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Game 3: A Good Indicator of Regular Season Prospects

Though it doesn’t mean much, both the Green Bay Packers and the Denver Broncos come into the third preseason game with 2-0 records. Denver has a 24-17 win over the Bears and a 33-14 win over the 49ers. Last year, Denver went 9-7 in a rebuilding year following its Super Bowl win over the Panthers the season before. They are again expected to compile a win percentage over .500.

The Broncos recently settled on their starting QB: Trevor Siemian, Denver’s seventh-round draft choice in 2015. Just a week earlier, Siemian, who played at Northwestern, was playing behind Paxton Lynch. After not throwing a single pass in 2015, last season Siemian started 14 games and finished with a respectable 84.6 passer rating.

The Broncos worked to improve its offensive line during the offseason, so we’ll see how their pass protection holds up. The Packers have but two sacks, by Nick Perry and Reggie Gilbert, in the two preseason games, and they have not applied a lot of pressure to opposing QBs. This will be a good competition to watch Saturday evening.

The Packers aren’t worried about QB, as Aaron Rodgers already looked to be in mid-season form last week. Lots of teams, however, will be watching Green Bay’s quarterbacks after Aaron calls it a night. The Packers are quarterback-rich, so there’s a possibility that either Brett Hundley, Joe Callahan, or Taysom Hill could be traded away before the start of the season.

Game Three Mystique

It’s hard to research preseason matters, as statistics for these exhibition games are hard to come by. My recollection, however, is that Green Bay was one of the first teams to limit the use of its starters in the preseason, and was also a team that quickly jumped on the bandwagon in using its starters and stars chiefly in preseason game 3. When it comes to innovation in the NFL, most teams are just follow-the-leaders.

I assume the theory is that if a starter gets a minor injury, such as a typical concussion, he’ll still be available for the first game of the regular season. I also read somewhere that Green Bay doesn’t like to have Rodgers playing behind brand new, or second- or third-team, offensive linemen, as there is a greater risk that a blitzer will get a clean shot at the QB.

At any rate, the game 3 score, and how well a team plays in the first half — is a pretty fair indicator of how the team will do during the regular season. Last year, when the Broncos hosted the L.A. Rams, Trevor Siemian led them to a 10-9 halftime lead, with the final score being 17-9.

In 2016 the Packers’ game 3 opponent was the 49ers, with Green Bay prevailing 21-7 in Levi’s Stadium. Though Rodgers was sharp (122.9 passer rating), the teams were tied 7-7 at the half. Joe Callahan’s 18-yard pass to Jared Abbrederis and Brandon Burks’ 19-yard run in the fourth quarter provided the rest of the Packers’ scoring.

Rodgers played very sparingly even in last year’s third preseason affair; his line was 6-of-9 for 60 yards, including a six-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb. Eddie Lacy and James Starks each had seven carries, while Burks had 13. With Brett Hundley injured, Joe Callahan went 16-of-24 for 167 yards and a TD. Geronimo Allison broke out for three catches for 78 yards, while newcomer Jared Cook had four grabs for 54 yards.

Players to Watch

Guys to watch closely on Saturday include: tight end Martellus Bennett, who will likely be targeted several times; Ty Montgomery, who has missed out on carries due to injury; Kevin King, who with a fine showing could become a starting cornerback on September 10; Davon House and Damarious Randall, the likely starters at cornerback who have missed playing time due to injuries; Quinten Rollins, who is trying to seal the slot cornerback job; and Blake Martinez, who is making a strong bid to be a starter at inside linebacker.

Due to King’s greenness, and including the fact he missed part of training camp while the U. of Washington was still in school, I predict Randall will earn the starting job in game 1, though King will likely surpass him in a matter of weeks.

Much speculation has also centered on the wide receiver battle among Jeff Janis, Trevor Davis, Geronimo Allison (suspended for game 1), and Max McCaffrey. A strong performance by any of them could be key to securing a spot on the 53-man roster.

Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.