Packers vs. Chiefs: Three things to watch for
The Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs will take the field at Lambeau for the 4th and final pre-season game of the year Thursday night. It's the final chance for the bubble players to prove they belong on the 53-man roster, or 8-man practice squad. All teams in the league must cut down to 53 by 8:00pm CST on Friday.
Below are three things I'll be watching for in the game.
SAINE, SAINE DON'T GO AWAY:
Second-year running back Brandon Saine will see his first game action of the pre-season Thursday night. Saine was an undrafted rookie free agent out of Ohio State, who ended up on the practice squad last season, and was promoted to the active roster at the end of October. Mike McCarthy absolutely loves the guy. He's smart, works his butt off, and does everything a running back in the Packers system needs to do to get on the field.
I'll be watching to see if Saine's performance Thursday night is enough to force the Packers hand in regards to James Starks. Though Saine was on the active roster for a portion of last season, he is still eligible to be on the practice squad should he not make the final roster. Starks, on the other hand, is nursing a turf toe injury and, according to McCarthy, is coming along much slower than anticipated. It's possible Starks could start the season on the PUP list, or he could be released if Saine shows well. I don't think the Packers can afford to keep four running backs and John Kuhn as a fullback. Could Brandon Saine be the one who ultimately bumps Starks?
RESERVE O-LINE, O-LAY?:
Packers General Manager Ted Thompson said on Tuesday he feels comfortable with the backup offensive line, but knows there's not a wealth of experience there. I'll be watching to see who of the reserves would be best able to step in for an injured starter?
Veteran Reggie Wells is the most experienced of the backup group having started 91 games in his career. Evan Dietrich-Smith earned some valuable time last season and held his own. Aside of Wells and Dietrich-Smith, however, the group is green as the grass in a rain forest.
TORI GURLEY AND DIONDRE BOREL (couldn't think of a clever title):
Before camp broke, many thought Gurley and/or Borel would challenge veteran Donald Driver for a roster spot. After four weeks of camp neither has done anything of significance to assert themselves; and Driver's roster spot is all but assured.
I still think its possible the Packers keep six wide receivers, but one of these two must stand out in the final pre-season game. Both have missed some practice time with injuries, neither has sparkled when healthy, and, quite frankly, both played much better a year ago. Personally, I believe Gurley has a better upside and brings a more unique skill set to the party. At best, I think this is a case of two players fighting for one roster spot.