The Green Bay Packers come into Thursday’s showdown against the Cincinnati Bengals with an 0-2 preseason record, and an offense that’s sort of been sputtering up to this point.
Aaron Rodgers has looked rusty in each of his last two outings, the running game is producing almost nothing, and injuries have kept Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley out. Thankfully, Mike McCarthy will reportedly play his guys for a half tonight, so this is going to be as good a time as any for everyone to get back into their rhythm.
On the Bengals side of things, tonight is going to be all about staying healthy. This squad has been absolutely ravaged by injuries, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, so ensuring that everyone is okay and ready to go for the regular season is going to be priority No. 1.
With that in mind, here are three things to keep an eye on from both teams today:
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Green Bay Packers
1. How will the offense look? In 2011 Green Bay boasted one of the league’s most potent offenses, and nothing the team did this summer would indicate that we won’t see more of the same in 2012. That said, through two games versus the San Diego Chargers and Cleveland Browns, the Packers have looked really rusty.
Heck, even Rodgers has been off the mark – completing less than 50 percent of his passes heading into tonight. As a group, last week, this team barely cracked 200 yards. With Cedric Benson in the fold today, it’ll be interesting to see if the offense shows some signs of life.
2. Can Cedric Benson make the most of this opportunity? Green Bay’s decision to add Cedric Benson was met with some raised eyebrows. While his ability to make dents in the defense by virtue of his powerful running style is a matter of public record, the same holds true for his off-the-field problems and propensity for fumbling the ball away.
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Benson is going to get a chance to play with a solid offensive line and a great quarterback here – it’ll be interesting to see what he makes of this opportunity.
3. Who carves out a place for themselves as the No. 2 cornerback? The Packers tried to address some of their defensive concerns via the draft this summer, but there are still a lot of holes that need to be plugged.
As noted by ESPN Milwaukee: “The Packers enter the third preseason game with two key secondary positions up for grabs: The No. 2 cornerback job and the safety who comes into the game when Charles Woodson, the safety in the base defense, moves into the slot. Against the Bengals, Casey Hayward, Jarrett Bush and Sam Shields will get looks at corner, while M.D. Jennings, Anthony Levine and Jerron McMillian are all in the mix at safety.”
1. Will the defense have a little something special for Cedric Benson? Hilariously enough, Benson has done a bit of playful trash-talking in the lead-up to this largely irrelevant preseason showdown. His words: "I don't hold anything personally against them, but naturally you're going to want to show up on a team that passed on you…I know I've got a lot of support from the fans out there and stuff, and it'll be good just to go against that defense. I've seen all those guys coming in, I've seen them work together, so it'll be fun to put a licking on them.” You can bet the Cincinnati defense will remember that statement tonight.
2. Can any of the running backs get something going? With BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Bernard Scott out, the Bengals have a huge hole as it pertains to the rushing attack. Nobody expects much from Brian Leonard but, if he could do something (read: anything), he would take a huge amount of pressure off the passing game.
3. Who’s the No. 2 wide receiver? Armon Binns and Brandon Tate are currently battling it for the dubious honor of being the person who gets thrown to when A.J. Green is covered, but neither one has really done all that much in the preseason. First one to catch a touchdown wins the job, maybe?