The Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs will close out their preseason schedules Thursday, with the Chiefs traveling to Lambeau Field in a rematch of each team’s 2010 preseason finale. The Chiefs won that game at Arrowhead Stadium, 17-14.
As was the case when these two met last August, the Chiefs come in to the game 0-3 in preseason play. The Packers were also 2-1 heading into their finale in 2010.
These two teams play in Week 15 of the regular season in Kansas City.
Here are some things to watch between the Packers and Chiefs Thursday:
Backups in the Packers secondary haven’t played well in three preseason games. Pat Lee and Jarrett Bush have been picked on at times, culminating with the touchdown pass Bush gave up against Curtis Painter in Indianapolis. Both Bush and Lee have struggled finding the football in man coverage, and Lee gets lost sometimes in zone.
The two got a chance to face a starting NFL quarterback in Colt McCoy in Week 1 of the preseason, and he roasted the pair to the tune of 135 yards, one touchdown and just one incompletion in 10 attempts. In the finale, they should get another chance with Matt Cassel. It’s important these two, and especially Lee, start making strides. Another tough outing could spell the end to Lee’s career with the Packers.
Ones vs. Twos
Packers coach Mike McCarthy hasn’t announced anything yet, but it’s widely assumed most of the Packers starters will get the night off Thursday as the team prepares to face the Saints just a week after their preseason finale. McCarthy sat the starters last year at Arrowhead and the Packers weren’t playing the league’s first game of the season.
That’s not the case in Kansas City, where coach Todd Haley said he’ll get most of his starters a good chunk of playing time. How much exactly wasn’t announced by Haley either. Regardless, Haley’s decision should get some of the Packers backup players valuable experience against a starting team that won the AFC West last season. You really can’t beat that from an evaluation standpoint. It’ll help both McCarthy and GM Ted Thompson get a gauge on where some of the second-stringers are and which should make the Packers final 53-man roster.
In the Trenches
It actually wouldn’t be a bad thing for the Packers starting five offensive line to get a series or two in. They desperately need to start building some cohesion. With the amount of days away from the season opener in the single digits, that unit is still a concern.
Nevertheless, it’s likely the second unit that will see the majority of the work. And wouldn’t you know it, that group has just as much to prove. Derek Sherrod needs all the live game action he can get. Nick McDonald hasn’t been as sharp or effective as the Packers had hoped heading into the season. And Marshall Newhouse, Chris Campbell, Ray Dominguez, Evan Dietrich-Smith and Caleb Schlauderaff all need the evaluation time. Newhouse appears to be a roster lock as a backup, but the rest remain a toss up. The depth on the Packers offensive line at this moment isn’t encouraging.
Final Exam Time
It’s interesting how the mindset of an NFL team must be heading into a final preseason game. There’s probably 40 or so players who feel pretty confident in their roster spots on the team. But there’s another 40 or so who are preparing for this game like it’s the Super Bowl. It’s somewhat like a final exam in college; there’s a segment of the class that goes into it confident in getting a good grade. Then there’s the other half who stayed up all week trying to get their grade up because of average performances up to that point (For the record, I’m not sure I fit into either category).
And really, this is the latter half’s last chance to make an impression on their evaluators. Guys on the roster bubble are going to get plenty of playing time, and how they look on film against Kansas City is going to go a long ways in deciding whether the find themselves on the 53 or the streets. It’s that simple.
There has been some heated positional battles in Packers camp this preseason. Thursday night signifies the final round in most of those fights.
Here are the positions with the most interesting battles:
- Receiver: Both Chastin West and Tori Gurley have played well enough to make the roster. West emerged as a dangerous receiving weapon, and Gurley has been a play-maker on special teams. Thursday is their last opportunity to prove to Thompson that he needs to keep six receivers.
- Tight end: The Packers have five NFL-caliber tight ends, but I’m not convinced they’ll keep all five. One might have to go. Is it D.J. Williams, who hasn’t been much of a factor as of late? Could it be Andrew Quarless, who limped into camp? Will Ryan Taylor, an emerging receiving talent and special teamer, make the 53? These are all questions that might get answered on Thursday.
- Outside linebacker: Vic So’oto has made enough plays to warrant a spot on the roster, but that might mean the Packers keep nine linebackers. That’s a big number. Jamari Lattimore has also shown flashes. Ricky Elmore needs a fantastic effort to even be considered for the practice squad.
- Cornerback: How many will the Packers keep? Six has been a common number for the team as of late. But can they afford that this season? Woodson, Williams and Shields are absolute locks. Bush and House look like good bets, with Lee, Gordy and Brandian Ross as other options. Thompson certainly has some decisions at this position.
- Safety: Anthony Levine’s unfortunate and unlucky injury could potentially lose him a job he might have earned if healthy. He still might hold onto it even if he doesn’t play Thursday. We’ll also get to see if Brandon Underwood can play safety, which is his last chance to make the roster. Would the Packers dare keep just three safeties, with Bush being a hybrid corner/safety?
Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.
You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.Follow @zachkruse2