The Green Bay Packers host the Oakland Raiders in the home preseason opener at Lambeau Field on Friday at 7:00 p.m. CT, televised nationally on CBS.
The Big Picture: What's at Stake?
It's the third preseason game, traditionally considered the dress rehearsal for the regular season and the game in which the starters play the most. It's still the preseason, however. The second half will still belong to the backups and those fighting for roster spots on the team's 53-man roster.
One more storyline that will dominate on Friday evening will be the return of several former Packers employees that helped the organization win Super Bowl XLV. Defensive back Charles Woodson, wide receiver James Jones and defensive lineman C.J. Wilson will all be on the Raiders sideline, brought to Oakland by former Packers executive Reggie McKenzie, now the team's general manager.
What to Watch When the Packers Have the Ball
A) Jobs Up for Grabs at Tight End: Now that it appears Brandon Bostick will be out until at least the start of the regular season (perhaps longer) and Colt Lyerla has officially been placed on injured reserve, there's more opportunities at the tight end position than there's ever been at any point this preseason.
Unless Richard Rodgers absolutely flops Friday night, he looks to have the starting job locked up. And as the most veteran player on the unit, Andrew Quarless seems to have at least locked up a spot on the 53-man roster.
The players on the roster bubble, such as Jake Stoneburner and Ryan Taylor, will be the ones most under the microscope. A good outing could propel them to a job on the regular-season roster, while a poor performance could spell doom. Rookie Justin Perillo, meanwhile, is looking to prove he's worth a spot on the practice squad.
B) The quarterback rotation: The only thing thing head coach Mike McCarthy would commit to saying was that Aaron Rodgers would play more than one series. And while the starters typically play the longest in the third preseason game, that doesn't automatically mean Rodgers will be playing into the third quarter.
If the Packers stick to an every-other-game philosophy, Matt Flynn figures to be the second quarterback to enter the game after Rodgers departs. It may be Flynn's best opportunity to state his case for the backup job after playing in a rainstorm in the first preseason game and only attempting three passes in the second.
Scott Tolzien has been impressive, putting up back-to-back strong performances, in the first two exhibition games and will want to keep rolling if wants to win the No. 2 quarterback gig.
C) Derek Sherrod's bounce-back effort: One of the best stories coming out of the first preseason game at Tennessee was the solid play of Derek Sherrod in his first extended action since suffering a severly broken leg way back in 2011.
Sherrod went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows in just one week, getting beat off the edge with regularity last week against the Rams, putting in doubt how the Packers can rely on him as a backup swing tackle.
The Packers are waiting to find out if they'll be seeing the good Sherrod or the bad Sherrod, and whether the slower grass field will play to his advantage compared to the fast-track turf he competed on in St. Louis.
What to Watch When the Raiders Have the Ball
A) Divvying up snaps at outside linebacker: With nine outside linebackers on the roster, it's been exceedingly difficult to get a long look at all of them of the preseason. Out of rookies Carl Bradford, Jayrone Elliott and Adrian Hubbard, none of them have exceed 20 total snaps on defense.
Elliott, in particular, despite playing just 14 total preseason snaps, may have been the most impressive of the bunch, coming up with three sacks and a forced fumble in the span of four plays against the Rams. The Packers will need to give him a longer look in order to determine if he's really worthy of carrying on their 53-man roster or he's just beating up on bad backups.
Despite the Packers investing a fourth round draft choice into Bradford, he's had a very quiet training camp. He too needs some extended playing time to better evaluate his development.
B) Casey Hayward and the nickel and dime packages: Hayward's balky hamstring that caused him to miss two practices this week is worth monitoring after being a season-long issue last season.
The impact of Hayward's absence will be felt on the team's nickel and dime subpackages, particularly at the slot cornerback position.
Even with Hayward healthy, the Packers have been doing a lot of experimenting during training camp, using Tramon Williams, Micah Hyde, Jarrett Bush, Jumal Rolle and Ryan White to guard the slot. They may get extra time there if Hayward doesn't play.
C) The last spot at cornerback: Barring injury, five roster spots appear to be locked up by cornerbacks: Sam Shields, Davon House, Williams, Hayward and Bush.
With three of those five players entering the final year of their respective contracts (House, Williams, Bush), it's a good bet the Packers keep at least six on the roster with an eye toward the future.
The final cornerback spot figures to come down to sixth round draft choice Demetri Gooodson and second-year veteran Rolle, and how they perform against the Raiders could go a long way toward which is kept around for the regular season.
What to Watch on Special Teams
An encore for Jeff Janis: The seventh round draft pick wowed his audience with a 34-yard catch and run for a touchdown against the Rams last week, displaying elite speed.
Janis, however, also received time returning punts and looked more comfortable in that role than second round draft choice Davante Adams.
Look for Janis to get another chance in a return role as the Packers find out if he's worth taking that job over the likes of Hyde and Randall Cobb. And don't rule out the possibility of Janis being used on kick returns for the first time this preseason too.
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor at Cheesehead TV and its "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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