The third week of the preseason is upon us, which is also known as the “dress rehearsal” for the starters before the real games begin in earnest.
That means we will get to see a full half of Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers’ starting offense tonight as they face off against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. The starting offense showed some signs of life last week against the Cleveland Browns, but still struggled in some areas.
Same goes for the Packers’ starting defense. Tackling seemed to be improved, but the defense still was swallowed up in coverage by rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden. This week, they face off against Andy Dalton and a Bengals offense that struggled at times in the 2011 season.
As for the backups, this is a big game for Graham Harrell. Confidence in him as the backup behind Aaron Rodgers hit an all-time low after the 35-10 loss to the Browns in which Harrell failed to lead the offense to a touchdown in roughly three quarters of action.
Here’s what to look for in tonight’s game:
It’s starting to sound like a broken record, but the Packers must start taking better care of the football.
As a team that is traditionally near the top of the NFL in turnover ratio, the ball handling the Packers have displayed in the preseason has been one of the biggest surprises to the start of the 2012 season. Wide receivers coughing up the ball (here’s looking at you, Randall Cobb) and running backs putting the ball on the ground are inexcusable. Having the best quarterback in the game will get the team nowhere if you can’t hang onto the football.
This game is the last chance the starters have to alleviate fears of many fans. While not all the turnovers have come from the first unit, there have been enough to at least raise some eyebrows.
The debut of Cedric Benson
With James Starks and Brandon Saine not playing in the game, this is a chance for Benson to show he still has what made him a consistent 1,000 yard rusher. Some took the signing of Benson as putting Starks on notice and many believe Benson will supplant Starks as the Packers’ starting running back.