The Packers play their third preseason game tonight. Here are 5 players I’ll be watching closely:
CARL BRADFORD – Ted Thompson has released one fourth-round pick since taking over as GM in 2005, and that player (Corey Rodgers in 2008) couldn’t catch the football – a pretty big problem for a punt return specialist. Bradford hasn’t been nearly as bad in his first camp, but he just hasn’t done much of anything while fellow young outside linebackers Nate Palmer, Andy Mulumba and Jayrone Elliott have flashed from time to time. The former Arizona State star, who belongs inside, will need to do something in these next two games to justify a spot on the 53. Even then, it might be too little, too late.
DEMETRI GOODSON – Speaking of draft picks who are in danger of not making the final 53, the former point guard from Baylor has probably been the seventh or eighth-best corner on a team that figures to keep only five or six players at that position. According to my guys at training camp, Goodson has gotten better since late July, but he’s still nowhere close to being ready to play defense in the NFL. At the end of the day, Thompson will have to determine whether the very raw sixth-round pick is too talented to risk exposing to waivers. A few nice plays by Goodson against the Raiders would go a long way in helping him make up his mind.
ANDY MULUMBA – He’s a better player than he was last summer, but Julius Peppers and Jayrone Elliott weren’t Packers a year ago. That means the former Eastern Michigan star needs to do even more to secure a spot on the 53-man roster this time around. Mulumba has been pretty consistent, but he needs to make more of an impact. The guess here is that Thompson would like his No. 5 outside linebacker to possess the raw potential to develop into a pass rusher, and right now, Elliott has gotten more pressure on the QB in both practices and games. Thanks to changes announced by the league earlier this week, Mulumba is still eligible for the practice squad. And that could be where he winds up if he doesn’t flash in the next two weeks.
DEREK SHERROD – Some people had him challenging for a starting job after the first preseason game. Many of those same people wanted him released after the second preseason game. So is Sherrod as good as he looked versus Tennessee or as bad as he looked against St. Louis? Or is he somewhere in the middle? The former No. 1 pick from Mississippi State isn’t as athletic as he was prior to his horrific leg injury, and that loss of quickness was exacerbated last week on turf. He should play better tonight on grass, but regardless of the track, he needs to do a better job of using his hands or he’ll continue to struggle with quick edge rushers.
JAKE STONEBURNER – After a slow start to training camp, the former Ohio State star has looked better in recent practices. Now it’s time to make some plays in a game, and with Brandon Bostick out with a leg injury, Stoneburner should get plenty of opportunities. The Packers figure to keep four tight ends. Bostick and rookie Richard Rodgers are locks and Andrew Quarless should be safe. That leaves Stoneburner and Ryan Taylor battling for one job. Taylor’s work on special teams is greatly appreciated by the coaches, but Thompson won’t cut a player who shows real potential on offense. Now it’s up to Stoneburner to show that potential.