The Seahawks play the Packers Thursday Night to open the 2014 NFL season and to prep you for the upcoming matchup, I traded scouting reports with the excellent Jason Hirshhorn of SBNation's Packer's blog, Acme Packing Company. My questions in bold, and his follow. Make sure you follow Jason on Twitter.
1. How would you say that the preseason went for the Packers? How did the first team units look and how confident do fans seem to be heading into the 2014 season?
All things considered, it was a pretty successful preseason campaign for Green Bay. As with any team, the number one priority is avoiding injuries. While it's impossible to enter the regular season with a fully healthy roster, the Packers have only lost one starter (B.J. Raji) for the season and another (J.C. Tretter) for the first quarter of the season. In the context of how bad the injury bug has hit Green Bay in prior years, this represents a major improvement.
And while judging players and units by preseason performance is a fool's errand, several of the Packers' biggest questions seem to have been answered. Tretter, the fourth center to start the season opener in as many years, appears ready mentally to operate Mike McCarthy's offense. Bryan Bulaga, the once dominant offensive tackle who missed nearly a year and a half with various ailments, appears to have reclaimed his old form. And perhaps most importantly, Julius Peppers has settled in at his new position. As long as Aaron Rodgers is healthy, the offense should be a juggernaut again, while the defense looks to be at least competent.
As for confidence, the team is perhaps as self-assured as they've been since the start of the 2011 season. McCarthy recently went on record saying, "I don't know if I've felt this good coming out of a preseason." While words don't guarantee wins, it's meaningful when a coach known for saying nothing of substance goes out on a limb.
2. What is the injury situation looking like for the Pack right now?
In terms of starters or players expected to play an important role, only a few Packers will miss the game or be affected by injury. The aforementioned B.J. Raji and JC Tretter will be on the sidelines, while it's unclear whether inside linebacker Brad Jones will suit up. The Packers will also be without Don Barclay, the team's top backup offensive lineman.
Outside of those, it appears everyone is ready to go.
3. What kind of game-plan do you expect the Packers will have for Thursday's game? Will the no-huddle be a big part of things?
The no-huddle offense was sure to be a major component of the Packers' game plan before center J.C. Tretter went down with a knee injury. Though Green Bay will adjust for rookie replacement Corey Linsley, the no huddle will still make an appearance or two during the game, perhaps even on the team's first possession.
Beyond that, the Packers will do what they do against most teams -- spread the defense out with four or more receivers. While Seattle has a deep and talented secondary, Mike McCarthy will take his chances with his similarly deep and talented receiving corps.
4. In terms of impact and matchups, which Packers do you think will be most integral for Green Bay to get a W this week?
Establishing an early lead and building on it. The Seahawks proved last year that they can win in a variety of ways, but if there's a way to beat them it's by making it a shootout. Not that such is an easy accomplishment (or even a type of game Seattle cannot win), but Green Bay's superior offense has to push Darrell Bevell to abandon the run as early as possible. Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks' ground game will wear down and bully the Packers new-look defense if given the chance over four quarters. However, if the score forces Bevell to turn towards the pass, it gives Green Bay a chance.
5. Similarly, are there any unheralded or up and coming players to keep an eye on this week?
Defensive end Mike Daniels may not seem like a breakout candidate to those who follow the Packers, but he's yet to receive his due credit nationally. Daniels finished 2013 second on the team in sacks and pressures while becoming an above average run stuffer in the process. If he continues his development, Daniels can establish himself as one of the best five techs in the NFL. He's as critical to the Packers' success as any player on the defense, including All-Pro linebacker Clay Matthews.
Thanks again to Jason for trading questions!