Head Coach Mike McCarthy hasn’t set a deadline for establishing the starting five on the offensive line, but the third preseason game can often be the biggest indicator of who has solidified starting status. That means this week’s game could be key in the competition between fifth-year veteran Daryn Colledge and rookie first-round draft pick Bryan Bulaga for the starting spot at left guard.
Both players have been rotating with the first team during practice, with Bulaga also taking his share of snaps at left tackle, his long-term position. By all accounts, Colledge hasn’t given any ground in the competition, but Bulaga is living up to his first-round pedigree. Their performances in Seattle could set the course for the rest of the preseason and possibly Week 1.
The No. 1 defense
No one was pleased with how the No. 1 defense played in the preseason opener last Saturday against Cleveland. With two different quarterbacks, the Browns scored three touchdowns in their first four possessions. One of those was thanks to a short field following a Green Bay turnover, but the other two were on drives of 80 and 63 yards.
Granted, the Packers played things pretty straight and didn’t do much blitzing or show any creative sub-packages. But defensive coordinator Dom Capers made the point that his unit needs to be sound in its regular base and nickel packages, and even if cornerback Charles Woodson takes the game off, the first-team defense will strive to do that.
Sharp at QB
Aaron Rodgers was on fire against Cleveland last week, completing his first 10 passes and finishing 12-of-13 with a 25-yard TD to Greg Jennings. McCarthy said he’s planning to play the starters roughly the same amount of time this week, so Rodgers will look to stay sharp, hopefully produce some points, and take a rest. His work this past week in practice was impressive, and if the No. 1 offensive line protects Rodgers as well as it did last Saturday, the offense should move the ball consistently.
No. 2 O-line
Unlike the starting offensive line, the backup units did not play as well against Cleveland. Backup QB Matt Flynn took a few shots behind some shoddy protection and still managed to lead a touchdown drive.
The battle for the No. 2 right tackle spot between Breno Giacomini and T.J. Lang appears pretty close right now. Bulaga will likely be playing left tackle with the second unit, while guard/center Jason Spitz should see his first game action after sitting out last week with a calf strain. Also, rookies Marshall Newhouse, Nick McDonald and Chris Campbell will be playing in their second NFL games, and Evan Dietrich-Smith was able to return from a sprained neck and get back on the practice field this week.
Injuries on the offensive line are almost a given over the course of a 16-game season, and the coaching staff says this is the deepest offensive line group the team has had in McCarthy’s five seasons. If the backups are going to be as reliable as advertised, they need to pass protect better than they did last week. The competition for those final roster spots is ongoing.
Coordinator Shawn Slocum will continue to play dozens of players on the return and coverage units in an effort to evaluate and select who are the team’s best performers. Any of the young players able to make an impact play on the coverage units, be it an impressive tackle or forced fumble, has a chance to improve his status on the depth chart.
The return game could also see the long-awaited debut of Will Blackmon, who hasn’t played in a game since tearing the ACL in his knee last season in Week 4. The return game against the Browns was non-descript at best, so the Packers would love to see Blackmon back to his old self and see others like Brandon Jackson or Jordy Nelson provide more spark as viable backups.