Five New Things To Look For When Packers Play Bills
A lot has changed since the Packers shut out the Cleveland Browns last week in Lambeau Field. Brett Favre is now a Viking, the Packers have new personnel on their roster, and players have jumped up the depth chart. Last week, there were five things to look for in the game against the Browns, so here are five more things to look for as the Packers play their second pre-season game.
1. How will first-rounder B.J. Raji look in his first live NFL-game action?
Two days before the Packers were set to play the Browns, ninth overall pick B.J. Raji ended his holdout and agreed to a contract with the Packers worth $28.5 million over the next five years. He reported to camp but did not play against the Browns, and will now see his first action on Saturday against the Bills.
With Ryan Pickett taking the majority of reps at defensive tackle, it is thought that Raji will man the right defensive end spot for the Packers. He began camp working with the second team but has seen reps with the first team and will get plenty of work during the game.
Raji spoke to reporters on the sidelines during the Browns game and said he had been working out daily to stay in shape, and with a week of training camp under his belt now he should be good to go. The Packers defensive line was outstanding last week but will face a much bigger test when they go up against a solid Bills’ running game.
2. Will Brady Poppinga step up or will another outside linebacker kick him out of a spot?
Despite the shutout last week, one of the low lights was Poppinga’s performance against the Browns. He looked out of place and slow on many plays and was outperformed by some second teamers. With Jeremy Thompson and Clay Matthews III both ruled out and seventh rounder Brad Jones questionable, this game will be vital for Poppinga.
Cyril Obiozor showed a lot of promise flying around the field last week and will make another push towards making the team when he hits the field tomorrow. While he is a little light, weighing under 250 pounds, he is athletic and very strong and attacks very quickly.
Poppinga will once again see reps with the first team because of injuries, but he will be on a very short leash the rest of the way if he does not perform.
3. Will Matt Flynn continue his success as the second string quarterback and will Brian Brohm show ANY improvement?
Once thought of as a potential number one pick, Brian Brohm has shown nothing during his time in Green Bay to believe he will amount to anything in the NFL. He throws behind runners, never seems to have control of the offense, and has happy feet even with time in the pocket.
While he is working with the third team on offense, the mechanics do not seem to be there either. As bad as it sounds, he did show improvement from last season and will hopefully do so tomorrow night. He threw two interceptions against the Browns but hopefully will be more poised in the future.
On the other hand, Matt Flynn has been excellent and given head coach Mike McCarthy more confidence if anything were to happen to Aaron Rodgers. Drafted in the seventh round in 2008, Flynn was not expected to make the roster but actually jumped Brohm on the depth chart.
Last week, Flynn completed five of six passes and had a few completions taken away due to penalties.
4. Speaking of penalties, will the Packers ever cut down on the penalties that killed them last year?
Last season, the Packers ranked second in the number of penalties called on them with 110, second to just the Dallas Cowboys. They did, however, rank first in penalty yards with 984. While the Packers’ press man-t0-man coverage was somewhat the reason for these penalties, it is something they must change if they are going to succeed this year. Moving to a mostly zone coverage in the new 3-4 defense should help.
Against the Browns last week, the Packers were penalized nine different times for 52 yards. Mike McCarthy made it a point to mention the penalty problem in his halftime interview, and it was clear he was not pleased. Even more so in the preseason, a surplus of penalties shows a lack of discipline for young players. While it will be expected for the first team to not draw yellow flags, it will be just as important for the younger players to do the same.
5. Can the defense continue its aggressive style of play and be successful?
For a team that lacked fire and passion in their defense last year, it was a ton of fun to watch the Packers’ defense flying around the football field making plays. Blitzes came from every direction, quarterbacks looked flustered, and the defense forced four turnovers.
While the Buffalo Bills are not going to make anyone forget about the Pittsburgh Steelers, they have a better offense than the Browns. While Terrell Owens will not play, Lee Evans, Marshawn Lynch, and Roscoe Parrish form a great offense that has scored 45 points in two pre-season games thus far.
While a shutout is not expected, Al Harris and Charles Woodson are expected to join Raji in their first pre-season action of the season. It will be interesting to see if defensive coordinator Dom Capers opens the playbook up even more to let the Packers roam free.
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