GREEN BAY – Packers kickoff returners and the team’s defense will be under intense scrutiny on Saturday night in Game 3 of the preseason.
“In the preseason games, you want to run it out … to see what we can do,” Special Teams Coordinator Ron Zook said of the potential for kickoff returns against this week’s opponents, the Eagles.
In Pittsburgh this past Sunday, the Packers’ kickoff-return candidates each got one chance: rookie Ty Montgomery for 13 yards, Jeff Janis for 15 yards and Rajion Neal for 38 yards. Montgomery was thought to be the top prospect for the job until Neal’s return against the Steelers.
“We’ll continue to do the same thing; give guys opportunities. The more experience you can get in games, the better you’re going to be,” Zook said.
Montgomery didn’t field kicks as cleanly in Pittsburgh as he has in training camp practices.
“I’m not making excuses, but the sun was a booger (in Pittsburgh). It was a great opportunity to be in that sunlight. He wasn’t as comfortable back there as you’d like,” Zook said.
Punter Tim Masthay will also be under the microscope following an inconsistent performance against the Steelers. He punted eight times for a net of 40.6 yards, but an impressive long punt of 56 yards was offset by a 29-yard shank to the right that kick-started the Steelers’ game-winning drive.
Masthay has been having difficulty with directional kicks to the right, but Zook said he thinks he has a remedy for the problem. Zook didn’t explain.
“Tim can do it. He was in a little bit of a rut. He’s coming out of it,” Zook said.
Meanwhile, Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers is going to see how his defense functions against a hurry-up Eagles offense whose intent it is to confuse opposing defenses.
“It puts high pressure on getting the call made and getting it communicated to your guys on the field. You see the defenses they play against not aligned,” Capers said.
“They challenge you by trying to go so fast they confuse you. Can our players get to their individual technique before the Philly players can?” Cornerbacks Coach Joe Whitt said.
It’ll be an especially interesting challenge for Whitt’s rookie cornerbacks, Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins and LaDarius Gunter.
Randall was in his preseason debut in Pittsburgh and Whitt termed it a “good start for him.”
Rollins got beat deep on a play and Whitt said “it’s a learning moment.”
Gunter followed a strong performance in New England with an even better effort in Pittsburgh. “I thought he played better this week than he did last week,” Whitt said.
“Up until we get to Chicago … it’s still a couple of weeks away from real football,” Whitt added.
Linebacker is a position of intense interest, as Clay Matthews and Nick Perry are expected to see their first action of the preseason. Matthews would join Sam Barrington at inside linebacker, and Perry is expected to get a long look on the outside.
“He’s as healthy as he’s been,” Capers said of Perry, whose career has been sidetracked by injury.
Watch: Whitt gets results