The most important week of the NFL Preseason begins on Friday night. This is the week where we’ll get a sneak peak as to what teams will look like to start the season. The stakes are high this week for many players. Here’s why.
1. The undrafted rookies
The third week of the NFL Preseason is known as the dress rehearsal for what team’s will do come Week 1 of the Regular Season. Teams will do some real game-planning, and often the starters will play well into the third quarter. By now, coaches have likely narrowed down who will comprise most of the final 53-man roster.
Watch to see how much the newest WVU Pros like Dreamius Smith (Chargers), Quinton Spain (Titans) and Josh Francis (Packers) play (or if they get in the game at all). With the first round of roster cuts looming next week, how much these guys play this week can be an indicator of where they stand.
2. Don Barclay
The sixth man on the Packers’ offensive line has had a rough start to to the preseason after returning from an ACL injury that caused him to miss all of last season. The rust has shown, particularly in pass blocking. He gave up a sack and had a holding penalty called on him that negated a first down in Week 1.
Last week, he started at LT–protecting Aaron Rodgers’ blind side–against the Steelers. James Harrison bullied past him and sacked Rodgers in the end zone for a safety. Barclay then gave up another sack a few plays later.
The team knows he’s had a rough start, but they haven’t lost faith.
“Don’s going to be more of a right tackle and a backup guard for us and a guy we can really count on,” Aaron Rodgers said. ”He’s played a lot of snaps for us over the years. He’s started a playoff game. He’s a guy we can count on.
“We have a lot of confidence in Donnie. This is just his progression back into feeling comfortable.”
Notice Rodgers didn’t say anything about Barclay playing on the left side. The Packers like him on the right side where they can use his strengths in run blocking. He will get the start again on Saturday night at 8:00 ET when they face Philadelphia (and Najee Goode).
3. Mario Alford
By most accounts, Alford has had great training camp in his rookie season with the Bengals. The team knew what they were getting in him with his speed. They’ve been surprised by how well he catches the ball. We didn’t see much of him on offense last week (only had one target, no catches).
But in Week 1, the team found ways to get him involved in the offense. A receiver screen that resulted in a 13-yard scamper and then an end-around that resulted in him breaking loose for 23 yards.
I’m interested to see if he gets any reps with the first-team offense this week after the team prepared to face the Bears on Saturday night (7:30 ET). Will they try to get him involved as they did in Week 1 and see what he can do against starting talent?
I’d also like to see if he can get a big return on special teams. For a late-round pick such as Alford, being able to prove his worth in multiple facets of the game will determine if he makes the final roster or winds up on the practice squad.