The Green Bay Packers open up their preseason slate against the San Francisco 49ers on Friday night. While many starters are expected to sit, there are still plenty of intriguing storylines to follow.
Here are five things to watch for during the Packers-49ers clash.
The starting group on the offensive line
It's been a heavy topic of discussion throughout training camp with David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins still rehabbing from their knee injuries. Matt LaFleur has worked different combinations early on in camp and while many veterans will be getting the night off, that likely won't be the case for the offensive line.
Will LaFleur roll with a group left to right consisting of: Yosh Nijman, Jon Runyan, Josh Myers, Royce Newman and rookie Zach Tom like we've seen in training camp at times? Or will Newman kick out to tackle and Jake Hanson slot in at right guard?
If nothing else, the group that is unraveled against the 49ers could be a sneak peek at what the Packers are considering should Bakhtiari and Jenkins not be ready by Week 1. It's a young unit but one that could feature four players that started a majority of last season.
The Tyler Goodson Show
LaFleur already said he doesn't expect Aaron Jones or A.J. Dillon to play in the preseason opener. Kylin Hill still isn't cleared to return after his torn ACL suffered last season and Patrick Taylor was recently dinged up.
The door is wide open for Goodson in the preseason opener.
Goodson was an undrafted free-agent addition for the Packers and the former Iowa Hawkeyes tailback is fully in the mix for the No. 3 running back spot.
Jones and Dillon make one of the best duos at running back in the NFL but the Packers don't have the No. 3 spot on the depth chart solidified.
Goodson should see plenty of work early and often against the 49ers and if he's able to stand out, he could take the early lead in the race to get the third spot on the depth chart at running back.
Year 3 of Jordan Love
This is a big year for Love and his development.
COVID-19 derailed one preseason for Love and a shoulder injury put a roadblock in front of another. Aaron Rodgers is the quarterback in Green Bay for as long as he wants but if Love shows out this preseason, it will put the Packers in a peculiar spot.
Play well and shine in these exhibition games and it will be near impossible for the Packers to think it's alright to have Love be a backup again next season, in what will be the final year of his contract (pending Green Bay picking up his fifth-year option). His trade value could bump up if he raises enough eyebrows.
Play poorly and the Packers may consider moving on altogether next offseason and finding another backup or perhaps the next potential heir apparent to Rodgers.
It isn't entirely fair to judge Love on just these preseason games and put so much emphasis on them but the reality is that unless Rodgers goes down, these are the only snippets of action Green Bay will see of Love in live game action this year.
Green Bay's defense has the potential to be one of the best in the league this year. All three layers have star power and proven talent with names like Jaire Alexander, Kenny Clark, De'Vondre Campbell and Rashan Gary. Sprinkle in rookies Quay Walker and Devonte Wyatt along with veterans like Adrian Amos and Preston Smith and all signs are pointing towards Joe Barry having a fun year calling plays.
One area Green Bay has significant questions at is its depth on the edge.
Gary and Smith are havoc wreckers but even they need time to recharge the batteries on the sidelines throughout a game.
On the first unofficial depth chart, Jonathan Garvin was listed as the backup to Smith while Tipa Galeai was right in line behind Gary. The former started one game last year and recorded 1.5 sacks in 16 games played. The latter has one sack in seven career games played across two years in Green Bay.
Perhaps fifth-round rookie Kingsley Enagbare will show some early flashes. The opportunities will certainly be there for anyone in the bunch to grab hold of the spots behind Gary and Smith.
Whitney Mercilus retiring and Za'Darius Smith heading to the Vikings in free agency took a big hit on the amount of depth the Packers have screaming off the edge. Now that door has blown wide open.
Let's preface by noting that Christian Watson won't be playing in this one. That still leaves the Packers with two rookies at wideout in Romeo Doubs and Samori Toure who will suit up.
Doubs has been the talk of the town throughout training camp. Even Rodgers has chimed in noting how impressive the rookie out of Nevada has been.
“Every single day, there’s been at least one ‘wow’ play from him,” Rodgers said earlier in training camp. “That’s kind of rare for a young guy like that. Now we’ve had some guys over the years do that, but they’re all in the top 10 in Packers receiving history.”
Doubs was torching one corner after another so often in camp that Alexander decided to interject. The results weren't as pretty for Doubs but Alexander was just trying to toughen up the rookie.
“A-Rod was like, ‘Man, don’t be getting on my rookie,'” Alexander said. “I’m like, ‘Look, A-Rod, I need to give him some tough skin.’ You need to get some tough skin real quick and just afterward, it’s all love. That’s all.”
Toure was selected in the seventh-round out of Nebraska and had arguably the biggest play on Family Night when he flew past the secondary on a long touchdown pass from Love. It's anyone's guess as to how many wideouts the Packers will keep when rosters are trimmed down to the final 53 but with a good preseason showing, it will be hard to keep Toure out of the loop.
Keep an eye on these two rookies against the 49ers.