Wednesday, August 10, 2016

2016 Packers Preseason Game Number One Preview: Browns at Lambeau

With the Packers' first preseason game off the books due to the massive incompetence at the annual Hall of Fame game, the Packers actual first preseason game of 2016 will be at Lambeau on Friday night against QB RGIII and his Cleveland Browns.
The big match-up will be everyone's first look at RGIII in a Browns uniform vs. whoever's playing at QB for the Packers. It won't be QB Brett Hundley, who's still unable to practice due to his injured ankle, and it won't be QB Aaron Rodgers either, who appears to be running the scout team this week. It'll be some combination of Joe Callahan and Marquise Williams, neither of whom I've ever seen play before, and I don't expect either one will be very good.

Rodgers used to play in the first half of their first preseason game, he played almost the entire first half last season in their preseason opener at New England, but he's played very little preseason football since WR Jordy Nelson's season ending knee injury last year in Pittsburgh. I don't think that's a coincidence, and I'm not sure whether Rodgers will play at all this preseason.

It's not like just any QB can step into the Packers' offense during the preseason either. There's been a lot of bad quarterback play from non-Rodgers QBs in recent years' preseason games. One example is any preseason game that involved QB Graham Harrell. So it should be expected that Callahan and Williams will struggle, which might make it difficult to properly evaluate anyone on offense.

On the defensive side, I'm expecting RGIII will have a big game. Not because he's going to find some magic potion in Cleveland with new head coach Hue Jackson by his side, but because the Packers play some extra vanilla defense during the preseason. In their 3rd preseason game of 2015, they hosted the Eagles and were shredded by QB Sam Bradford who went 10-for-10 with 121 yards, 3 TDs and a perfect QB rating against the Packers first team defense. The Packers have a very good defense, but they make a bum like Bradford look like an MVP during the preseason and RGIII should be able to do the same.

The players I'll be watching are the players on the bubble to see whether they can make some big plays against the back-ups. Is the hype surrounding ILB Blake Martinez for real? Can OLB Reggie Gilbert be the breakout, undrafted rookie free agent of 2016? Did the Packers find something in free agent OLB Lerentee McCray, who was buried on the depth chart in Denver? Some of those individual players might stand out while the Packers overall struggle with inexperience QBs and super vanilla defense.

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