Packers vs. Chargers: Three things to watch
The Green Bay Packers 2012 season officially begins Thursday night when they travel to San Diego to take on the Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium.
Below are a few things I will be paying close attention to.
MAKING THE JUMP
There are two 2nd year players who have had tremendous camps and are in position to be active contributors for the Packers this season. Cornerback Davon House and tight end DJ Williams.
House, who spent most of last season on the injured list, is in a battle with Sam Shields and Jarrett Bush for the starting cornerback position opposite Tramon Williams.
During Tuesdays practice, on consecutive plays, House jumped the angle on a short out-route and batted away an Aaron Rodgers pass intended for Jordy Nelson. On the very next play he interrupted James Jones' fade route in the corner of the end zone - House was actually in better position to receive the ball than Jones. Both plays were outstanding. House has the size (6'1", 195), quickness and instincts to be a very good player. Can he do it with the bright lights on?
Williams was the Mackey Award winning tight end at the University of Arkansas, but saw very little action as a rookie last season. All he has done in training camp is catch everything thrown his way. With Andrew Quarless on the sidelines recovering from a leg injury, the time is now for Williams and he's taking advantage. Blocking is still an area of opportunity, but his ability to stretch the seam and beat linebackers on crossing routes is impressive.
Graham Harrell and rookie BJ Coleman will each see the field against the Chargers, but Harrell will see the majority of the snaps. After spending time around Harrell last season, I noticed an abundance of similarities between he and former backup Matt Flynn. They way they walked, their mannerisms, their attitude - it was almost eerie how similar they appeared.
What I'll be paying attention to is how similar Harrell's play is to that of Flynn's. Specifically, how does he handle the pass rush, how quickly does the ball come out of his hand, how much zip is on the fastball, and does he have command of the offense in regards to pre-snap reads.
General Manager Ted Thompson is very confident in Mike McCarthy's ability to groom quarterbacks for the NFL. For that reason, the untested Harrell is in the driver's seat to be the backup to Aaron Rodgers.
NFL game officials have been in a lockout since June 3, and the league will rely on replacement officials for the pre-season. Included in the mix is Shannon Eastin, a veteran official from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. She will become the first female official to work an NFL game when she takes the field as a line judge in the Packers/Chargers game.
What I'll be paying attention to is how "trigger happy" the replacement officials are in regards to throwing flags. Will they try and set a tone and call everything they see, or will they get appear lost in the speed of the game and miss calls?
One thing is for sure, the replacements have already had their issues - like screwing up the coin toss in the Hall of Fame game between the Saints and Cardinals last weekend.
... all eyes will be on the slew of defensive rookies brought in to add depth to a defense that ranked 30th in the league last season. First round draft pick Nick Perry is listed as a starting linebacker, but you can expect him to play well beyond the majority of other starters. The same can be said for defensive lineman Jerel Worthy. He's not listed as a starter, but figures to be an impact player for the Packers. After talking to Worthy on Tuesday of this week, one thing is for certain, the guy is absolutely jacked to play his first NFL game. The guy has a ton of energy.
Let the games begin!