What a ride it has been.
Dom Capers has installed his new defense and found success faster than most thought he was going to.
Aaron Rodgers has been pretty much perfect with the first team offense.
The special teams have easily outplayed expectations.
Still, when the Green and Gold hit the field in Nashville tonight, there will be some things to watch for as the preseason comes to an end. Here goes the final edition of things to watch for in the Packers preseason.
*Also, remember to watch for the same things that were listed when the Packers played the Cardinals-preseason-matchup-Five-things-cheeseheads-should-watch-for" target="_blank">Cardinals, Browns, and Bills. While some might not be relevant to tonight’s game, others will.
1. With the defense now at full strength, will we see even MORE improvement?
Nick Barnett and Clay Matthews III are both expected to start tonight, and it cannot come soon enough. Not in terms of the Packers needing both of the linebackers, but because of the hype surrounding Matthews and the excitement of seeing our defensive leader back on the field.
While Al Harris and Charles Woodson will both be getting the night off, the front seven will finally be at full strength and raring to go. While the turnovers have been a nice stat to see from the defense, total yards and big plays have been an issue. One has to think that Barnett and Matthews will help with the run defense, as the Titans lived off the running game last year.
Starters are only expected to play a few series, but look for Barnett and Matthews to get a few more reps than usual as they get back into “live action” mode.
With the absences of Woodson and Harris, Tramon Williams and Pat Lee will take the reps at cornerback. Lee is playing in his first game this preseason, and the second round pick will really need to pick things up if he wants to avoid the “bust” label. Slowed by injuries, now is his time.
2. Brian Brohm will play virtually the whole game, so how ugly could it get?
Aaron Rodgers is expected to play just a series or two, and with Matt Flynn down with a bum shoulder, Brian Brohm will play pretty much the whole game. It seems like this is something to watch for every week, but Brohm will have to play well enough to prove that the Packers do not need to go out and find a legitimate backup quarterback.
Brohm has been ugly to watch all preseason, and things do not get easier when he goes up against the Titans defense, which ranked ninth in the league in pass defense last season.
With backups being shopped all over the place, Brohm is now officially on the hot seat to perform (as if he wasn’t before) and has one more game to prove that he is not a flop. Accuracy has been a problem for the second rounder out of Louisville, so hopefully some time with the first unit will help him.
3. With his starting spot ensured, will Jeremy Kapinos continue his punting success?
Last year, the punting situation for the Packers was ugly to watch to say the very least. Derrick Frost might go down as one of the worst punters in Green Bay Packers history (OK, OK, B.J. Sander...I know...), but Kapinos has been a wonderful surprise this preseason.
Kapinos ranks eighth in all of football this preseason with a 46.4 average on punts and ranks best in all of football with a 46.0 net average on punts.
That’s right—teams are averaging less than a yard per return against the Packers’ punt unit.
Last year, the defense was put in terrible spots because of this unit. Opposing offenses had shorter fields to work with, leading to more points. If Kapinos can continue his preseason success, it will help the defense out that much more.
4. They’ve made all the big plays, but can the defense fix the little things?
The Packers’ defense has been outstanding in the preseason, and if you look at the box scores, they have absolutely dominated. They are forcing turnovers left and right, they get to the quarterback faster than they have in quite some time, and they just look like they are having fun out there.
But there’s more to a defense than how many turnovers they force. The Packers rank last in the NFL in third down defense, and the defensive line has been just average in stopping the run. Turnovers are a great thing, but when disciplined teams come to town, getting off the field and stopping teams from making the big play are going to be more important.
The Packers play a risky brand of defense, and one has to wonder if it needs to be scaled back somewhat. While it’s not always the starters in the game, the Packers are giving up the fourth most yards per game in the preseason. True, the offense is always scoring, which leaves the defense on the field for a long time, but the defense is fifth to last in yards per play on defense with 5.7.
While the starters will only play a few series, see if the Packers can hold their opponent to only a few third down conversions instead of going interception or bust.
5. Should we worry that the Packers could finish 4-0 in the preseason, just like the Lions did last season?
NO! Throw out any correlations, any myths, and any bad feelings you have about a team going undefeated in the preseason. It doesn’t matter. Stats have shown that Super Bowl winners have fared extremely well in the preseason, but not even that matters.
Preseason is a lot about your team’s depth, and this preseason has shown that the Packers have a ton of athletes that are going to out-talent the other team. The first team offense has played well, and the first team defense is meshing even better. Enjoy tonight’s game without worrying that we might win.
For those of you thinking we need to lose, look to No. 2 on this list and stop worrying.
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