The teams: The Green Bay Packers (0-0) vs. the Tennessee Titans (0-0).
The time: 7 p.m. CDT Saturday.
The place: LP Field, Nashville, Tenn.
The TV coverage: WTMJ (Ch. 4) in Milwaukee, WGBA (Ch. 26) in Green Bay and WKOW (Ch. 27) in Madison.
The announcers: Kevin Harlan and Rich Gannon, with Rod Burks reporting from the sidelines.
The injury report:
Packers – Seven players did not make the trip for the Packers. Wide receiver Jared Abbrederis (knee); tackle/guard Don Barclay (knee); safety Morgan Burnett (oblique); tight end Colt Lyerla (knee) and safety Tanner Miller (ankle), all of whom have suffered injuries during training camp, plus defensive end Jerel Worthy (back) and defensive tackle Letroy Guion (hamstring), who are on the non-football injury list.
Titans – Defensive linemen Mike Martin (hamstring) and Antonio Johnson (knee) aren’t expected to play.
THE BREAKDOWN: FIVE THINGS TO WATCH
To show, or not to show: With all kinds of new-fangled ideas defensively – perhaps you’ve heard coach Mike McCarthy’s variation on the old Miller Lite TV commercials – “less scheme, more personnel groups” – the Packers must decide whether to trot out some of those personnel groups and experiment with them in a game environment, or keep them under wraps until the Sept. 4 regular-season opener at Seattle.
When defensive coordinator Dom Capers arrived in 2009, the Packers threw everything but the kitchen sink at opponents in the first few preseason games, feeling the need to test out the new scheme. That’s not the case now, so don’t look for a lot of excitement coming from that side of the ball – and don’t get downtrodden if McCarthy’s “Big Letters” promise of improvement is delivered upon in the first exhibition game.
“Most people don’t show what they’re going to show against Seattle,” McCarthy said. “We have been practicing inside and doing some things. What we plan on doing for Seattle is nothing we’ve been practicing on outside and frankly we probably won’t show it the first four weeks of preseason.”
Curiously, though, so far in camp it’s been the No. 1 offense, not the No. 1 defense, getting work inside the Don Hutson Center, away from the prying eyes of reporters and railbirds.
In fact, in preparation for new Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt, Capers went back and watched the Packers’ 2009 preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals, whose coach at the time was – you guessed it – Whisenhunt. And it reminded Capers just how different that preseason was.
“We blitzed a lot, and that was by design. We wanted to put an aggressive attitude,” Capers recalled on Friday. “But I’ll say this, as we got closer to the regular season we backed off. We did not blitz one time in the finale against Tennessee.
“We showed a lot [against the Cardinals that year], but there was a lot of defense [and scheme]. We did so many things that if we were playing a regular season game you’d never have that many things on your ready list.”
Clay and Julius down by the school yard: While they may hold back plenty from a scheme standpoint, one thing the Packers won’t do is withhold veteran defensive stars Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers, who’ll be on the field for the first time together. While a safe bet would be that they’ll both play on the opening defensive series and then call it a night, Capers made it clear that both will play.
“You’ll see Clay and Julius. We don’t know the definite amount of reps yet, but you’ll see Clay and Julius out there together,” Capers said. “We’re excited about having Clay back. I mean, he missed quite a bit of time last year.”
That Matthews did, thanks to a twice-broken thumb that required two different style surgeries and cost him six-plus games, the most time he’s missed in his five-year NFL career. While Matthews said the thumb is not yet 100 percent, it is getting there – much like he believes the defense is.
“It’s a good first test to see what we have in place and what we need to correct. There will be some good, there will be some bad, but ultimately there will be a lot to correct upon,” Matthews said. “For myself personally, just getting back out there, getting back into the swing of things [is valuable]. I’m sure the same will go for myself and continue to improve through the preseason in hopes that in Week 1, we’ll come out firing.”
Quarterback quandary: A year ago, the Packers were so disenfranchised with backup quarterbacks Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman that they went out and signed Vince Young, who turned out to not me the answer either. Now, they have the opposite problem: Two viable options for the No. 2 quarterback job in Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien, both of whom started games last year while Aaron Rodgers was sidelined. With Rodgers expected to play only one series, Flynn, Tolzien and rookie fourth-stringer Chase Rettig are all slated to play.
“It’s good, they’re both performing well. They’ve gotten about the same amount of reps, and the games will be important for both,” offensive coordinator Tom Clements said of Tolzien and Flynn. “Everyone’s going to play. Chase will play as well, especially in this first game.”
Quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt said the most equitable way to evaluate Flynn and Tolzien would be for them to take game-by-game turns as the first quarterback off the bench. Flynn presumably will get the chance against the Titans.
“I think that’d be fair if we’re evaluating both guys,” Van Pelt said.