Two days away from the team's preseason opener, Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy hasn't set in stone the play-time percentages his premiere players will see Saturday evening against the Tennessee Titans, but suffice to say, it won't be much.
"My goal, frankly, for play time—I do know this—is you want all your young guys to play," said McCarthy. "I'm not interested in getting on the plane, coming back home and we didn't have a young player that didn't get in the game. I'm looking for every young new player that's come in through our doors has an opportunity Saturday night to show what he's got."
With a workload for the starters that increases by the week during the exhibition season, the first preseason game is the best opportunity for the young players and those on the roster bubble to receive an opportunity for significant action, a chance to show what they've got.
Sure, the starters might see a little bit of playing time on Saturday night. But it will probably be no more than a series, maybe two if it's a three-and-out type of situation.
After all, the coaches don't want to unduly expose their starters to injury, not when they'll be counting upon those players for 16 regular season games and hopefully longer if the team qualifies for the playoffs.
The preseason opener is the chance for the backups to stake their claim to one of the 53 spots on the regular-season roster.
For the second and third string players, Saturday evening is the optimal time for them to prove themselves in a game atmosphere, which is just as important—if not more so—than the day in, day out practice environment in training camp.
The situation at quarterback is emblamatic of the rest of the positions on the Packers roster, where the face of the franchise isn't expected to see much playing time.
"I would say it's probably going to be fairly light, if I were guessing here," said Aaron Rodgers. "I don't want to put anybody out, but I would think it's going to be light work as we usually do."
The Packers already found out what life is like without Rodgers for the better part of eight games last season. They're don't want an occurrence of re-injury in a game that doesn't count in the league standings. And entering his 10th season in the NFL, Rodgers doesn't need the work like some of the more inexperienced players.
"The thing about this team, as you can tell, we're a pretty deep team," said Rodgers. "We've got a lot of athleticism and talent at different areas. One area especially is quarterback. I know they want to get Matt (Flynn) and Scott (Tolzien) extended looks and also get Chase (Rettig) some action too. It all depends on how much Mike wants me to go, whether that's a series or two or a quarter. Whatever it is, I'll be ready."
When the Packers lost Rodgers last season, they found out they were woefully unprepared at the quarterback position, giving up on the likes of Graham Harrell, B.J. Coleman and Vince Young in training camp before cycling through Seneca Wallace and Tolzien after Rodgers went down to injury and then finally settling on Flynn.
Saturday evening will be an opportunity to see whether Flynn or Tolzien can seize the No. 2 quarterback job and give them meaningful snaps as it relates to their professional development.
Meanwhile, Rettig's chances of making the Packers' 53-man roster might be next to zero, but the game against the Titans can serve as a chance to show whether he's worth carrying on the practice squad.
The same situation is replicated at almost every position on the roster.
Understandably, the Packers aren't going to want to give any more than a handful of snaps on Saturday to players like Eddie Lacy, Jordy Nelson, Josh Sitton, B.J. Raji, A.J. Hawk, Sam Shields, Tramon Williams and other long-time veterans.
Playing the Titans presents a unique challenge. With a new coaching staff and not knowing exactly what types of plays they're going to run, McCarthy just wants the young players on the team to be assignment-sure, worrying more about themselves than any specific gameplan for the opponent.
"I think it's important for us to go down there, particularly us not having a great handle on how they're going to play the game," said McCarthy, "just to make sure our guys are lined up, knowing what they do, play fast and play good fundamental, hard-nosed football."
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 [email protected].
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