he should start opposite Tramon Williams when Charles Woodson is over at safety.

It looks like a good setup for him this week, which also means that if he has a bad game, the impact on his chances to land a starting job could be pretty severe.


Nick Perry

Even though the Chargers' offensive line has some questionable parts, you have to admit that rookie outside linebacker Nick Perry had a pretty good debut last week.

Three tackles (and one assist) as well as a sack is the type of performance the Packers are looking for from him, and he had to make fans happy given the quiet camp he's had.

The sack was interesting—more a result of outlasting his blocker than overpowering him—but a sack is a sack.

It will be interesting to see how he does on an underrated Browns offensive line, and if teams start adjusting to him, freeing up Clay Matthews.

As I have said more than once this year, Perry is one of the keys to re-igniting the pass rush for this defense.

Each week will be critical in his development.


Jerel Worthy

Speaking of keys to the pass rush—Worthy had a very quiet night, especially compared to what he did in training camp.

Cause for concern? Not really. We'll see how he fares this week, and then if he does nothing, it's worth looking closely at both games and seeing what held him up. It could be that he is struggling, it could be the matchup or it could be a bad game.

As with Perry, he is transitioning to a new position, so, ultimately, it's going to take some time to transition.

We'd like to see some positive progress, though.

Keep in mind—impact can be more than stats on a scoring sheet. Even if Worthy doesn't light it up stats-wise, he could still free up other players to do some damage.


James Starks

Call this a potential last gasp of a once promising Packers career.

OK, maybe that's a bit harsh and melodramatic, but last week's performance was bad—really bad.

A guy who is hurt as often as he is, who coughs the ball up and isn't all that helpful in pass protection can't have many of those games.

We've been waiting for Starks to turn it on consistently for several years but to no avail.

It may be the pass protection which kills him, especially if the Marshall Newhouse experiment fails. There's no point in keeping a guy on the field who can't protect the quarterback.

Alex Green is improving his pass protection and does a lot of things well. Brandon Saine also does fine in pass blocking. Cedric Benson is a good pass protector as well.

James Starks will have to pick up the level of play.

Benson will not be playing this week, so he has another start to show what he can do. The Browns' defense is normally good, but there are injuries and last week they were lit up by the Lions, especially Joique Bell and Keiland Williams. 

Seriously, if Starks is going to ever have a game to make you say, "Wow," this would be it.

We'll be watching him very, very closely.


Check out the B/R NFC North Facebook page—like us and keep up with everything NFC North on Bleacher Report! Follow me on Twitter at@andrew_garda.

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