Five Things to Watch: Green Bay

Posted Aug 15, 2013

1.    How Do the Rookie Defensive Starters Improve?
Rookies S T.J. McDonald and LB Alec Ogletree got their first look at the NFL in last week’s preseason opener against the Browns. After Cleveland efficiently spread the ball around through the air early, it will be interesting to see how McDonald and Ogletree improve after that experience and what adjustments are  made as they head into week two facing QB Aaron Rodgers.

2.    Running Back Battles
Daryl Richardson will look to keep his production high to solidify the No. 1 spot in the rotation after he notched 24 yards on the ground on four rushes last week. Isaiah Pead had a key fumble last week, but the Rams reinforced their trust in him and fed him the ball on the next series. Look for him to get off to a better start against the Packers on Saturday.

Zac Stacy rushed for 23 yards on seven carries in Cleveland, but was limited in two practices over the past week. After returning to full activity in Tuesday’s practice, Stacy will look to continue his productivity. When Stacy was held out of two practices after the first preseason game, Benny Cunningham saw his reps increase in practice. We’ll see if those additional reps will translate into more reps in the second preseason game.

The Packers also have running back battle of their own, as DuJuan Harris, Eddie Lacy, and Jonathan Franklin compete for the starting spot.

3.    Improving the Pass Defense
Green Bay’s Rodgers is still regarded as one of the league’s most prolific passers even though the Packers receiving corps has diminished with free agency and offseason surgeries. After Browns QB Brandon Weeden completed 10 -of-13 passes, the Rams’ defense will look to improve their play from last week and test its pass defense against an elite quarterback.

4.    Activity in the Receiving Corps
The combination of Austin Pettis, Tavon Austin, and TE Jared Cook accounted for zero catches and few targets in last week’s game in Cleveland. While playing time and playbook complexity is limited throughout the preseason, it will be interesting to see if the targets and production from Pettis, Austin, and Cook will increase.

Chris Givens garnered the most targets last Thursday, as he hauled in three receptions for 82 yards and a touchdown over the course of the Rams’ first three drives. Givens has proven that he has big-play potential, but look for him to be more involved in short and intermediate routes as he continues to develop his game as an all-around receiver.

Stedman Bailey and Brian Quick both brought in two catches for 27 yards, while Raymond Radway caught three balls for 78 yards and a touchdown late in the game. Watch to see how the roles of these young receivers continue to progress as the preseason goes on.

5.    ‘The Leg’
K Greg Zuerlein put both of his attempts through the uprights last week, as he made 54-yard and 55-yard field goals against the Browns.  Zuerlein started the 2012 season hot, but struggled as the season came to a close. After a rested offseason, he plans to improve his consistency moving into his second year.

“We gave him a lot of time off after the season to kind of freshen himself up, got back in the weight room,” Special Teams Coordinator John Fassell said. “His strength has improved, so his ability and success later in the season should improve.”