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Will LaFleur Have Starters Ready for the Bears Matchup?

For about a decade now, NFL teams without exception have been playing their starters less and less during preseason games. The Packers have been even more cautious than most. For example, last year quarterback Aaron Rodgers appeared only in the second preseason game, in which he completed two of four passes for 35 yards and scrambled once for a five-yard gain. Aaron has indicated he expects to play in the upcoming game in Baltimore.

LaFleur’s toughest decision so far in his new job might just be: how much to play the teams expected starters during the final three preseason games. The decision takes on additional importance because the initial two regular-season tilts are against intra-divisional favorites Chicago and Minnesota.

Last year I advocated that, due to the Packers playing the Bears and Vikings in the first two weeks of the season, the Packers should increase the starters’ playing time so they would be at a high state of readiness for those critical early encounters. I think that argument can be made even more compellingly now.

McCarthy chose the less risky option, though the result was not conclusive: a miracle comeback against Chicago and a tie against the Vikes. The Packers very easily might have gone on to Game 3 without a win under their belts.

Both of those 2018 games were played at Lambeau. This year – surprise – the Packers open against the Bears and the Vikes again. The first game of the LaFleur era, however, is being played at Soldier Field – and it’s the lead-off to the NFL season. No pressure, huh Matt?

If LaFleur goes the injury-avoidance route, fans ought to be braced for another slow start: with fourteen minutes remaining in last year’s opener, the Bears had a 20 to 3 lead and the Packers’ offense appeared dead in the water. It was then that Rodgers got in sync, with a 36-yard TD to Geronimo Allison, a TD pass to Davante Adams, and with two minutes to go a 75-yard catch-and-run TD by Randall Cobb – the longest pass play of the season for A-Rod.

We won’t have Cobb for this season’s opener, but we should have Aaron Jones, who was under suspension for those first two critical games last time.

Rashan Gary - Preseason 2019

Aug 8, 2019; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers linebacker Rashan Gary (52) looks on during warmups prior to the game against the Houston Texans at Lambeau Field. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Playing Time Considerations

There are three competing goals every NFL head coach must try to balance during the preseason: getting the best possible looks at players competing to make the team’s final roster, giving the projected starters sufficient playing time to be ready at the start of the season, and limiting preseason injuries to key players.

Some argue that starters can be made ready for game time during largely tackle-free practices. Others argue that roster determinations can be made based mostly on low-contact practices.

We know how Rodgers feels. A couple years ago, Aaron referred to preseason games as “meaningless,” and went on to indicate that a team can get all that needs to be done in practice sessions rather than during the exhibition games. That might be true with respect to Aaron and some other veteran players, but this team is no longer a largely veteran group.

A bunch of players at key positions have been professionals for only one or two seasons. Even more to the point, Green Bay has a new head coach and mostly new coaching staff, a completely revamped offensive scheme and approach, a new offensive playbook, and a swarm of new arrivals from other teams.

Most teams give projected starters some playing time in the second preseason game, and more time in the third game, then rest them during the final preseason contest. If so, we’ll get our best preview of this team’s potential when they play the Raiders on August 22, with the next best chance for an appraisal being against the Ravens on August 15 – both are “away” games.

This preseason, the NFL has games spread out over Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. By some quirk, all five of the Packers’ initial games take place on Thursday evenings.

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Rob Born

Someone else said it first but I popularized it: “Athleticism is important in athletic pursuits.” It took three years, but the Packers finally listened. My new mantra: “Trading down is fine, but never trade up.”

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6 Comments

  1. PF4L August 11, 2019

    As has been the case recently, Rob is spot on and accurate.
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    In my opinion, there is no reason why Rodgers shouldn’t play the equivalent of one full game. One quarter each in the first two pre-season games, and the 1st half of the third. The reason they don’t want to play him apparently is the injury issue. Personally i think that’s bs and here’s why. Isn’t Rodgers the smartest guy in the room (or the field)? Rodgers has been doing this for awhile….meaning……Rodgers knows how to not get hit, he knows when to throw it away. It’s pre-season, he knows he doesn’t need to extend a play, he knows all the tricks to stay upright.
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    I understand we have had shit for back up QB’s, but whose fault is that? We have had shit QB’s since the Packers “learned their lesson” in 2013, when Rodgers broke his 1st collarbone. Is our back up QB situation any better now than it was back then? We don’t need a back up QB who tries to clone our starting QB. We don’t need a back up QB who hasn’t won an NFL game. We don’t need a back up QB who looks god awful in camp. We just need a back up QB with some experience who knows what he’s doing and won’t lose the game for you. We need a QB with a better passer rating than 59. Yes…59
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    This goes back to my previous post about need positions and how long it takes the Packers to fill a position. 2013 – 2019 and we got…Deshone Kizer.

    Reply
  2. Kato August 11, 2019

    I would like to see Rodgers take more preseason snaps. New offense, would like to see a minimum of 3 quarters of play.

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  3. Ferris August 12, 2019

    GB did have a backup QB…Taysom Hill, thanks again Ted and Mike. Teddy- “He looked good in pre-season but we need 4 fullbacks so we’ll “stash him” on the practice squad.” Mike-“mmmngdhhshhgs” Hard to talk with your mouth full of Twinkies.

    Reply
    1. PF4L August 13, 2019

      A bit of a small sample size to name him a good back up QB at this point. But one hell of a utility player for the Saints. Loved watching him play in pre-season. As i said at the time, he looked like he had some Brett Favre in him.

      Reply
    2. Cheese August 13, 2019

      Too bad McCarthy didn’t convert Taysom Hill to FB. I think that may have been a move that was a bit to genius for even Ted at the time.

      Reply
  4. PF4L August 13, 2019

    Taysom Hill is what Tim Tebow would have been if he stayed in the league. But God had a bigger plan for Tebow. Minor League sideshow.

    Reply

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