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The Kansas City Chiefs square off with the Green Bay Packers tonight in the last game of the 2013 preseason.
It’s been a long grind, but finally the regular season is within sight. Kansas City has one more hurdle to jump over this preseason, and that’s the Packers.
Wins and losses mean nothing at this point, but players are fighting for roster positions, and evaluation and execution is going to be crucial.
Addicts at Arrowhead and around the Kingdom will also get a chance to see a top-notch organization, in the Packers. Remember, new general manager John Dorsey came from Green Bay, so perhaps Chiefs Kingdom will be getting a glimpse into the future tonight.
I reached out to Dan Dahlke of Lombardi Ave and we talked a bit about the game from the Packers point of view. Here’s how the conversation went.
Note: If you’re interested I answered questions for Lombardi Ave from the Chiefs’ perspective. You can read that interview here.
AK: Should we expect another MVP-like season from Aaron Rodgers this year?
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DD: Yeah, I think so. Rodgers is one of the game’s best quarterbacks, and he’s led the league in passer rating the past two seasons. With so many good players in this league I don’t know if he’ll actually win the MVP this year, but he should still play at the high level he’s been playing at the past four seasons.
More importantly, Rodgers will have a good supporting cast at wide receiver and tight end and an improved defense and running game. Hopefully, the offensive line will do a better job protecting him as well.
AK: The offense looks a bit different, especially at wide receiver, what are your thoughts on the wideout crew and how productive they will be in 2013?
DD: The Packers lost veterans Greg Jennings and Donald Driver, but they still have their three leading receivers from last year in Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, and James Jones. They may not have a clear-cut leading receiver this season, but the Packers like Cobb’s playmaking ability in the slot, Nelson as a downfield threat, and Jones’ strength and ability to make tough catches in traffic.
The three receivers should complement each other well if they can stay healthy. Both Nelson and Cobb have missed most of training camp with injuries, and they need to get healthy for the Packers passing attack to be effective. One X-factor in the passing game could be tight end Jermichael Finley who’s having a great preseason.
AK: Green Bay has had issues running the ball since Ahman Green basically. The Packers drafted the position well this year. Are we going to see a turnaround there?
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DD: Hopefully. The Packers just placed their starting running back DuJuan Harris on IR. He came on strong at the end of last year and the team had high hopes for him this season. The Packers did draft Alabama back Eddie Lacy in the second round. He’s looked good in two of the three exhibition games he’s played in. Green Bay hasn’t had a powerful back like Lacy for years now, so hopefully he’ll breathe a little life into the Packers running game this season.
AK: Defensively, the Packers got gashed against San Francisco in last year’s playoffs. What have they done to shore that unit up?
DD: The 49ers exposed the lack of athleticism on the Packers defense last season. Really, the Packers defense improved last season. They went from the 32nd-ranked defense in the league in 2011 to the 11th-ranked defense in 2012. However, the embarrassing loss in the playoffs overshadowed these improvements.
The Packers drafted athletic defensive end Datone Jones in the first round in hopes to better defend against the read option and mobile quarterbacks, like Colin Kaepernick. The Packers defensive line as a whole looks better this season. They will also get back last year’s first-round pick, Nick Perry. Perry is an athletic outside linebacker who has the speed and strength to contain athletic quarterbacks. We’ll see if these changes make a difference when Green Bay faces San Francisco in the season opener.
AK: Which player has stood out the most to you at camp?
DD: Rookie cornerback Micah Hyde has been a pleasant surprise in camp this year. He was drafted in the fifth round, and I think most of us didn’t expect him to contribute much this year. Green Bay has been dealing with injuries in the defensive backfield, so Hyde has really stepped up and played well. He’s started at cornerback the last two preseason games and has made a lot of plays. He plays well out of the slot and is a good open field tackler.
AK: What is Green Bay trying to accomplish coming into Arrowhead? What should we expect to see here?
DD: There are still a lot of unsettled position battles on the team heading into this game. They’re still trying to figure out their depth at positions like tight end, wide receiver, running back, defensive line, and outside linebacker. Their first goal will be to get their young players plenty of opportunities in the game so the team can make informed roster decisions on Saturday. I doubt the starters will play very much, if at all. This will be a game for the young players to make one final case to make the team.
AK: How long will fans get to see Aaron Rodgers play on Thursday night?
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DD: Rodgers only played one series last week, and that was the team’s third preseason game, which typically is the game the starters play at least a half. I doubt Rodgers will even suit up for the game. At most, he’ll only play one series, like last week. The Packers are still trying to decide between Vince Young and B.J. Coleman for the top backup quarterback job. Coach McCarthy will probably want to see these two players as much as he can in the game.
AK: The Packers are an iconic franchise who had to experience some lows on the path to becoming elite again. Do you have any advise for Chiefs Kingdom?
AK: Just continue being a great fanbase. When a team has good support from the fans and doesn’t have to stress about selling tickets and merchandise, then management won’t feel pressure to make the rash personnel decisions in free agency that often cripple franchises for years.
The Packers have been very fortunate for two reasons: 1) They can afford to be patient and build through the draft and not have to feel that pressure of “win immediately or bust” that teams fall into when they’re trying to sell tickets. 2) The Packers have been lucky to have two great franchise quarterbacks the past two decades with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. I don’t know how the Packers got so lucky at quarterback, but we are blessed and know it won’t last forever.