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Packers Rams preview

by Mark Daniels

For only the fifth time, and for the second year in a row, the Green Bay Packers will play the St. Louis Rams in a Preseason contest. It kicks off at 3:00 PM Saturday at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. Both teams dropped their first dress rehearsal, the Packers, in the rain in Tennessee, fell 20-16 while the Rams were beaten at home by New Orleans.

We'll see Aaron Rodgers for the first time. He sat out the Titans game. Rodgers is expected to play a series or two before giving way to the backups. Scott Tolzien got most of the second team reps in practice this week and he may got next, with Matt Flynn working the second half. Depending on how the game goes, rookie Chase Rettig may finish up. It's also going to be the Preseason debut of Eddie Lacy in the backfield. Head Coach Mike McCarthy said this week they are very mindful of the number of snaps for Lacy this summer. He carried the ball 284 times in his Offensive Rookie of the Year season in 2013. 7th round pick Jeff Janis, back from a bout with the shingles, will also see game action for the first time.

On defense, Morgan Burnett will open at safety. He needs game reps with his new running mate, Micah Hyde. Top pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will also be working the back end of the secondary with Burnett so all three players have to start getting a feel for each other and smooth out communication.

When it's starters versus starters, the best matchup to keep an eye on will be the Packers' offensive line against the St. Louis front four. New center J.C. Tretter and the rest of the veterans up front will be tangling with a multi-million dollar defensive line. Guard Josh Sitton on the Rams up front:

Audio: Josh Sitton.

Robert Quinn is one of the best sackers in the league, teamed with veterans Chris Long, Kendall Langford and the Rams number one pick this year, Aaron Donald out of Pittsburgh.

The St. Louis offense features former Packer center Scott Wells and quarterback Sam Bradford, who signed a big money extension after whispers he might be on the trading block. Bradford has show only flashes of his potential since being the number one overall choice a couple of years ago. Coached by Jeff Fisher, St. Louis is still on the outside looking in with the rugged NFC West Division, led by Super Bowl Champion Seattle, San Francisco and a 10 win Arizona club from a year ago. The Rams still battled those teams tough in 2013 and they hope to close the gap even more this season.

A handful of players are not making the trip for Green Bay, Jared Abbrederis and Don Barclay because of their ACL tears, Colt Lyerla still on crutches from his Family Night leg injury, along with running back Rajion Neal and linebacker Joe Thomas who got hurt in Nashville last weekend.

Even though the first mandated roster cut to 75 players doesn't arrive until August 26, after the third Preseason game, General Manager Ted Thompson said this week the pressure is mounting.

Here are the roster battles that have heated up, and will be worth watching Saturday:

Tight End: Rookie Richard Rodgers got the start against the Titans, made a catch, delivered a big block to spring James Starks for his touchdown run. Brandon Bostick and Andrew Quarless are veterans running neck and neck. Ryan Taylor would like to be known for more than special teams. Even Jake Stoneburner and Justin Perillo have made plays to stay in the mix.

Linebackers: Jamari Lattimore worked with the starters on the day Brad Jones had some dental work done, giving you a good indication he'll be safe. Sam Barrington should hold off the likes of Thomas and Jake Doughty inside. It's at outside linebacker where the competition is fierce. Returners Nate Palmer and Andy Mulumba are getting a real run for their money from Carl Bradford, Adrian Hubbard and Jayrone Elliott.

Cornerback: Four rookie corners may be fighting for just one spot. Demetri Goodson is the draft choice but hasn't really separated himself from Antonio Dennard, Jumal Rolle and Ryan White. It's a big day for all four.

Lastly, keep track of who's running on the early special teams units. If there are rookies on the field, it's an indication the coaching staff wants to see if they can earn a job on return or cover squads before earning their keep as a position player.