Seems like every writer, blogger and fan forum has a “5 things to watch” or “3 things to look for” post to preview an upcoming game. Usually, the items are fairly general and rather obvious; things like, “the offensive line needs to pass protect better and the defense needs to create turnovers.” For many football fans, that’s good enough.
But you’re not just any NFL fan are you? No, you’re a Packers fan. And if you’re a repeat visitor to this web site, there’s a good chance you’re a rather rabid Packers fan that knows a thing or two about the game of football. From what you readers tell me, you like to read about Xs and Os, break down plays on film and discuss the more subtle aspects of the game of football.
I’m a firm believer in “give the people what they want,” so our “3 things” post will strive to be a little different. We’re going to delve into the not-so-obvious aspects of the upcoming games and give you some very specific things to look for.
Here are three players to watch in this game:
1) Sam Shields #37 - Shields regressed last season, partially because of increased responsibilities in coverage and run defense, according to CB coach Joe Whitt. Shields started slow in camp, then missed two games with an injury. Many Packers fans quickly soured on Shields, still irked from his disappointing play at the ending of last season.
Lately, however, his play is on the rise and the Packers are hopeful it continues. Shields has the one thing you can’t teach, the speed to make up for mistakes in coverage. With Davon House to be affected all season by a shoulder injury, Casey Hayward just too inexperienced and Jarret bush too valuable as a versatile fill-in, the Packers would much prefer to see Shields as the starter this season. What the Packers will be looking for this game is how Shields tackles a running back in the open field. You should watch for it too.
2) Jerron McMillian #22 – McMillian is in a two-man battle with MD Jennings to win the nickle safety position (when Charles Woodson will be moving to slot CB). But that’s not all – according to Dom Capers, the Packers have used him a bit at the dime cornerback spot (something I hadn’t noticed) and like what they’ve seen. I’ll be watching for #22 this game and how the Packers use him. This could open up a lot of possibilities in the Packers’ secondary.
3) Tim Masthay - Along with Mason Crosby, here’s the only starter you’ll see playing in the fourth quarter. Masthay is quickly developing into one of the top punters in the league and could be knocking on the Pro Bowl door in a year or two. More than anything, he’s been doing a masterful job of keeping opposing teams guessing.
Sometimes he goes for hang time, sometimes he blasts line drive punts over a returner’s head and very often, make use of directional punting, keeping the ball away from certain returners or making it easier to cover them by pinning them up against a sideline. In addition, 23 of his 55 punts last season resulted in opposing teams starting inside the 20, one of the best averages in the league. Look for Masthay to get plenty of work Thursday night if the second team offense continues to struggle as it has.——————
Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.