Packers vs. Titans: 5 Things to Watch in Exhibition Opener

Packers Richard Rodgers
Will Richard Rodgers emerge as a downfield threat for the Packers at tight end?
Will Richard Rodgers emerge as a downfield threat for the Packers at tight end?

The Green Bay Packers open their exhibition season against the Tennessee Titans on Saturday night. NFL exhibition games are usually about as entertaining as darning socks, but if you manage to make it through the entire ordeal, here are five things to watch from a Packers perspective:

Stay healthy
First and foremost — before any heated position battles or players you’re hoping to get a peek at during live game action — make sure you pray to whatever God you typically pray to that the Packers survive this first exhibition game with minimal injuries. The Packers have already lost Jared Abbrederis and Don Barclay for the season with ACL tears. Morgan Burnett is on the shelf with an oblique strain, an injury that can take a long time to heal. The Packers have been one of the most injury-ravaged teams in the NFL over the last five seasons. Enough is enough. Stay healthy, guys.

Young safeties
With Morgan Burnett back in Green Bay recovering from an oblique strain, the Packers young safeties will have an opportunity to stand out. Sean Richardson has been a camp standout so far and wants to prove that he’s more than a box safety. Micah Hyde has lined up as a starter since minicamp and needs to prove that he’s made the transition from slot corner to a starting NFL safety. It seems like rookie Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is being brought along slowly. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I’m sure he’d like to make an impact and speed up the process of him entering the starting lineup. Finally, don’t forget about guys like Chris Banjo and Tanner Miller. After last season’s dismal performance, the Packers safety position battle is wide open. Nobody should be counted out.

Richard Rodgers vs. Brandon Bostick
Yeah, it’s probably going to be tight end by committee for the Packers this season, but someone on that committee needs to provide some type of down-the-seam threat like Jermichael Finley did. They don’t have to do everything Finley did, but at least show enough that teams have to pay attention to a tight end zipping through the seam. Early reports on Rodgers indicate he’s lost weight and is much faster than the 4.87 40-yard dash he ran at the NFL combine. Bostick showed he has the athleticism to be a downfield threat, but his hands are iffy. We’ll see if either player rises above the other on Saturday, and how the other, more traditional tight ends in the Packers’ rotation fit.

JC Tretter
Mike McCarthy has been talking up Tretter ever since the Packers let Evan Dietrich-Smith walk. Now we’ll see if Tretter, who missed all of last season after breaking his ankle in an offseason fumble recovery drill, wins the starting job and puts a halt to the Packers’ carousel of rotating centers for a couple of seasons. If Tretter is shaky, keep an eye on rookie Corey Linsley. He sounds like an unpolished bruiser.

Sam Barrington
I’ve had my eye on Barrington ever since the Packers drafted him the 7th round in 2013. I think he can play and will challenge Brad Jones for one of the two inside linebacker starting slots before the season is over. I haven’t heard much about Barrington in training camp, so I’m looking forward to seeing how he looks in the exhibition opener. So far, I’m the only person on this kid’s bandwagon. After Saturday, will I have company or will I be leaping off?

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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  • Archie

    I’ve been on the Bostick bandwagon for awhile now. It’s good to hear Rodgers has looked good catching the ball in camp. He wasn’t much of a blocker on film in college. I’m not big on Q. Lyerla looks to be out for this year. Others are real longshots to be important in passing game. So yeah, Bostick v Rodgers should be entertaining tonight but until they play in a game with AROD, we can’t be sure of what we have in either one.

    Tretter and Sherrod and Linsley will be good watches too.

    On defense my eyes will be on Datone Jones. If he remains a non-factor, it will be time to worry.

    • Oppy

      I just have to ask… Are there two different Archies?

    • John Zoul

      Archie, good points…Also,have been reading positive things about Stoneburner, Janis, Myles White, and Pennel.

      Looks more and more like Guion will be released…Also, possibly Worthy, who has had problems his entire career staying healthy. He will either be released or placed on IR.

      • Stroh

        As it stands right now, I would guess Worthy goes on PUP, since he hasn’t practiced in training camp. His back injury doesn’t sound like a year long injury. So I doubt they IR him and lose him for the year. At least on PUP they can activate him later and get him some practice reps. He was a 2nd round pick, I don’t think they’ll simply release him w/o getting a look at him when healthy. He’ll be in training camp again next year before they would actually release him. High draft picks get more slack from the coaches and front office, since they have higher potential and more invested in them.

  • Bedrock

    Big T…Young, Wallace, and technically Tolzien.

    • Big T

      I wouldn’t consider them capable of running an offense at all…

  • SchenySchen

    You guys are actually worried about the Saftey play this year? The last thing I want them to waste a roster spot on is an aging veteran S that can’t cover any ground. People wanted a saftey drafted and they got one in the first round. Now we need a veteran too? Burnett is our veteran and if he can’t play up to par, it looks like Hyde/Dix or Richardson will take his spot. Relax and enjoy the Superbowl victory! GoPack!

    • Stroh

      I agree Scheny. Its funny everyone had to have a safety and now the Packers should have signed a vet, to take snaps from Hyde, Clinton-Dix and Richardson who all need as many as they can get.

  • Oppy

    I just read an article that had a break down of every players win/loss in the one on one pass rushing drills, and for what it’s worth, Sam Barrington was 2-0.

    That same table of wins/losses also had a score assigned to each player based on their win/loss ratio considering the quality of the individual opponents they had to battle. Barrington was rated quite high in that regard.

    Of course, that is only one aspect of LB play, but it’s a good sign. I do think they would have liked to get him substantial PT last season if not for being banged up.

    • Oppy

      Side note: according to those same metrics, Nate Palmer is looking like a pass rushing beast this year. Maybe Kevin Greene might have been right on the money with his begging MM and TT to go out and “over-draft” a mostly unheralded player from a small school that most thought would have been a UFA.

      • John Zoul

        Oppy, you have made a number of positive points…

        Most of what I’ve read concerning our LBs has been positive. In addition to Palmer and Barrington ‘stepping-up’, it sounds like Thomas, Elliott, and Doughty have all looked solid…Any positive news on Bradford?…

        Looking forward to seeing the Rookies in tonight’s game.

        • Oppy

          If I recall correctly, Bradford’s W-L in the 1-on-1 drills was something like 2-4. Keep in mind, while not good, that’s not as bad as it sounds- the drill tends to favor the offense on about 70% of snaps.

          I do think Bradford might be the type of player who isn’t going to show up in practice against his team mates, but might jump out vs. real competition. He’s a physical, bruising type player who has a history of creating forced fumbles, strips, etc.. something the Packers need more of and I’m hoping we get to see that aggressiveness and tenacity tonight in live reps vs. the Titans.

  • WKUPackFan

    The only things worse than wasting a roster spot on an aging S would be having an expensive back up QB or wasting a spot carrying three QB’s. Someone mentioned Vick and Hasselback (sp?) yesterday. Vick is horrible, and Matt H. Is about 100 years old. Flynn can run the offense as well as any other potential back up.

    Carrying a third QB would mean cutting someone for a player that almost certainly will never play. For years the Packers went with two QBs and one on the PS. That’s the best approach. If things got bad like last year Tolzien would still be available if he is cut. No team is going pick him up without any PS eligibility left.

    • Stroh

      Agree on all points. Signing an aging vet safety does nothing but take reps from Hyde, Clinton-Dix and Richardson who all need more reps, not less.

      I don’t see keeping 3 QB’s either. Last year was an anomaly at QB. Keep Flynn/Tolzien, preferably Flynn IMO and put Rettig on the PS is the best route. No other team would value Tolzien or Flynn, so whichever gets cut would be unlikely to be signed by anyone else.

  • mike

    barrington has the potential to be very dangerous . he was a beast in college and not afraid to hit somebody hard. i think that is still there but the question is does our coaches choose to work with him to bring it out at a nfl level or will it be typical dom capers your a rookie i dont play rookies til my vets go down

    • Stroh

      I personally like Lattimore better. I’m hoping he takes on a much bigger role this year and hopefully takes the starting job from Jones.

    • Oppy

      While it’s true that Dom’s defense is complicated due to changing responsibilities on the fly based on offensive formation and shifts-and requires players to be extremely assignment sure before getting play time, here’s a short list of people who may dispute your assertion that Dom Capers typically won’t play a rookie until his vets go down:

      Casey Hayward, Sam Shields, Morgan Burnett, BJ Raji, Jerron McMillian, Micah Hyde, Brad Jones, Frank Zombo, Andy Mulumba, Jerel Worthy, Datone Jones, etc. etc.

      Also, Barrington is not a rookie. He’ll be a third year player this season.

      • Oppy

        I also missed Clay Matthews in there!

      • Stroh

        LeBeau in Pitts is the one who won’t play rookies. As long as Capers is in GB he’ll have to play rookies, its always been the Packers philosophy to play rookies, even if they don’t start they usually see playing time.

  • Archie

    No Oppy, just me. My commentary rotates from the good to the bad to the ugly. I realize I am much more popular when I comment only on the good. But I* feel compelled to report on the bad and ugly as well. I am very down on the performance of our defense from the GM to our coaches to many of our players. I feel 180 degrees opposite about our offense. It looks to me like Perry, Neal, Worthy, Raji, Jones, Thornton, Hawk, Burnett, etc. aren’t NFL caliber players. I’ve been highly suspect of Peppers as well, coming off by far the worst year of his career. His lack of enthusiasm to play on Saturday night convinced me I was right. DeMarcus Ware was the guy we should have gone after, not this old guy who takes more plays off than BJ Raji. I don’t know why but it is clear TT has a blind eye when it comes to finding defensive talent. I predict DC will be fired at season’s end and there will be a complete house cleaning on defense but it won;t matter because they same guy will be making the picks. I know this isn’t what any of us want to hear but it is reality. Unfortunately, Mark Murphy re-upped the guy before all this becomes painfully obvious again this year. This defense will be the reason the Pack finish as an also ran this year.

  • Since ’61

    Adam – 100% agree that staying healthy is #1 for the Packers for this game and the entire pre-season. In addition to your other points I will be interested to see how D. Harris returns at the RB position. Also, the backup QB battle should be a good one. I know he wouldn’t play much but let’s see if Raji looks good again at NT. As for Burnett he could miss as little as a week or as much as 4 weeks with an obligue strain. Also, if he comes back too soon he can re-injure it more seriously and miss more time. We could go into the season without a safety who has even one complete game of NFL experience at the position. As I mentioned back during the free agency period, I wish TT signed a veteran safety. Well, here we are in any case. Go Pack! Stay healthy! Thanks, Since ’61

  • Big T

    You are correct 61, TT should have a veteran safety ready for the year. He also should’ve had a veteran backup qb last year. TT definately makes one shake his head in dismay at times.

  • Sven

    Since ’61,

    I just looked this up, and it may not make you feel any better, but without Burnett, there are two other guys on the roster that have started at Safety. Banjo and Bush have both started games at safety.

    Who knows the Bush/Banjo bunch could come from no where and take-over the safety position.

    I think that there are plenty of positives among our safeties. I look forward to seeing which two will ultimately rise to the top.

  • Stroh

    I have almost no worries about the Safety position. It has a lot of good talented players and its just a matter or seeing which ones step up. If this were the regular season, there is a good chance Burnett would be in the starting lineup, since its preseason and Burnett is an experienced vet it makes no sense to make him play. Not when Hyde, Clinton-Dix and Richardson need all the reps they can get.

  • dobber

    DefinAtely…

  • Since ’61

    Stroh – I agree with you about the reps for Hyde, Dix and Richardson. The fact that they need all the reps they can get is a sign of their inexperience. If I had more confidence in our ILBs I would feel a little better about our situation at Safety. Without Burnett, we don’t have leadership at either ILB or safety. I admit I’m not sure if Burnett is much of a leader but I would expect that our other safeties would look to him for leadership. My point about the vet safety is that he would provide that leadership as our new guys learn the position. Starting tonight, we’ll see how it goes. Thanks, Since ’61

  • Stroh

    Leaders have to lead by being on the field. Players won’t be led by someone sitting on the bench. Burnett has a much more intimate knowledge of the defensive calls, and much more experience than any of the other safeties. That said its not a given the Burnett is a starter, but it is an almost certainty for those reasons. The backups will follow Burnett due to those factors, unless of course he is benched.