Packers at Titans: Five things to watch

The Green Bay Packers wrap up their preseason schedule Thursday night against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field in Nashville, meaning it will be the final chance for many backups to win a roster spot

In what is the most meaningless game of an otherwise meaningless exhibition season, the Green Bay Packers' preseason finale Thursday night against the Tennessee Titans will be big for a number of players, mainly reserves but also a few starters.

The Packers will have to reduce their roster by 20-some players by Saturday afternoon, and a handful of those players have a chance of earning a roster spot with a good performance at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn.

If you don't think so, just ask Packers coach Mike McCarthy.

"There are questions at the offensive line. The tight end group, there's a question there. The receiver group, there are a couple guys there I want to look at," said McCarthy. "Fullback, running back, you could go through the roster. Two quarterbacks, three quarterbacks, what are you going to do there? Defensive line, we have so much depth there. How many guys can we keep? The corner group, those are all very healthy problems, corner, safety and even the linebackers, too. There is a guy at every position that needs to step up in a big way."

As the backups are battling it out, here are five things to watch as the Packers play the Titans:

1. Packers rushing attack: Vernand Morency (knee) is not expected to play, and Brandon Jackson may not play after sustaining a slight concussion in practice on Sunday. Without either of those two in the lineup, it will be difficult to gauge the progress of the rushing attack, which has averaged 3.5 yards per attempt this preseason.

Noah Herron will start at running back with rookie Korey Hall making his fourth straight start at fullback. The Packers will be looking closely at rookie DeShawn Wynn and free agent Corey White, who may play both running back and fullback. Wynn, who has missed a number of practices with a quadriceps injury, will be playing in his first preseason game, and it may be his only shot at making the team. Brandon Miree will play behind Hall. Miree also missed the early part of training camp due to a neck stinger injury and has fallen behind Hall on the depth chart. Miree will need a good performance as a blocker and catching the ball out of the backfield to make the team.

2. Can Atari Bigby continue to play like a starter? Bigby appears to be on the verge of replacing veteran Marquand Manuel in the lineup. First, though, he will have to show against the Titans that he can continue to be an explosive playmaker and communicate well with his teammates on the field. If he does, there is a good chance that Manuel will be released depending how well backup safeties Tyrone Culver, Charlie Peprah and Alvin Nnabuife play. Either one of those three could win the fourth safety spot, which would make Manuel the odd man out. Nick Collins, Bigby, and third-round pick Aaron Rouse are locks to make the team.

3. Zac Alcorn or Clark Harris? With a good game, one of these two tight end can win a roster spot behind Donald Lee and Bubba Franks. If neither of them play well, they could both be released by Saturday. Both have had their ups and downs in practices and preseason games. Alcorn has the slight edge because of his experience in the offense, and he is a better blocker. But Harris was selected by Green Bay in the seventh round of the recent NFL draft. If Harris does not make the team, the Packers probably will place him on the practice squad.

4. Nickel cornerback battle: The Packers have the pleasant problem of choosing among a handful of quality cornerbacks to play behind Al Harris and Charles Woodson in the team's passing defenses. Will Blackmon and Jarrett Bush are locks to make the team with the final opening up for grabs between Patrick Dendy, Frank Walker and Tramon Williams. Dendy is the favorite in this race, but Walker could pass him up with a good game against the Titans. Williams is the darkhorse in the battle, but appears that he is headed toward the practice squad.

5. Dave Rayner vs. Mason Crosby: Another pleasant problem. In what has been the most intense kicking battle in team history, the Packers will have to decide on which kicker to keep for the regular season. Crosby has a slight edge on Rayner going into this game. If the rookie sixth round pick makes all of his attempts, look for him to win the job.

Rayner could come out ahead of Crosby, but only if Crosby struggles badly against the Titans.


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