Packers vs. 49ers: Three things I'll be watching for
The clock is ticking toward the opening of the 2012-2013 NFL season! Training camp is a thing of the past, the roster has been shaped, and it's time for the Green Bay Packers to embark on another run at the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Standing in their way is a stout San Francisco 49ers team with Super Bowl aspirations of their own. This might be the most difficult challenge the Packers face all season long. Below are three things I'll be watching for during the game.
THE MARSHALL PLAN:
Packers left tackle Marshall Newhouse will have his hands full with two of the more dynamic defensive players in the game. First, he must contend with defensive end Justin Smith. Aaron Rodgers called Smith one of the best players in the NFL - regardless of position. He is a high motor, high-energy lineman who dominates opponents with brut strength and a never-say-die attitude. Tim Ryan of FOX Sports weighed in on the matchup and said "he'll [Smith] destroy him [Newhouse]."
As if dealing with Justin Smith isn't enough, Newhouse must deal with linebacker Aldon Smith on passing downs. All the other Smith did last season was record 14 sacks and earn NFL defensive rookie of the year honors.
Not only will I be watching to see how Newhouse holds up, but I'll be watching to see who helps him out, and how many times the Packers roll Aaron Rodgers out to the right on passing downs to get away from the pressure.
Expectations are high for first round draft choice, Nick Perry. From the day he was drafted, Perry was instantly better than any linebacker who saw time on the field opposite Clay Matthews in 2011. But how much can be expected of a rookie? To expect Perry to have the kind of impact Matthews did as a rookie is a stretch, but his sack numbers should be enough to prevent teams from double or triple teaming Matthews on every down.
What I'll be watching to see is how often Perry and Matthews are lined up on the same side of the ball, and how often Perry is forced to drop back in coverage. Make no mistake, Perry was drafted to get to the quarterback, but he must show he can recognize and stay with a back or tight end in pass coverage.
HOW MUCH MOSS DOES RANDY HAVE ON HIS STONE?:
I honestly have no idea what to expect from 36-year old wide receiver Randy Moss. He's made a career of having big games in Lambeau, but that all seems like it happened a decade ago or more. So far Moss has stayed quiet, said the right things when asked a question, and blended into the scene. He no doubt still has the speed to play the game, and his hands have never been questioned, but his effort has.
I'll be watching to see how the Packers choose to cover Moss. Will they roll safety help over the top? Will they allow Tramon Williams to handle Moss one-on-one? You'll hear Moss' name early in the TV coverage, but my guess is that you won' hear much of his name late.