The third preseason game has always been considered the most important, in terms of assessing where NFL teams are before regular season action occurs, because almost every team uses the game as an opportunity to actually game-plan for an opponent and gives the first team offense and defense the most work they will see in the preseason. For the Colts, without Peyton Manning on the field, that is only partially the case in 2011, but taking the field against the defending champion Green Bay Packers is worth a closer look than the Colts first two match-ups.
In order to do so, Coltzilla interviewed Packers blogger Andy Tisdel of OakCreekPatch. Andy’s responses were so well articulated and thorough we have broken the Q&A into two parts. If you missed the first part you can find it here.
Brett Mock – D.J. Williams was a player that I thought would really give an offense a weapon wherever he ended up. If not for Dallas Clark and Jacob Tamme already solid pass-catchers, I figured he would be great for the Colts. How has he looked in Green Bay?
Andy Tisdel – He’s looked real good. Early in camp, both Finley and Andrew Quarless were out due to injury, so Williams got a lot of snaps and really stood out. He has excellent hands and runs good routes. He’s a bit undersized for a TE, which is why I think Mike McCarthy will use him in more of an H-back role. There’s no doubt he’ll make the team, although he’ll have a lot of competitors for catches in the regular season.
BM – Which team in the NFC North will pose the biggest challenge for the division? Do the Lions become a legitimate threat this year? How far are they away?
AT – The Bears. They’re mired in their customary late-summer chaos at the moment–Matt Forte’s contract, swapping around people on the offensive line, Roy Williams’ signing and the demotion of the talented Johnny Knox being only a few examples–but for all that, they’ve had an exceptional defense for years and that’s not going to stop soon. I think the Packers are eminently capable of overtaking them for the NFC North title, but it’s never easy with Chicago. They have Peppers, Briggs, Urlacher as defensive superstars, and if Jay Cutler ever gets it together, look out below.
The Lions… aaah. I’m of two minds about them. One is to look at the talent they’ve stockpiled—on the D-line, at WR, at TE, at LB, at QB, on the coaching staff—and think ‘Man, these guys are ready for the playoffs’. The other is to look at the injury history of Matthew Stafford and of Jahvid Best, and look at their awful secondary, and remember why they haven’t been a contender since Barry Sanders: they get all the bad breaks.
Detroit could very well be a wild-card team this year. The hype they’ve been getting is justified, but if Matthew Stafford gets injured again, everything goes down the toilet. They probably could have been in contention last year if he didn’t get hurt in Game 1, because they’ve got a surprising number of star players. But one thing hasn’t changed, and that’s the fact that you can still throw all over them, pass-rush notwithstanding. Until they pick up a few cornerbacks, they’re not ready to be a force.
BM – How do the Packers approach the preseason? Do they game plan prior to each game? How long do the starters play during the first two weeks of the preseason?
AT – Green Bay used the first week or so to cram in their immensely complicated playbooks, and they’ve spent the time since getting the new guys used to the system. I imagine McCarthy is tweaking his offense to reincorporate Jermichael Finley, which he was doing during the off-season. Dom Capers is working on his blitzes and seeing what the backup cornerbacks and outside linebackers have to offer. They run a scout team, like everyone does, but I don’t think they really bother to game plan one of these games unless they’re doing it for learning purposes. Say, seeing how Chastin West can perform against the Colts’ starting corners.
The starters had two or three drives a game on offense; on defense, a little longer. The Packers aren’t taking any chances with injuries, particularly with guys like Clay Matthews or Sam Shields. You should see the starters playing all, or almost all, of the first half on Friday night.
BM – What are you looking to take away from the game? What predictions do you have for Green Bay this year?
AT – Not much, to be honest. Packer fans will tell you about the preseason of 2009. We played the third game against Arizona and looked unstoppable; the defense shut them down and the offense rolled up 40+ points in the first half. The pass protection was unbeatable. Everything was clicking. Then in the first game of the regular season the Bears tore through Green Bay’s offense like the O-line was made of high schoolers. Sure, we won, but it was an ugly shock. Basically, if we win, that’s great. If nobody gets injured, that’s the preferred outcome.
I think a division championship is well within reach, and a first-round bye isn’t out of the question. In my head I’ve been thinking of 11-5 and 12-4 records. The thing is, we’re taking it one game at a time. Everybody in Wisconsin has heard how tough it is to repeat and how rare a repeat is. Last year we came out of nowhere to win the Super Bowl; this year everyone will be gunning for us. But I think the Packers can handle it.
Coltzilla would like to thank Andy for taking the time to respond to our questions. Feel free to check out Coltzilla’s answers to Andy’s interview: part I, part II. Also, stop in to read Andy’s work if you would like to learn more about the Green Bay Packers.