Finally, the last of the preseason games are among us and the regular season is just around the corner. The final preseason game usually means a couple of things. First, the starters on both sides of the ball will more than likely not play, or just play one series. Second, with the first stringers getting minimal playing time, the backups will get their time in the spotlight to showcase their talents. With the extra playing time also comes extra pressure. Players will be trying to show the coaching staff they are worthy of receiving one of the final 53 roster spots.
For the Green Bay Packers, their preseason journey comes to an end on Thursday as they take on the Kansas City Chiefs. Prior to the preseason, the Packers had some questions dealing with certain positions. The starting quarterback job was not one of them. With Aaron Rodgers at the helm, the Packers are set with him as their franchise QB. Quarterbacks Graham Harrell, B.J. Coleman, and Vince Young all started training camp thinking they could be Rodgers’ backup. After the third preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks, the backup battle was over. Harrell struggled tremendously, not throwing for a single touchdown. Coleman did throw one touchdown, but never looked like the guy for the job. Young led one touchdown drive against the Seahawks, and of the three backups, looked the best in the game situations. The Packers released Harrell, all but solidifying Young as the backup quarterback.
In the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft, the Packers selected running back Eddie Lacy out of Alabama, hoping to fix their recent running back problems. With DuJuan Harris possibly out for the year with a knee injury, the starting job looks to be Lacy’s. Fellow rookie Johnathan Franklin hasn’t quite been what the Packers are looking for in their starting back, while James Starks and Alex Green have both had their opportunities as the starting running back, but have not produced in recent years. Lacy has a chance to be the Packers first 1,000 yard rusher since 2009.
Possibly the biggest question for the Packers is the kicking game. Last season, Mason Crosby had the worst field goal percentage in the league. That is what led head coach Mike McCarthy to bring in competition for Crosby. First was Giorgio Tavecchio. Tavecchio had his opportunities during practice, but didn’t really have the distance the Packers were looking for. He was released on Monday. The Packers also brought in undrafted rookie Zack Ramirez earlier this week. Ramirez never really had a shot as Crosby stepped up his performance. During practice, Crosby went 15 for 16 with a long of 64, which was with the wind to his back, while Ramirez only connected on six of his 16 attempts, with a long of 45. Ramirez was released on Tuesday, and Crosby’s kicking job is his, for now. If he starts to struggle like last year, look for McCarthy to bring in more competition. There is a chance we could even see Tavecchio back on the Packers roster again.
After Thursday night, a selection of players will be told their services are no longer needed. Others will feel the joy of making an NFL squad. It’s up to the players; the ball is in their court. They just need to want it.