The Green Bay Packers finally will kick off their preseason on Friday night against Cleveland at Lambeau Field.
It will be the Packers’ first test against a team in a different uniform. It will be a critical game for those players fighting for a spot on the roster or a higher place on the pecking order on the depth chart.
Or, maybe all of that is overhyped.
“The practice reps are really important,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said this week. “We’re playing against a great defense every single day, so you’ve got to see it in practice. Want to get on the same page, but those reps are as important as a game. The other misnomer about the preseason game is nobody shows anything. Even that third preseason, there’s not going to be a lot of crazy things being shown. There’s a ton of unscouted looks that occur in the first couple of weeks of the season. It’s stuff they’ve been working on the entire offseason and training camp but don’t want to show in the preseason. We’re the same way on offense and defense. Going out there and playing against a team that plays two defenses in these games, it’s actually better for me to get the work in practice where I’m seeing various looks and multiple personnel groups and more exotic pressures and coverages.”
Rodgers might be a different case, because what he needs to get ready for the season might not be the same for Joe Callahan to show he’s worthy of sticking around past the final cuts. Nonetheless, for a team like the Packers, who really don’t have many roster spots on the line, the practices are more important than the games in getting ready for the regular season.
Take the defense, for instance. Facing Rodgers, with his unmatched combination of physical tools and mental acuity, for a two-and-a-half-hour practice holds more value than facing Cleveland’s Robert Griffin III for a series or two on Friday night.
“it helps tremendously,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. “Aaron knows our defense, he knows our calls, he knows where he’s going to go with the football. He’s great at the line of scrimmage with the cadence. So, for young guys, he’s going to bait them. He does a great job in your zones because Aaron can look over here and throw the ball over there. Not many quarterbacks can do that. So tempo, no-huddle, speed of the game, it’s really, really good work for us in terms of preparing for the season.”
There are parts of the game that require these preseason tests. So long as the defense isn’t allowed to tackle on the practice field, the preseason games are the only opportunity to determine whether Kenny Clark can shed the guard and make a tackle or Blake Martinez can beat the fullback to take the runner. In the same vein, for John Crockett and rookies Brandon Ross and Brandon Burks, the games will be their opportunity to show their ability to either break a tackle or at least get a few more yards after initial contact.
“I think right now that’s the main thing,” running backs coach Ben Sirmans said. “Even starting from OTAs to now, although you see them whether they’re picking up blitzes or running through the hole, it’s not the same speed that it’s going to be on Friday night. I tell them all the time, you’re going to be against defensive players on the other side that are trying to make the team. So, the efforts that you’re going to get and the urgency that the guys you’re going against on defense, it’s going to be real.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.