McCarthy: Arizona Game "Closest Opportunity To Real Test"
By Jay Sorgi
Next game: Friday, August 28th at Arizona
On Friday night, the Green Bay Packers get a true preseason midterm exam when they battle the Arizona Cardinals on the road.
Never mind the fact the game doesn't count in the regular season standings.
To the coach, they're playing in regular season conditions, using their regulars for the most they will all preseason, against last year's NFC Super Bowl representative.
"In some ways, we are. We're going to be playing our first group at least the first half," said Packers Coach Mike McCarthy on 620WTMJ's "Wisconsin's Morning News."
"This will be the closest opportunity to a real test."
One running back will receive his most severe test - the NFL's second-best preseason rusher, Tyrell Sutton.
"We're going to rotate all the running backs through there in the first half. Tyrell Sutton will play a series with the 'ones.' "
McCarthy feels his team is well-prepared to take on the Cardinals, especially with an offensive line that he's comfortable with following solid position battles.
"It was a very competitive battle," said McCarthy.
"Frankly, from a performance standpoint, it could have gone any direction. Jason Spitz is playing the center, Josh Sitton is playing right guard. We had the opportunity to be a little bigger in size inside, and also Allen Barbre at the right tackle - the right side, I'm very pleased with in the run aspect of our offense so far. We've got to continue to upgrade the pass protection part of it.
"The positive of our offensive line is today, we have a number of players, Jason Spitz and Darren Colledge, that have played three or four positions. Tony Moll's done the same thing. That gives you flexibility on game day, going down to a 45-man roster, taking seven offensive linemen into the game."
"The inability to rip the same five offensive lineman from a significant point in training camp has never been evident here. That was our goal, to give the same five linemen the ability to work together every single day at the same positions, to get the continuity that you feel gives you the best opportunity on Sundays."
McCarthy: 3-4 Defense Off To "Very Good Start"
Another thing that might give the Packers a good opportunity on Sundays is the team's performance with the new 3-4 defensive scheme.
So far, in two preseason games, the first-team defense hasn't given up a point. McCarthy credits the squad's deep linebacking corps.
"The 3-4 defense is really about the linebacker position," explains McCarthy. "You carry less defensive linemen. You carry more linebackers. We're very fortunate to have those players already on our roster. We've got a couple young guys who we're very excited about, and it's an opportunity for those guys to make plays."
"Linebackers are playmaking-type players. They give you an opportunity to rush, to blitz. They also do a good job against the run. They're athletic. They challenge the run-blocking units with different stunts, and they drop into pass coverage. That's what we're looking for. We're looking for an attack-type of defense, and we're off to a very good start."
Packers Happy To Have Competing Tight Ends
Both incumbent tight end Donald Lee and recent backup Jermichael Finley each have produced solid numbers in camp and preseason games, and both will compete for playing time this season.
To McCarthy, that's a great sign.
"They really compliment each other," said the Packers coach. "They're two very athletic tight ends. Both have the ability to play all three. We really have three tight end positions in our offensive scheme."
"They've showed the ability to play all three of those positions, whether you have them on the line of scrimmage, in the backfield, a moving phase from either one of those positions or slotted out in a single-receiver position. The more flexibility you have with your players, particularly your playmakers, it gives you more opportunities to be aggressive in your scheme development."
Do Packers Have Emergency Option after Brohm?
With backup Matt Flynn injured, the Packers only have two healthy quarterbacks with any experience on their roster, Aaron Rodgers and Brian Brohm.
Any thought to developing an emergency quarterback from another position, a la Walter Payton against the Packers in 1984?
Nope. According to McCarthy, the Packers would head back to the starter if an emergency quarterback was needed in preseason.
"We would go back to Aaron Rodgers," said McCarthy. "We're at a point in training camp that I really don't want to develop the emergency quarterback."
"People are fighting for positions. We do have Spencer Havner and Jarrett Bush to play multiple positions, but quarterback is not one of them."
No Orange in McCarthy's Hat Collection, Yet
McCarthy says he has not tried on the new Packers orange hunter's hat being sold at Lambeau Field designed to raise money against hunger. "I saw them in the spring when they were getting ready to release them, but we're a little busy during hunting season. I'm sure our fans will appreciate them."
When asked if he has hunting hats in his collection: "Blaze orange? Sorry. No, I don't. I don't think I have (camouflage) either."