Friday, the Cleveland Browns take on the Green Bay Packers for to open the preseason. To help preview this week's game, I reached out to Evan "Tex" Western from Acme Packing Company and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!
Chris: “The Browns' defensive backs haven't had the greatest of camps yet with two new safeties, Joe Haden still out with an ankle injury, and Tramon Williams taking a handful of veteran days off. Jordy Nelson won't be back for this week's game, and I assume Randall Cobb will play. Besides Cobb, which receivers might Cleveland see in the first half, and how have they done in camp?”
Tex: “The Packers' receiver battle is an interesting one, and we should see as many as five or six receivers play early on. Cobb will certainly be there, but the Packers should give Davante Adams, Jeff Janis, Jared Abbrederis, and Ty Montgomery all playing time, as those players are in the mix for the #3 job. There's no clear leader among the group, though, as each has had good performances as well as some drops. Adams is coming off an injury-plagued and largely ineffective season, Janis is still figuring out the fundamentals of playing wide receiver in the NFL, Abbrederis has a lengthy injury history, and Montgomery just came off the PUP list after missing the final 10 games of 2015 after ankle surgery.”
Chris: “Are any of the Packers' seven draft picks expected to start in Week 1? If so, who? Has anyone been disappointing or slow to develop so far?”
Tex: “Most of us expect first-rounder Kenny Clark to be the starter at nose tackle when week 1 rolls around, despite the team's first depth chart putting him as the second-string right end. Clark has plenty of positional versatility, though, and can play just about any technique on a 3-man line. The other potential rookie starter is inside linebacker Blake Martinez, who was praised for his coverage skills but has to prove that he can be stout against the run. He's been able to get starter's reps all throughout camp due to alternating injuries to Sam Barrington and Jake Ryan (Ryan is likely out on Friday with a hamstring issue).”
Chris: “I'm sure we're not going to see much of Aaron Rodgers this week, so which two quarterbacks are next on the depth chart? Is Brett Hundley pretty firmly in the No. 2 spot?”
Tex: “There's no question that Hundley is the number 2 - he was one of the league's highest-rated passers in the 2015 preseason and he has no competition with former backup Scott Tolzien ending up in Indianapolis. Behind him are a pair of undrafted rookies: Joe Callahan (from Division III Wesley College) and Marquise Williams from North Carolina.
On Friday, however, Rodgers will sit and Hundley will be out with an ankle issue, so Cllahan and Williams will be getting all the work. The Packers often keep just two quarterbacks on the active roster, so the two rookies are likely fighting each other for a single spot on the practice squad.”
Chris: “What is the top position battle currently taking place for the Packers?”
Tex: “It's probably the wide receiver competition. The six players mentioned earlier are in the mix, and they also have fifth-round pick Trevor Davis and an impressive undrafted rookie, Geronimo Allison fighting for spots. Traditionally the Packers keep a maximum of six players at the position, but this could be a strange year and could dictate that seven make the team.
Along with the battle for the 53, the fight for the #3 job is tight. Jordy Nelson will be the primary outside receiver and Randall Cobb usually lines up in the slot, so that player needs to be reliable on the boundary opposite Nelson. At this point, it looks like Adams and Janis are the top options.”
Chris: “Tell us about one player on offense and one player on defense who is a relative unknown, but who has turned heads in camp thus far.”
Tex: “Allison is the most surprising player on offense - he went undrafted out of Illinois but he has been one of the most impressive players in camp, catching anything near him over the past week. Look for this 6'3" wideout to get extensive playing time in the second half to see how he holds up in live action.
On defense, keep an eye on second-year corner LaDarius Gunter. He will likely be the team's fourth corner behind Sam Shields and fellow second-years Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins, but he has great length at 6'1" and has been drawing tons of praise from the Packers' coaches. He is also playing both outside and in the slot, a new development for him as he was strictly an outside corner last year.”
Thanks again to Tex for taking the time to answer my questions.