The Green Bay Packers play their third preseason game Friday at San Francisco. It is hard to get too juiced up about any exhibition NFL game, but traditionally the third preseason game is when you see the projected starters on the field for the longest amount of time. So, with that in mind, here's five things to keep an eye on as you watch the Packers-49ers game.
Yes, Rodgers is expected to play -- for how long, who knows. It'd be a surprise to see Jordy Nelson out there, so who will be Rodgers' go-to guys? Will he look to create some chemistry with tight end Jared Cook? Can any wide receivers get open? Look, we know Nelson will be Green Bay's No. 1 receiver as long as he's healthy, but after a rough (in comparison to other seasons) year, it will be interesting to see who Rodgers trusts out there.
Regardless of whether Colin Kaepernick plays or not, Green Bay will once again be facing Chip Kelly's up-tempo offense. Remember how that went last preseason when the Philadelphia Eagles visited Lambeau Field? Sam Bradford carved up the Packers defense. Of course, Green Bay was going all vanilla with its scheme. Bottom line is don't get too distressed if this happens again (presuming the Packers once again play it safe).
Of course you never want to see a player get hurt, preseason or otherwise. We all know what happened to Jordy Nelson last year in the preseason (although that was in the second game, not the third). Having a key player be lost for the season with just one -- most-often meaningless -- preseason game remaining can be crushing as teams ready to sort out final rosters.
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The punting battle
Seriously. Preseason games can be pretty blah and who ever really likes seeing a punter trot out there, but this year the Packers actually seem to have a competition for the spot between veteran Tim Masthay and rookie Peter Mortell (who also comes with a great backstory). Masthay is averaging 42.7 yards per punt while Morell is averaging 49.2 yards and also has dropped more inside the 20 (four, compared to one for Masthay).
Ross D. Franklin/Associated PresRoss D. Franklin/Associated Pres
Which young players will step up?
Yup, the old preseason favorite: Keep an eye on the rookies, especially undrafted ones. One thing to keep in mind is to see who plays early, and not just in the fourth quarter (i.e. mop-up time). Can Kennard Backman or Geronimo Allison stake claim to a sixth wide receiver spot? Will Brandon Burks edge out John Crockett as the third running back? Do defensive backs Kentrell Brice (who leads the team in tackles) and/or Marwin Evans make the team? Of course, there are also draft picks like linebackers Blake Martinez and Kyler Fackrell to keep an eye on, to see how they're picking things up and if they have a chance to make an early impact.