Said Roman: “Scott was a very good player while he was here, and I'm sure they're picking his brain. (But) it won't have any impact on the game.”
Kicking themselves?: The Packers and 49ers took decidedly different approaches with their struggling kickers last year. Green Bay stood by Mason Crosby through thick and thin – and an alarming number of missed field goal attempts – while San Francisco decided to spend its playoff bye week conducting a kicking competition between scuffling David Akers and free-agent signee Billy Cundiff.
In the end, both the Packers and 49ers wound up in the same place: With their guys keeping their jobs.
This offseason, though, the teams’ plans diverged again. The 49ers simply moved on from Akers, signing ex-Cleveland Browns kicker Phil Dawson instead. The Packers, meanwhile, signed ex-University of California kicker Giorgio Tavecchio to compete with Crosby throughout the offseason and training camp, and even added a third kicker, Zach Ramirez, at the 11th hour to provide even more competition. But after his bad Family Night Scrimmage and one practice where he missed three straight kicks, Crosby was atop his game.
“Mason was very consistent for the last probably two-thirds, three-quarters of training camp. He’s kicking the ball really well,” special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said. “From a technique standpoint, I think he’s where he needs to be. That’s the biggest indication. Then, it’s just making field goals. You look at what he did through practice into games and see the consistency.”
The only change there might be is on kickoffs, where Slocum wouldn’t rule out having punter Tim Masthay handle the job.
“We have Mason and Tim that can kick off,” Slocum said. “Ideally, you pick a guy and stick with him, but we’ve got two guys that can kick touchbacks. Mason’s been really good on his kickoffs. We’ll look at that Friday when we finish all of our work this week.”
Seeking Hyde: With Hayward sidelined, Packers rookie fifth-round pick Micah Hyde figures to get the call as the third cornerback in the team’s nickel defense. He’ll line up in the slot while Sam Shields and Tramon Williams man the outside islands. According to ProFootballFocus.com, Hyde spent 84 of his 156 preseason snaps in the slot and notched seven pressures on his 20 blitzes. He also played well against the run and graded out well against the pass when he was in the slot, too. According to PFF, Hyde played 71 snaps in coverage and was targeted 13 times, allowing eight receptions for 111 yards (57 yards came on one play) and a touchdown (114.6 rating). But when playing in the slot, his numbers were significantly better (39 snaps, seven targets, four receptions, 37 yards, 71.1 rating).
“He’s a rookie that’s done awful well,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. “He’s had his opportunities, he’s made plays. I like his demeanor. I don’t think that anything’s too big for him. He played at Iowa and had success there, and he’s stepped right in and has played both outside at corner and inside at nickel. When he’s had his opportunities, he’s made plays. I look forward to watching Micah play. I’m glad we have him.”
It will be interesting to see how the 49ers move the ball through the air. They’ll play without No. 1 receiver Michael Crabtree, who suffered a ruptured Achilles’ tendon and is on the physically unable to perform list. He was a Packers killer last year (16 receptions, 195 yards, two touchdowns). They’ll also be without third receiver Mario Manningham, who had four catches for 29 yards in the opener last season but missed the playoff game. That leaves veteran Anquan Boldin, Kyle Williams, Quinton Patton and Marlon Moore as their pass-catchers, along with tight end Vernon Davis.
While quoting Tombstone earlier in the week, Rodgers insisted that this game isn’t about revenge. That seems only half right. While a victory wouldn’t make up for the season-ending spanking they took in the NFC playoffs, at least the Packers would redeem themselves a bit and would know that they’re capable of beating this team in the event that they meet again in the postseason. The guess here, though, is that the Packers aren’t quite there yet. Maybe a rematch in the playoffs will go a different way, after the rookies and young Packers improve. For now, it’s hard to pick against the 49ers. 49ers 27, Packers 24. (Last season’s record: 11-7)
– Jason Wilde