The Packers open the Pre-Season tonight against the Arizona Cardinals. Pre-game coverage begins at 5:00 PM with the kickoff at 7:00 PM on WTAQ, WIXX and WHBL. After two weeks of training camp, the players are really looking forward to hitting someone other than their teammate. Head Coach Mike McCarthy will play his starters, if only for a series or two. He plans on getting all four quarterbacks, including Vince Young into the game. Even with a sizeable list of injured players, McCarthy said all able bodied players in uniform should see at least some action. Because it is a game, and the score is kept, the Packers want to win, but the biggest priority for every team in the pre-season is to evaluate it's talent so they make the right decisions when it comes time to determine the final 53 man roster. With that in mind, here are my five things to look for in the 53rd annual Bishop's Charities Game.
1) It will be a brief appearance for nearly all of the starters on offense and defense, except one. That's fourth round draft pick David Bakhtiari out of Colorado. Thrust into the left tackle position now that Bryan Bulaga is headed for season ending knee surgery next week, this is an important night for Bakhtiari. McCarthy said this week the rookie has had only one mental error so far in camp, a remarkable number for any rookie. He's going to get of lot snaps and he needs them if the Packers are committed to inserting a rookie into the demanding position.
2) Vince Young will make his Green Bay debut. The former Titans number one pick was signed this week to increase the competition for the backup job behind Aaron Rodgers. Granted it will be a very limited debut for Young but judging from what I saw in practice over the past three days, he may push B.J. Coleman but it's far fetched to see him climbing over Graham Harrell. Evaluating quarterback play won't be hard so let's see if a race truly develops.
3) The Lambeau kicks are key. Mason Crosby's first appearance in the stadium was dreadful on Family Night. Special teams coach Shawn Slocum stated the obvious Thursday when he said, "Absolutely his job is on the line." Crosby is being pushed hard by Giorio Tavecchio. McCarthy wants to evenly distribute the kicking opportunities throughout the pre-season and Crosby needs to start splitting the uprights tonight.
4) The special teams are the ticket to the roster. Keep an eye on who's on the four, core units. Punt return and cover, kickoff return and cover. At the Family Night scrimmage, young players Jeremy Ross, Jarrett Boykin and Terrell Manning were on the first unit for all four. Rookie Micha Hyde was on two of them. It's a pretty good indication of who the brass believes will make the squad.
5) Run to daylight. It might be hard under the lights but let's hope Eddie Lacy's hamstring has settled down. He ran strong in the scrimmage. Johnathan Franklin is easily the fastest running back on the roster but James Starks and Alex Green look like they're not going to concede snaps without a fight. Finding holes behind a patched up offensive line after the starters depart will be a challenge but it will be easy to see who is running hard.
Check back after the game for a post reviewing the performance, complete with quotes from the guys in the locker room.