GREEN BAY—On offense and defense, the issues have largely been decided. For Shawn Slocum and his special teams, tonight’s preseason finale will be loaded with drama.
Tonight’s game is largely a night off for starters around the league, as they shift their attention to next week’s openers. Special teams are where the battles are tonight, as bottom-of-the-roster players run down under kicks looking for a way onto an NFL roster.
“It definitely means something to special teams. You have guys battling for roster spots. Real battles. Jobs on the line,” Slocum said. “We haven’t made any decisions yet.”
In most other ways, the decisions that’ll impact the Packers on opening night have been made. There still might be a decision to be made at safety, but the lineups are otherwise set for the Packers’ trip to Seattle.
“Our guys look forward to the challenge. There’s a lot of excitement. We’re going to be challenged right out of the blocks. We’re going to have to be at our best coming out of the blocks,” Capers said of his defense and the challenge it’ll face from a Seahawks offense that has been on fire through the preseason.
At issue for Capers is the loss of veteran nose tackle B.J. Raji for the season to an arm injury.
“You never want to lose any of your frontline guys. Fortunately, we have some young guys competing for jobs. Josh (Boyd) has made real progress and we expect him to take a step this year,” Capers said.
Mike Trgovac’s defensive line likely became the youngest in the league. On opening night, the Packers’ front three will include a three-year veteran, Mike Daniels, and two two-year players, Boyd and Datone Jones. Daniels is the only one of the three to have started an NFL game. He has one start to his credit.
“You go through stages. Sometimes you have a lot of veterans and you might skip a part. When you have young players, you make sure you hit it from square one. It’s fun for a coach,” Trgovac said.
Daniels blossomed into the Packers’ most impactful defensive lineman last season and has voluntarily accepted a leadership role this year. Jones was the Packers’ first-round pick in 2013, but played only sparingly due to a season-long ankle injury.
“Datone’s done a nice job. He’s more confident in the position he’s playing. He’s playing with more violence in his game,” Trgovac said.
Stopping the run is the main function of the defensive line in Capers’ 3-4 scheme. Last year, the Packers finished 25th in the league against the run. In this preseason, the run defense has been much improved.
“No. 1, I’ve liked the attitude. We’ve seen progress through the preseason games,” Capers said of his defense.
The Packers’ run defense won’t be at the test tonight, but it will be in Seattle. Tonight, special teams take the spotlight.