Packers vs Texans: Five Things to Watch

There will be plenty of players worth keeping an eye on in Green Bay's preseason opener against the Houston Texans.

The annual tradition of getting overly excited for the preseason is officially upon us, as the Packers gear up to face the Houston Texans at Lambeau Field on Saturday night.

Whilst most of the key starters will be on display for a series at best, and the plays being ran will be aggressively milquetoast, there are still plenty of things to keep an eye on in Green Bay’s preseason opener.

Jordan Love

All eyes will be on the second-year quarterback as he takes his first snaps in an actual football game for the Green Bay Packers.

Love has made strides in his first full training camp, flashing some of his tantalising arm talent but also making some of the mistakes that young QBs are susceptible to.

Has Love been taking more risks in practice than he ordinarily would in a game setting? Can he cut out the mistakes without losing his gumption to push the ball down field?

Packers’ fans’ first glimpse of Love in semi-real NFL action will provide some answers.

The RB3 Battle

The competition for the number three running back spot looked to be an intriguing one entering camp, and so it has been.

Packers’ pundits have been left baffled that Kylin Hill was only a seventh-round pick, and he appears to have his nose in front of Patrick Taylor and Dexter Williams right now.

Taylor has impressed in his own right since coming off the PUP list, while Dexter Williams is running out of time to prove he should stick around for another year.

With everything to play for, all three backs should be running hard, which should make for a fascinating watch.

Eric Stokes

Stokes has experienced a baptism of fire in his rookie training camp, regularly being burned by the lethal combination of Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams.

But as defensive backs coach Jerry Gray pointed out, not every NFL quarterback or wide receiver is of the same standard as the two All-Pros.

The opposition Stokes will face on Saturday night will certainly not be of that caliber. Will Stokes show off his first-round pedigree and earn some confidence from his coaches?

T.J. Slaton

The ‘Get Kenny Clark Some Help’ campaign has been tirelessly at work for years, and Brian Gutekunst finally answered the bell this April by bringing in T.J. Slaton.

It may be a big ask for a rookie fifth-round pick to come in and make an instant impact, but this weekend’s game against the Texans provides Slaton with his first chance to show out.

Slaton has caught the eye in practice with more than just his unignorable size, batting down a couple of passes and even getting his hands on a pick six.

His competition for reps alongside Clark isn’t exactly formidable, so Packers fans will be hoping Slaton announces his arrival on Saturday.

Ben Braden vs Jon Runyan Jr.

The Packers’ starting offensive line is rounding into shape, with only the left guard spot seemingly still up for grabs.

Braden and Runyan Jr. have been splitting reps with the first team so far in camp, and the first preseason game will give both men a chance to stake their claim for the full-time gig.

Runyan Jr. may have a slight edge at the moment, having proven his ability to get the job done when playing in a pinch last year.

Based on how the Packers operated last year, Braden and Runyan Jr. may rotate throughout the season based on the match up, but that won’t stop the two heavyweights from trying to prove they are the best man for the job.

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Mark Oldacres is a sports writer from Birmingham, England and a Green Bay Packers fan. You can follow him on twitter at @Marko7LW

14 points

Comments (24)

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NickPerry's picture

August 12, 2021 at 06:40 am

All excellent choices of things to watch Markoldacres...

NO INJURIES.... This will be my #1 choice of things to watch the entire preseason and TC.

Personally I'm more than anxious to see Love. There's been so much DRAMA this past summer and like it or not this kid is most likely the future of the GB Packers. This kid didn't ask for any of the crap that's took place since draft night in 2020. MUCH like Rodgers, he was a late 1st round pick drafted by a team who had a legend already in place. Personally I hope he light's it the F*** up!!

Amari Rodgers... This is my favorite draft pick. Can't wait to see what this kid can do, even though MLF will show hardly a thing if any of what he has planned for him.

Josh Jackson... Berry's scheme is a zone based scheme so I'm really hoping Jackson is able to FINALLY able to show something. I'm pulling for him.

The 6th WR spot... The battle between Funchess, Winfree, EQ, Taylor, and others will be fierce.

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murf7777's picture

August 12, 2021 at 07:46 am

You’re right Love didn’t ask for this. Even thou he will be under a microscope of unfair criticism if he isn’t perfect, which he won’t be, Love is in a great position to succeed long term.

The one thing he has going for him is Rodgers. Rodgers has been threw this and seems to have empathy towards Love. This will be very important when the boo birds come out and they will in groves upon his first INT or ugly duckling throw. Rodgers will be able to explain it’s a process to greatness and doesn’t happen over night. Eep your head high and fight threw the adversity young man.

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Wildcomet's picture

August 14, 2021 at 07:08 pm

I wouldn't be shocked they try to sneak ESB or Funchess through to the practice squad with the expanded rules still in effect. Thay way they could keep Taylor or Winfree who offer more on ST weekly but have one/both of them around when injuries hit. With so many free agents at the position I think they'll keep 6 plus a couple on the practice squad.

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stockholder's picture

August 12, 2021 at 06:44 am

Love- How fast can he unload the ball? How fast can he throw it? The rest is Learning. RB 3- Hills got this. Stokes.- Just watch for grabs. If you have questions now. Wait till later. TJ Slaton - Size can't hurt. It's about Time! Ronyan vs Braden- What happen to pulling Guards? Neither of these guys look like Gale Gillingham. Oh well, Ronyan works for me.

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wildbill's picture

August 12, 2021 at 08:02 am

Expect both offense and defense to be in “vanilla mode” so other than no injuries I’m anxious to see how each individual reacts to adversity, as there will be plenty of that during the season.

5 points
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Coldworld's picture

August 12, 2021 at 08:13 am

I think others have outlined most of the known battles. For me, preseason games are about flashes where you don’t expect them in all 3 phases. I want to see a few “who the heck is that” plays from players we haven’t mentioned here as well.

12 points
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Alberta_Packer's picture

August 12, 2021 at 03:25 pm

Yes, eye-openers! On my program I've circled:
Innis Gaines
Christian Uphoff
Jack Heflin
Josh Avery
Isaac Nauta

And whatever happened to Yosh Nijman???

3 points
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Coldworld's picture

August 14, 2021 at 06:17 pm

A good list. We will likely see line depth today. Seldom gets reported on in camp as too much happening. I will be watching out for Rivers at ILB (anyone there really) and Ento at corner as well. But I really want players to grab my attention.

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MarkinMadison's picture

August 12, 2021 at 08:44 am

1. Slayton - There is an old boxing label that would get tagged onto certain people. Dated now. Possibly politically incorrect. Great White Hope. It seems like every year there is a late round pick who is supposed to rescue this D-line. Good luck Mr. Slayton. I hope you can live up to the hype.

2. Jordan Love - Pre-season is all about the backups. There is no more important backup now.

3. Braden - I've got a beer riding on you making the team son. Go kick some.

4. Special Teams - This one has bitten the Packers from time-to-time over the years. It would be nice to see a roster that is at least mediocre on special teams.

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RCPackerFan's picture

August 12, 2021 at 09:02 am

This is a very good list.

I did a list of my own a few days back of what I'm looking forward to seeing.

Jordan Love - is likely everyone's top pick of what they are looking forward to seeing. He is supposed to be our future. So we will get a glimpse of whether he will be or not. One thing to keep in mind, is that Rodgers wasn't great right away either. It took him a bit of time. So keep that in mind if it doesn't go well for Love.

RB3 - Right now I would pencil in Hill as RB3. But Taylor and Williams have a chance too. Hill I think will win it. But something else ot watch is special teams. Hill could be a factor at KR. For the 3rd spot keep an eye on special teams.

Eric Stokes - He is one of the players I am looking forward to seeing the most. IF he can come in and be an upgrade over King, then our defense becomes really good.

TJ Slaton - is definitely one that I want to see the most. His size is unlike anyone else we have on the roster. It has been said that he hast been unmovable. At the very least if he can come in and be a road block in the middle of the defense, that makes our defense much better. But he also has some quickness, and could be a force getting to the QB. Slaton could potentially be the best value pick in the draft.

Ben Braden vs Jon Runyan Jr. - Runyan was one of the players I had highlighted as players to watch in year 2. He could be our starting OG for the season. They have said they really like Braden too. We will get to see the battle and who will win it out. I did like what I saw from Runyan last year. I do think he could be one of the starting OG's for the entire season. Maybe Runyan and Braden become our starters at the beginning of the year, if Jenkins does infact start at LT.

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murf7777's picture

August 12, 2021 at 11:02 am

Staton is interesting. Because of his size it seems a lot like his ability to play against the run. When reading the college profile it states he is a better rusher than stopping the run. That seems to be what he has done during practice as well. I’m looking forward to see how he does in the run defense. Of course, a good pass rush is a plus.

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Since'61's picture

August 12, 2021 at 09:29 am

No injuries first and foremost.

Some glimmer of consistency from our STs that provides a scintilla of hope that they will be improved this season.

Thanks, Since '61

7 points
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Coldworld's picture

August 14, 2021 at 06:19 pm

Be nice to see a gunner emerge and someone showing decision making and safe hands in punts and kicks, but yes, organization and consistent play would be big.

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jont's picture

August 12, 2021 at 09:36 am

These are all interesting elements you guys are listing. I really don't get it when people say pre-season games are boring; there's so much going on and such high stakes for these young men.

That said, I am not very good at evaluating players-- I'm at the 'did he give up a sack or not' level-- so I'm looking at just a couple basic things.

First, I am not going to compare Love to Rodgers. I hope to see Love be in control and working smoothly and being a little better than one might expect for a rookie QB taking his first NFL snaps. No, I don't think this is low expectations; I think being a QB is really hard and Love hasn't been hit in over a year and a half so....

Second, I want to see football! I want the People Magazine / ESPN hot take stuff to disappear.

8 points
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Turophile's picture

August 12, 2021 at 10:05 am

Regarding Marks choices.....
Love is obviously getting the closest scrutiny...........but let us all remember it is preseason game 1, for him.

I liked Kylin Hill a lot in the draft (my favourite pick for where he was taken), so he is my RB3.

Stokes is another obvious choice to watch, being a first round pick.

I'll be watching my second most favourite draft pick, WR Amari Rodgers, along with Cobb who does similar things and is mentoring him.

Runyan is my choice of guard over Braden and Patrick, though final choice of who is at RG may have to wait until Jenkins moves from LT (in place of Bakhtiari) back to LG.

I also want to see what Deguara has got..............and Sternberger..........and Rashan Gary.......and who the top two at ILB are. Lots to process.

Shock prediction..........Malik Taylor makes it as 6th WR over ESB, Winfree and Funchess (due to being on so many ST units). I think they only go 5 WRs this year, but if it is 6, he is the guy.

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murf7777's picture

August 12, 2021 at 11:04 am

I’m hoping if Funchess isn’t going to make the team due to ST play then trade him for a mid to late round draft pick. I suspect he will have good value for some teams.

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Coldworld's picture

August 14, 2021 at 06:23 pm

I think it’s doubtful that Winfree, Funchess and ESB play today due to injuries. That’s unfortunate, but one heck of an opportunity for the likes of Taylor, Blair, Thompkins and Bagelton. Upset the apple cart guys: make a statement.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

August 15, 2021 at 05:12 am

The Runyan love mystifies me. He would have to make a significant second year jump to pass Lucas Patrick on the depth chart. Maybe he will. Braden, too. I've made no secret that trading Patrick for a late pick (and saving a little dough in the process) would not be a bad thing, but probably two OGs have to look good for that to be a comfortable idea. Maybe Newman, now that my number one hope, Stepaniak, is out of the picture.

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Archie's picture

August 12, 2021 at 10:10 am

I'll be looking for surprises i.e., under the radar players that stand out (found money). I guarantee you there will be at least 5 that we can list Sunday morning following the NFL channel re-broadcast.

Texans w/o Watson and Cobb figure to be an easy test for GB defense. First report card for Pettine scheme i.e., are we much better w/o it.

2 points
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Matt Gonzales's picture

August 12, 2021 at 12:39 pm

I think you'll have to wait a few weeks to make any judgements on Barry's scheme. Preseason is all about individual matchups and performances, so it will probably be mostly base 3-4 with man coverage. Maybe we will get a few glimpses of what he wants to do with the nickel and tendencies of putting a safety in the second ILB slot in the second game, but I don't think we'll see much of the gameday playbook.

2 points
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Swisch's picture

August 12, 2021 at 10:57 am

What's not to watch?
From the first play to the last, there are a lot of talented players out there trying to make the team or improve their status (or to show well for another team to pick them up later). The Packers are bursting with talent, and as a fan that means excitement all the way through the game.
I wish all of these guys well. May God bless them. The challenge for some may be to not do too much, just to do your job well on every play. At the same time, be ready to seize an opportunity for a great play.
It's not easy to be patiently proactive, but that's part of the challenge of life in general.
What a great opportunity it is for these guys to wear a Packers uniform! I hope they enjoy the moment, and make the most of it.

3 points
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Matt Gonzales's picture

August 12, 2021 at 12:34 pm

With 2 of our 3 starting OLBs unlikely to play, I'm curious to see how that group looks. Martin looked good inside even though he made mistakes being over aggressive at times. I'll be curious to see if he plays outside on Saturday like he has been at camp and how he looks there.

There are also a ton of young DBs that are going to be fighting for spots. Curious to see how the new crop compares to our returning depth players. A solid #3 safety would give the defense a lot of flexibility with how they use Savage.

Jackson needs to show his performance in camp can translate to game day, but since it's preseason (and the defense is like to just run simple man coverage) I will settle for him showing he is over the grabsies.

Lastly, I'm very eager to see Deguara back on the field. I don't think GB will too their hand too much on his usage but how fluid he looks moving around and on the field cous be telling for the first part of the season

2 points
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PeteK's picture

August 12, 2021 at 02:01 pm

I'll also be checking on our new centers, Myers, Hanson, and Capra.

3 points
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LambeauPlain's picture

August 12, 2021 at 02:02 pm

6. How well are the D players absorbing and playing Barry's scheme? Going to be playing a lot of 2nd-4th stringers so how well they do will help answer this.

3 points
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