Green Bay Packers vs Oakland Raiders
When and Where: Thursday, Aug. 22, IG Field, Winnipeg, Man., 8 p.m. EDT.
There will not be any rogues Thursday night in Winnipeg when the Green Bay Packers and Oakland Raiders play the all-important third game of the preseason schedule, but there will be plenty of scrutiny of Aaron Rodgers and Antonio Brown as both are expected to make their preseason debuts for their respective teams.
First test to see how well LaFleur, Rodgers mesh offensively
Given the swirl of controversy in the offseason once the details of the deteriorated relationship between Rodgers and since-fired coach Mike McCarthy went public, many have been waiting to see if the veteran quarterback and first-year coach Matt LaFleur — who is only four years older than Rodgers — will be on the same wavelength when it comes to play-calling and other aspects of the offense.
Rodgers has said all the right things throughout training camp and the preseason while maintaining a degree of the stubbornness that has been a trademark throughout his storied career, but the anticipation only grew after the seven-time Pro Bowler was a late scratch from last Thursday’s 26-13 home loss to the Baltimore Ravens due to a tight back.
The #Packers had their longest run & pass plays on the same offensive series vs. the Ravens.
Larry McCarren shows why that was no coincidence 🎥https://t.co/1hevlI0gDI
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) August 16, 2019
He would not have played all that much — likely only one or two series — and his status could be a game-time decision Thursday night considering the team is sending representatives to Winnipeg ahead of its arrival to make sure the field is in proper playing condition.
“Just just to try and get into a flow of the game,” LaFleur said at his Saturday press conference about the benefit of having Rodgers take live snaps. “Having him hear the play calls when he’s actually the guy out there, get in and out of the huddle. I thought he’s definitely helped stress that urgency to the other 10 in the huddle and I thought last week was better.”
So even if Rodgers doesn’t play in preseason, he’s getting a lot of reps in practice.
The looks we see on a day like today are invaluable reps,” Rodgers said. “It’s an attacking defense. It’s different fronts, it’s different pressures.
“The best reps I’m going to see all summer are in practice. If Matt wants us to play, we’ll play and go out and compete. If not, I feel pretty good about where we’re at.”
Despite going 12 for 21 for 107 yards and a touchdown, third-string quarterback Tim Boyle did little to assert himself as a challenger to DeShone Kizer for the backup job. Kizer completed 5 of 10 passes for 70 yards working behind the first-string offensive line, but Green Bay struggled to create running lanes all game against a stout Ravens defense and totaled only 55 yards on 18 carries.
While there is only so much to glean off Green Bay’s offense without Rodgers, missed tackles have been an early point of concern for LaFleur. It happened again versus Baltimore as the staff counted 19 misses — a barely noticeable improvement on the 24 from the Packers’ preseason-opening loss to Houston.
“We’re really have to concentrate and have a more concerted effort on thudding up and trying to stop the runners’ feet,” LaFleur said as he tries to balance the struggles with the fact his team is not bringing players to the ground during practice. “I still don’t believe in taking to the ground. The risk-reward is not worth it to me and I think that’s true with a lot of coaches throughout the league.”
One positive point on the defensive side has been the emergence of rookie Curtis Bolton, who is getting first-team reps with Oren Burks sidelined with a torn pectoral muscle. An undrafted linebacker from Oklahoma, Bolton had six tackles in the opener and an interception Thursday night as he continues to impress defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) August 16, 2019
“He’s a guy we were very pleased to sign as an undrafted free agent. It’s not a surprise to us he’s done some of the things he’s done,” Pettine said. “He’s done it on a big stage. Just not having the measurable you can see why he fell and didn’t get drafted, but this kid is a football player. He’s very instinctive. He’s done a really nice job of soaking in what we’re doing and applying it on the field. Obviously we’re looking forward to get O.B. back, but so far, Curtis has done a nice job in his spot.”