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5 things to watch for in Rams-Packers preseason finale

LANDOVER, MD - AUGUST 19: Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) runs by Washington Redskins linebacker Zach Brown (53) during a match between the Washington Redskins and the Green Bay Packers on August 19, 2017, at FedExField in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Daniel Kucin Jr./Icon Sportswire)
Daniel Kucin Jr./Icon Sportswire

Last week’s surprise visit from comedian Kevin Hart energized the Los Angeles Rams on the practice field. It would have been even better if that energy had made it to the football field in a pivotal Week 3 preseason matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers.

There is no redemption for the starters heading into the preseason finale against the Green Bay Packers. Most of them are expected to rest up for the season opener at home on Sept. 10 against the Indianapolis Colts. Thursday night’s game is the final test before coaches trim down the final rosters. It’s an important night for the Rams even though the typical household names aren’t expected to be on the field.

The same goes for the Packers, who are coming off a preseason loss to the Denver Broncos. This will be their last opportunity to generate some confidence heading into the season, although confidence isn’t hard to acquire with one of the league’s best quarterbacks commanding the offense.

Here are five things to watch for in the Rams-Packers preseason finale.

Conservative Rams

Rookie head coach Sean McVay is young enough to play football. The 31-year-old will be analyzed greatly over the course of the season as he settles into the pressure cooker of attempting to turn around a moribund franchise in a ruthless Los Angeles market. He is already raising eyebrows with his decision to be conservative with his starters in the preseason.

In last week’s game against the Chargers, McVay continued to rest a slew of starters instead of playing them as most teams do in Week 3. That approach will probably continue heading into the finale. Don’t expect to see any starters stepping in and making up for lost time.

It’ll be interesting to see if a lighter approach pays off in the season opener.

Battle for the No. 3 QB spot in Green Bay

Aaron Rodgers is on an island as the starting quarterback for the Packers, and third-year quarterback Brett Hundley is believed to have secured the primary backup spot. That leaves the No. 3 spot up for grabs between Joe Callahan and undrafted rookie Taysom Hill. Both should split the reps on Thursday night in what could be their final chance to earn a spot on the roster. If Hill loses out, he seems like a great candidate for the practice squad.

Is Michael Clark a diamond in the rough?

A 6-foot-6 wide receiver is rare in the NFL. Green Bay undrafted rookie wideout Michael Clark has the height of a tight end and the body of a receiver. The former basketball player turned football player is a raw and unfinished prospect who could turn into a dynamic playmaker for the offense if given the time to develop. With the Packers expected to rest their starters in the preseason finale, it would be a great opportunity to give Clark some game action.

Pharoh Cooper’s night to shine

Things are definitely getting crowded for the Rams at receiver, which could limit Pharoh’s Cooper’s opportunities in 2017. The second-year receiver is buried on the depth chart behind Sammy Watkins, Tavon Austin, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. He will have his work cut out for him if he ever hopes to play beyond the preseason. Obviously, he can at least secure backup duties with a good showing against the Packers.

Can Aaron Jones contribute to Packers’ running game?

The running back situation in Green Bay is fluid right now with former wideout Ty Montgomery still filling in as the lead back. While the Packers believe in Montgomery, they were concerned enough about the position to draft three rookie running backs earlier this year. Jamaal Williams is expected to serve as the No. 2 back behind Montgomery, while Aaron Jones could solidify himself as the No. 3 option on Thursday.

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