Green Bay Packers: What to watch for against the Texans

The Green Bay Packers first preseason game is set to take place against the Houston Texans later this week, and here is what you need to keep your eyes on as you watch.

We are almost there folks! The Green Bay Packers’ first preseason game will take place this Thursday against the Houston Texans, who are already in town for a pair of joint practices.

The Packers have undergone a number of changes this offseason from free agent signings to an almost entirely new coaching staff led by Matt LaFleur. This first game comes with a lot of excitement as it will be the first time in a real game that we see the LaFleur offense and the revamped Mike Pettine defense.

In the first preseason game, it is difficult to know how much playing time the top-tier players will see and in most cases it is none. So my “things to watch” is based around who I think will see at least a little playing time.

Of course, with as many changes as the Packers have gone through this year, there will be plenty more to watch than what I have listed, but these are some noteworthy items to keep your eyes on.

Danny Vitale

It would appear that after a brief hiatus the fullback position has returned to Green Bay, but it won’t be the conventional style that most think of. With LaFleur, the fullback is going to be a weapon in the passing game and not just a blocker or someone to pick up a yard or two.

During his time at Northwestern, Vitale was a force in the passing game hauling in 135 receptions for 1,427 yards and 11 touchdowns. So far through Training Camp, Vitale has been a target of Aaron Rodgers out of the backfield and I’m excited to see how LaFleur uses him against Houston.

The running game

The zone running scheme is going to play a big role in the LaFleur offense but so far through Camp, we have seen the running game struggle. Now, part of this is due to it being a bit new and coming with different responsibilities for the backs and offensive linemen.

With Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams banged up, I’m not sure if we will see them on Thursday but I’ll be curious to see how the other running backs do as well as the offensive line.

Robert Tonyan

As a former college receiver, we know that Bobby Tonyan has the pass-catching ability but now he is receiving praise from Matt LaFleur and Aaron Rodgers for his ability as a blocker. The blocking tight end plays an important role in this new offense and if he can show that he can be trusted with those responsibilities it is going to equate to more playing time.

This game will give us some insight into how Tonyan has developed this offseason after working out with San Francisco 49ers’ star tight end George Kittle and it perhaps could give him the inside track to becoming Green Bay’s number two tight end.

Pass rush

The Green Bay Packers’ defensive front may be the deepest unit on the team. So far through Camp, we have seen the defensive line wreak havoc and live in the backfield. Whether it’s been Za’Darius Smith, Kenny Clark, or even a lesser-known name such as Fadol Brown, it feels like everyone is having success.

Now against the Houston Texans in a live game, I will be looking to see if that same dominance carries over to Thursday.

Wide receiver competition

After the Family Night scrimmage last weekend, Jake Kumerow and  Trevor Davis widened the divide between themselves and the receivers behind them on the depth chart. But there are still four preseason games and a number of practices left for players like J’Mon Moore and Darrius Shepherd to prove they can make the final roster.

Will Moore, Shepherd, or someone else step up? Or are Kumerow and Davis going to start running away with this competition?

The young cornerbacks

Injuries to Kevin King and Josh Jackson has led to more opportunities for second-year player Tony Brown and rookie Ka’dar Hollman. So far both have taken advantage of these reps and as of now look like they could play significant roles during the season.

In Monday’s scrimmage, Brown battled against DeAndre Hopkins on multiple occasions and came out on top. As for Hollman, he may be the surprise of the draft so far and has ran with the starters in Camp while also receiving high praise from Mike Pettine.

Rashan Gary

After being the Green Bay Packers’ first selection in the draft at 12th overall and a player who may have the highest ceiling of anyone in this year’s draft class, I’m just excited to see Gary in a live-action game.

I’ve been able to attend a few practices and his athleticism and speed that everyone talks about is no joke. Now it’s time to see him in an NFL game.

Oren Burks

The Green Bay Packers really rounded out their defense this offseason but a bit of a question mark still remains at inside linebacker. Burks had a rough rookie season and needed to get better at diagnosing what was coming.

We know he has the athletic ability to be a dynamic player in coverage for the defense and so far through camp we have seen some flashes of that. With that said, the consistency still isn’t there. Keep your eyes on number 42 this Thursday.

The safeties

At this point, I am not sure how much of Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage we will see but after years of mediocre play at the safety position, I cannot wait to watch these two in action lined up next to each other. Hopefully, we get to see at least a series.

Kizer and Boyle

We likely won’t see Aaron Rodgers on Thursday but the battle for the second quarterback spot is heating up! DeShone Kizer has been very good at times but incredibly tough to watch during others and we have seen that inconsistency throughout Camp as well.

Meanwhile, fan-favorite Tim Boyle has a knack for making a spectacular throw but also following it up with an errant one. Although Kizer may have the stronger pedigree and the Packers gave up way more to get him last offseason, this quarterback competition is wide open.