It's that time of year again, Packer Nation.
The 11th annual Packers Family Night, which started as a glorified scrimmage is now more of a spectacle and a treat for all of the loyal and faithful fans of the Packers around the country. It would be hard to depict Family Night as a scrimmage by looking at the jam-packed and capacity crowd filling the seats of Lambeau.
For those without tickets, Family Night will be televised live Saturday night on local networks in Wisconsin, and NFL Network will be showing the scrimmage on Sunday night starting at 8 EST/7 CST.
Every year during Family Night there is a player who performs above and beyond what is expected of him, and that single performance excels him to a likewise better-than-expected season.
Darren Sharper back in 2000 scored on an interception return, and he never looked back as he finished his career in Green Bay as one of the best Packer defensive backs of all time.
Or 2004 when Brett Favre and Donald Driver put on a spectacle to remember, which is now one of the most decorated QB to WR connections in Green Bay history.
Anyone remember 2008 Family Night? Brett Favre had previously retired but decided to come out of retirement on the day of the Packers Family Night scrimmage, and Aaron Rodgers made his appearance as the Packers starting QB for the very first time. The rest, as they say, is history.
Who will it be this year to dazzle and amaze Lambeau Field on Saturday night? There is no telling who it may be, but let's take a look at a few of the candidates.
We are going to start off our list of likely Family Night breakout performances with one of the most obvious choices, rookie wide out Randall Cobb.
Cobb, who was drafted at the end of the second-round of the 2011 NFL draft and saved from the green room by the Packers, has looked great in camp so far. He has a firm grasp of the playbook and moves in and out of his cuts with ease.
One of the best signs was his breakout performance in training camp thus far was during the Packers first padded practice. It's always a great sign when your players look best in pads and not just shorts.
Watch out for Randall Cobb as he is my prime candidate for a breakout performance during Family Night.
We transition from one of the most likely candidates to one of the least likely.
Tim Masthay and Chris Bryan were evenly matched in a training camp battle for the starting job last year. It couldn't have been an easy decision for the Packers brass, in what probably amounted to a coin flip being the deciding factor.
It's safe to assume that the Packers made the right decision a year ago, and they have been reaping the benefits ever since. Masthay started his 2010 campaign shaky, but was arguably the best punter in the league from Week 14 on and through the playoffs—and he hasn't let up during the long NFL lockout.
Masthay has come into Packers training camp firing on all cylinders and kicking better than he has ever before. During Wednesday's practice, Masthay put forth a masterful performance on his entire arsenal of kicks. He punted so well, in fact, that it warranted a front page story on www.packers.com.
While kickers and punters aren't usually in the spotlight, Masthay is a guy you want to keep an eye on.
While Jermichael Finley is busy with his head in the clouds and talking about how he is going to "revolutionize" the tight end position, D.J. Williams is quietly giving him a run for his money.
Newly drafted tight end's D.J. Williams and Ryan Taylor have gotten a gratuitous amount of reps with Finley being absent (until recently) and due to Andrew Quarless still recovering from an injury.
And it is safe to say that D.J. Williams has made his presence felt. He looks like a natural receiver. He has great hands, and is fluid in and out of his cuts.
Finley is a known monster, and the Packers know it. I am not sure how much they will showcase his abilities in a scrimmage that will be replayed to the entire country on NFL Network, which gives Williams a perfect platform to showcase his abilities and prove that he is the heir apparent to Finley.
Undrafted second-year corner Sam Shields was thrown into the fire in 2010 and responded exceptionally.
With the absence of Al Harris, and Dom Capers moving Charles Woodson into the slot more often to be a playmaker, Sam Shields was assigned to opponents' No. 2 wide receiver on numerous occasions and excelled more times than not.
While Shields is not a free agent until 2013, look for him to build off a great 2010 in order to gain leverage against the Packers to sign him to a more lucrative deal.
And it will all begin this Saturday during the Packers Family Night Scrimmage.
The odds are against him yet again, but that won't stop Smithson for laying it all out on the line to try and make an NFL roster.
The Packers are five deep at wide receiver (Jennings, Driver, Jones, Nelson and Cobb), thus making it extremely unlikely that he makes the roster because of that aspect of his game.
Smithson's only saving grace is his elusive nature on kick returns and becoming a staple on the Green Bay special teams unit. He's explosive and is a threat to take it back to the house on any given opportunity.
But even this may be a long shot, as Packers wide out Randall Cobb has been taking the majority of reps with the return units so far.
If Smithson wants to improve his chances, he's going to need to wow the crowd at Lambeau on Saturday night. If not, he could be hitting the free agent market sooner rather than later.
Those are my prime candidates to breakout during Packers Family Night, but that doesn't mean you don't want to pay attention to other players on the field that night.
ILB | D.J. Smith
The Packers have devastated their depth at inside linebacker this offseason, and there will be, in all likelihood a pair of roster spots virtually up in the air. Smith is undersized for the position, but he has a lot to play for Saturday and will be looking to make an impact
OLB | Brad Jones
In reality, the entire depth at OLB opposite Clay Matthews is one of the great battles of training camp this year. It's anyone's job right now. Brad Jones is also entering his third year as a Packer and they will be looking for major jumps in improvement from the young linebacker. Rumor has it, they may try him out on the inside slots as well.
QB | Matt Flynn
Flynn says he isn't looking as this preseason as an interview for free agency next year, but you better believe that scouts will be watching Flynn not only Saturday, but the rest of the year to evaluate his propensity to become an NFL starter.
SS | Charlie Peprah & Morgan Burnett
The Packers traded up for SS Morgan Burnett in last year's draft to eventually replace Atari Bigby. That time is now, but Peprah is bringing the heat as he filled in exceptionally last year on the Packers' road to a championship. Both players have a lot to gain from a great showing on Saturday,
So, there ya have it. Players you definitely want to be watching during the Packers Family Night Scrimmage.
Who is going to be that player to assert himself as a staple for the Packers not only now, but in the future? It's anyone's guess at this point, but who says we can't at least make those guesses just a little more educated?