5 Things to Watch when Packers host Seahawks
AUG 22, 2013 10:04p ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Here are five things to watch for in Friday night's preseason game between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks:
1. Wrapping up Marshawn Lynch
Going up against Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch will be a great test to see what improvement the Green Bay Packers have made in terms of tackling. With Lynch and Seattle's starters likely to play much of – if not the entire – first half, the Packers will have a lot of chances at bringing him down. That's not an easy task with a player who finished third in the NFL in rushing yards last season and does a lot of his damage after first contact.
According to ProFootballFocus.com, Lynch had 872 yards after contact last season, fourth-best among running backs. Lynch also finished second in the league in tackles either broken or avoided.
For a Packers team that is looking to shed its label of being soft, securing a strong runner like Lynch is a good place to start. Safeties coach Darren Perry said this week that tackling will be one of the main things that he'll be keeping his eyes on, especially in the battle between Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings for the other starting spot next to Morgan Burnett. But it will obviously be a point of emphasis for the entire Green Bay defense.
Russell Wilson isn't identical to Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III, but facing the former Wisconsin Badgers quarterback will be as close of an example as the Packers are going to get in preseason before their first two regular season games. Green Bay opens at San Francisco with Kaepernick and then hosts RGIII and the Redskins in Week 2.
Wilson rushed for 489 yards last season, which was third in the NFL among quarterbacks. That was more yards than the Packers leading rusher, Alex Green.
Though Seattle might not show its full array of offensive plays, there will still be enough for Green Bay's defense to see a quarterback who can effectively run the ball. It'll be the first time the Packers will have seen that since Kaepernick led San Francisco's offense to 579 yards in the divisional-round playoff game last season.
3. Mason Crosby's pivotal career moment
The ups and downs of Mason Crosby's past few weeks have been extreme. During the family night intrasquad scrimmage, Crosby made only 3 of 8 field-goal attempts and was booed by the home crowd in what is basically a practice setting. Giorgio Tavecchio started gaining momentum in the kicking battle, even after some initially interpreted his offseason signing as mostly a motivating technique to push Crosby. Then veteran kickers Dan Carpenter (Miami Dolphins) and Rian Lindell (Buffalo Bills) were released, and, according to Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports, the Packers showed interest in Carpenter. That was happening around the time that Crosby started to get hot and make his kicks. He went 3 for 3 in the preseason game at St. Louis and then finally beat Tavecchio in a head-to-head kicking competition at practice.
It appeared that Crosby had turned a corner. In the locker room, he spoke confidently that this was the kicker he was and the kicker he wanted to be. Accurate, powerful, consistent. Carpenter signed with the Arizona Cardinals and Lindell signed with the Buccaneers, and less than 24 hours later, Crosby missed three consecutive field goals in practice and was called out over the loudspeakers by special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum.
It's difficult to tell how much patience the Packers have remaining with Crosby. Coach Mike McCarthy stuck with him all of last season, even as Crosby finished with the worst field-goal accuracy in the NFL. When McCarthy criticized Crosby after Wednesday's practice, he lumped the veteran kicker in with all the players who struggled that day.
Is Crosby kicking for his job? Can Crosby continue to survive as long as he makes his preseason kicks like he did in St. Louis? These are just a couple of the questions surrounding Crosby's performance in Friday night's game. If he misses one, he might not want to hear the reaction that the Lambeau Field crowd gives him.
For only rushing the ball eight times in St. Louis, Eddie Lacy was as dominant as any running back could be. But thus far, it hasn't changed McCarthy's mind about DuJuan Harris. McCarthy has stuck by Harris as the Packers' starting running back, even when the undersized former used cars salesman missed the first couple weeks of training camp practice with a knee injury.
At the moment, it seems like Harris will be the starting running back this season and Lacy will be the short-yardage and goal-line running back. But there's still time for that to change. Harris doesn't have the three college National Championship rings that Lacy has, but he was very good when called upon by the Packers late last season heading into the playoffs. McCarthy speaks so highly of Harris that it seems unlikely for him to change his mind. But, if Lacy performs against the Seahawks like he did against the Rams, it may be difficult for Green Bay's coaching staff to not eventually favor him when the regular season begins.
5. Final decisions made on Green Bay's offensive line
All signs are pointing to Don Barclay being named the Packers' starting right tackle this season. Barclay started in St. Louis and was taking the first snap in each practice this week. But, as of Wednesday, McCarthy wasn't ready to announce that Barclay had beaten out Marshall Newhouse for that job. However, McCarthy said his goal was to evaluate the film of Friday night's game and then hopefully be ready to make an official announcement next week. Pending a drastic shift, though, it's probably too late for Newhouse.
After Bryan Bulaga's season-ending knee injury, 21-year-old rookie David Bakhtiari is basically running unopposed as the starting left tackle. Now that he's in charge of protecting the blind side of the $110 million quarterback, Bakhtiari will be heavily scrutinized. Getting beat on a pass rush by Rams defensive end Robert Quinn last weekend was the first major negative play by Bakhtiari so far. That came on third down and ended the Packers' chances of getting in the end zone with their first-team offense. Bakhtiari also has to improve in his run-blocking, as he's clearly being outperformed in that area by Barclay on a daily basis. With McCarthy's promise to be better as a running team this season, there is a lot of responsibility on Bakhtiari to show continued improvement in every game.
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