Green Bay Packers: 7 Things to Look for Against the Cardinals
The first preseason game against the Cleveland Browns provided some positives for the Packers, but presented them with room for improvement both as a team and individual players.
They look to take the next step of progressing as a football team and prepare themselves for the season opener on Sept. 8th.
1. The Return of Jermichael Finley
Jermichael Finley is carted off after a season-ending knee injury.
Win McNamee/Getty Images
Jermichael Finley will see the field for the first time since injuring his knee in Week 5 of the 2010 season. He missed the Packers first preseason game in Cleveland to a bruised glute.
Finley will most likely only see the field in the first quarter as the coaching staff attempts to ease him back. Just the sight of Finley on the field will please the eyes of many Packers fans.
He is known for holding nothing back on Twitter and has made it clear he plans to take over the league this season. In the midst of the final year of his rookie contract, Finley should be extra motivated to have a tremendous season.
In the last two seasons, Finley has spent plenty of time either on injured reserve or missing games due to various injuries. If he is going to get that big payday from the Packers, he has to prove he can stay healthy, and that begins Friday night.
2. Defensive Line Depth
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Mike Neal's knee injury on Tuesday frightened countless Packers fans as many assumed the worst. Luckily he is listed as day-to-day with a mild sprain. The Packers will expect to be without Neal against the Cardinals.
The issue of depth on the defensive line became the biggest topic this week. Neal, among others, is expected to fill in for the recently departed Cullen Jenkins.
The Packers projected starting defensive line features Mike Neal, B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett. If any of these players go down, the Packers could be in a lot of trouble as each relies on the others to help provide pressure.
Rookie Lawrence Guy is also unlikely to play against the Cardinals due to reoccurring concussion symptoms. The Packers need defensive ends Jarius Wynn and C.J. Wilson to step up big and prove they are viable options in case something were to happen to the starters.
3. Tori Gurley Pushes to Make Roster
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Undrafted out of South Carolina, wide receiver Tori Gurley is making a push to make the team as the sixth wide receiver. The Packers only kept five receivers last season, but it's not improbable that they could keep six.
Against the Browns, Gurley had a less than stellar two catches for 21 yards, but he has been extremely impressive in training camp practices thus far. It would be enormous if he can translate his practice field productivity into Friday's game.
If Gurley is going to force his way onto the Packer's wide receiver rich roster, he will have to contribute on special teams. He has taken reps on both special teams units so far.
Gurley would add a different dimension to the passing attack as he stands at 6-4. He is the tallest wide receiver on the Packers roster and uses his size very well against defenders.
He should see plenty of time against the Cardinals both on offense and on special teams. With a solid performance, Gurley could close in on a roster spot. If he doesn't make the cut, Gurley is a strong candidate for the practice squad.
4. 2nd and 3rd Offensive Lines
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Against the Browns, Matt Flynn and Graham Harrell spent most of their time running for their lives. Neither quarterback had reliable protection on a consistent basis based on the failures of the second and third string offensive lines.
The Packers backups on the offensive line need to do a better job against the Cardinals on Friday. If they fail to provide adequate pass protection, there will not be much opportunity for either quarterback to be successful.
Flynn and Harrell both need as much game-like experience they can get. They need to be able to go through progressions and make decisions without the pocket breaking down on each play.
If the second and third lines play like they did against the Browns, Flynn and Harrell will be lucky to make it through the game healthy.
5. Alex Green Set to Make His Debut
Alex Green missed the first preseason game and significant practice time because of a hamstring injury. He returned to practice Tuesday and is looking to get his first NFL action against the Cardinals.
Green will see the field as a kick-returner and should see some significant time in the backfield with James Starks most likely unable to go. The door is open for Green to come in and become the third back on the depth chart behind Starks and Ryan Grant.
Grant will most likely play the first quarter and then hand things over to Dimitri Nance, Alex Green, and Brandon Saine. Nance was very unimpressive against the Browns and struggled with his vision. Saine was the more impressive of the two.
Playing at the University of Hawaii, Green did a lot of work catching passes out of the backfield. If he can continue this at the pro level and improve on his pass protection, he has an opportunity to replace Brandon Jackson as the team's third-down back.
6. Crowded at the Tight End Position
Jason Miller/Getty Images
The Packers have a problem that many teams in the NFL would love to have. They have six tight ends that could all contribute in some way if they were to make the team.
The extremely deep tight end position features Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless, Tom Crabtree, Spencer Havner, D.J. Williams and Ryan Taylor. The first four were members of the team last season, and the last two were drafted by the Packers in April.
At this point, Jermichael Finley is the player that is guaranteed to be on the roster when the regular season starts. D.J. Williams will almost certainly make the team as well. Quarless, Crabtree, Havner and Taylor are all competing for the remaining spots.
The uncertainty is that the Packers could keep anywhere from four to all six of the tight ends. It's possible that one of these players could steal a roster spot from fullback Quinn Johnson in order to allow the Packers space for an extra tight end.
Havner appears most likely as the first odd man out, but his contributions on special teams and his ability to play on defensive could safe him.
The next three preseason games could have huge implications on how many tight ends the Packers keep and which ones.
7. Position Battles Rage on at ROLB and LG
Lang and the man he looks to replace, Daryn Colledge.
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
The two biggest position battles should be in full force on Friday night against the Cardinals. This game provides another large opportunity for T.J. Lang and Derek Sherrod who are competing for the left guard position and Frank Zombo and Erik Walden who are competing for the right outside linebacker position.
The battle for left guard has been heating up in practice as Lang and Sherrod continue to split snaps with the number one offensive line. It appeared Sherrod was leading early on as he opened up camp and the Browns game as the starter, but Lang has come on strong recently in practice.
At the right outside linebacker position, the battle seems to have turned into a two-man race between Frank Zombo and Erik Walden. Brad Jones was unimpressive against the Browns and hasn't made much noise in practice.
Friday's game is another change for these four players to make a name for themselves and demand starting spots. As the starters will most likely play the entire first quarter and second string into the third quarter, they should see plenty of time to make an impact.