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August 9, 2011 - Mike McLain
Coach Pat Shurmur is admittedly anxious to see how the players perform Saturday in the preseson opener at home against the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.
One reason for the anticipation has to do with the lockout. Not having an offseason of work for a first-year and first-ever coach adds to the difficulty of the challenge. There are many things Shurmur needs to get a closer look at, and it can only happen in a game situation.
Shurmur has yet to reveal how he plans to rotate players. In most cases the starters will be on the field for a couple of possessions or one quarter maximum. The backups will get the rest of the work, with players buried deep on the depth chart getting plenty of time to either player their way on or off the roster.
One backup battle worth watching is at offensive tackle, where Ursuline graduate Branndon Braxton is in the thick of things. He appears to be in good shape at this time, but that could change with a bad day.
The receiver spots are always key. Rookie Greg Little will get plenty of work. He has to show more dependable hands, but there's no question about his size and strength.
First-round draft pick Phil Taylor will be a person to watch. He's getting plenty of work in practice and has had some good battles with improving second-year guard Shawn Lauvao.
Of course, quarterback Colt McCoy will be under a microscope. He needs to show that he's making strides and can be depended on to lead the offense. He's been inconsistent at times in practice but has seemed to settle down this week.
Tuesday's practice was one of the better sessions since camp opened. Quite a bit was accomplished in red zone drills as Shurmur finished the installion of that package.
Notables missing from the practice were running back Montario Hardesty (knee) and receiver Mohamed Massaquoi (foot). Both players need to get back on the field soon.
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