5 things to watch: Packers at Rams

Here are five things to watch for in the Green Bay Packers’ second preseason game, which kicks off at 7 p.m. Saturday against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome:
1. Graham Harrell vs. Vince Young for the No. 2 quarterback job
In Green Bay’s first preseason game, Young wasn’t asked to do much. Being with the Packers for only three practices didn’t allow Young to work with a big portion of the playbook, making it difficult for coach Mike McCarthy to truly evaluate the 30-year-old quarterback. Eight days later, Young still clearly isn’t as far along as Harrell and B.J. Coleman, but it’s getting closer.
Harrell will likely enter for Aaron Rodgers after a couple offensive series, with Young being the third quarterback in the game. But after Harrell’s six drives in the first preseason game didn’t result in any points, the door is wide open for Young to make a splash and secure that No. 2 spot on the depth chart.
2. Field-goal battle between Mason Crosby and Giorgio Tavecchio
The Packers weren’t able to attempt any field goals in their first preseason game, losing an opportunity to evaluate Crosby and Tavecchio. As the two kickers have continued their competition at practice, both have been quite good in recent practices. Overall, though, Tavecchio has been the more accurate and consistent kicker.
Crosby stated this week that he and Tavecchio will switch back and forth in their field-goal attempts against the Rams. But in order for that to happen, Green Bay’s offense has to do well enough to get in scoring range but not so well that the drive results in a touchdown.
McCarthy weighs game performance more than practice performance, so Crosby needs a good night kicking the ball. Tavecchio does, too, because even though he’s been the better of the two so far, he’s still the unproven rookie and will need to convince the Packers that they can trust him over a six-year veteran.
3. An extended look at the Packers’ three offensive tackles
Marshall Newhouse or Don Barclay? That’s the decision that the Packers are trying to make at right tackle. Barclay had the better performance in the first preseason game, but Newhouse will likely get the start Saturday night. That means, even if the edge is ever so slight, Newhouse still has the advantage over Barclay for the starting role. However, with Barclay getting snaps with the starting offense in practice this week, he’ll be given plenty of opportunities, as well.
David Bakhtiari’s preseason debut went very well. Pressed into the starting lineup after Bryan Bulaga’s season-ending knee injury, Bakhtiari looks remarkably comfortable at left tackle for a 21-year-old rookie. Bakhtiari was at his best in pass protection against the Arizona Cardinals. That responsibility is huge considering that he protects the blind side of Green Bay’s $110 million quarterback. However, Bakhtiari needs to improve in run blocking in order for the Packers to run the ball this season the way that McCarthy hoped they’d be able to with Bulaga on the left side.
4. Davon House’s opportunity to recover from the worst game of his life
House knew how poorly he performed last weekend against Arizona. Giving up a long touchdown pass and another deep play, House was passed in the depth chart this week by rookie cornerback Micah Hyde. Based on how the two of them were in practice in recent days, Hyde could be separating himself from House permanently.
House is fortunate, though. Tramon Williams and Casey Hayward remain out with injuries, so House shouldn’t be any worse than the third cornerback on the field. So, when Green Bay is in its nickel defense, House will still be a part of that. But House can’t afford to have a repeat performance, so his play in St. Louis will be critical for him.
5. A chance for Jarrett Boykin, Tyrone Walker, other WRs to play big minutes
Randall Cobb’s right biceps injury and Jordy Nelson’s knee surgery will keep two of the Packers’ three top wide receivers sidelined for this game. As was the case late this week in practice, that means a ton of meaningful opportunities for young receivers like Boykin and Walker to not only be on the field a lot, but to do so with Rodgers and the starting offense.
Boykin and Walker are both very sure-handed, and if either of them can make an impact play in a game, it will go a long way in determining where they fit into Green Bay’s offense in the regular season. At the moment, Boykin is practically a lock for the 53-man roster and Walker could soon be approaching that level of job security. A moment of lost focus could change that, though, so Boykin and Walker will be asked to step up right from the opening kickoff.
There will also be a chance for seventh-round pick Kevin Dorsey to show what he can do in a game. Dorsey was medically cleared this week after missing two weeks of practice.

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