The Packers make their preseason home debut tonight when they face the Cleveland Browns at Lambeau Field. Amidst the usual excitement which surrounds any contest at Lambeau, there are serious football matters which will need to play out during the contest.
1. Health of the team - Aaron Rodgers said it best on Monday in the locker room when asked what he wants to get out of the preseason. "Stay healthy." was the beginning of his response. The team as a whole has had a hard time doing that thus far in camp. Desmond Bishop may miss the entire season with a hamstring injury. Davon House is out for the time being, right when he was on the verge of becoming a starter. Greg Jennings has missed nearly two weeks with a concussion. John Kuhn sprained an ankle in practice this week. James Starks has a turf toe injury. Jermichael Finley has been bugged by quad issues. Mike McCarthy wants to see progress out of those that play, but perhaps above all else would love to get out of the game Thursday without any injuries.
2. The Running Backs - New signee Cedric Benson can participate in padded work as soon as Thursday, and while Mike McCarthy hasn't completely ruled him out, he would rather err on the side of caution. That being said, if Benson and Kuhn don't play, it would leave Green Bay with just 3 healthy running backs: fullback Nic Cooper, and halfbacks Mark Tyler and Alex Green, who each figure to get a lot of work. How many carries Green gets will be interesting, as he's been on a "rep count" throughout camp after tearing his ACL last November.
3. The Defensive Line - If there's a position on the team which will be perhaps the most competitive when it comes to roster spots, it's the d-line. Rookies Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels are looking to make an impact, along with veteran Daniel Muir. Mike Neal is having his best training camp, but reps will still be limited for him as he'll be suspended for the first 4 games of the regular season. Anthony Hargrove also won't see many reps as he's out for 8 games.
4. Graham Harrell - The Packers' new backup quarterback had his ups and downs in getting a significant amount of snaps last week against the Chargers. Harrell and the second teamers received the majority of playing time on Tuesday in practice. Aaron Rodgers figures to play at most only the first quarter, so the bright lights will be on Harrell once again. Rookie B. J. Coleman only played the last series against San Diego. How the game goes will dictate how much action Coleman sees on Thursday.
5. Brandon Weeden - He may not play for the Packers, but the Browns' new starting quarterback is a 28 year old rookie, taken in the first round out of Oklahoma State. He struggled in his NFL preseason debut against the Lions last week, losing a fumble and throwing an interception. He'll no doubt be looking for a better performance against the Packers #1 defense. Weeden's backup, Colt McCoy, was supposed to be the future of the team, but injuries and ineffectiveness led to the Browns and team president Mike Holmgren making the decision to draft and start Weeden.