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Meet me in St. Louie

by Mark Daniels

The Packers hit the road for the first time this pre-season, taking on the Rams in St. Louis Saturday night at 7:00 PM.   Mike McCarthy's team was the only NFL squad held scoreless on the opening weekend, losing 17-0 at home to the Arizona Cardinals at Lambeau Field last Friday night.  So when asked about his goals going into the second dress rehearsal, McCarthy told reporters it's pretty obvious:

Audio: Mike McCarthy

Here are my five things to watch in the Edward Jones Dome.

Finish what you started:  The offense moved the ball at times against Arizona but couldn't finish, that included Aaron Rodgers and the starting offense, fizzling at the one on their opening drive. If nothing else, the place kicking battle could use a little extra point work.  Rodgers will have only James Jones among his top three receivers with Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb out. 

Mike the monster:  Mike Neal had a huge week of practice as defensive coordinator Dom Capers is turning him into a hybrid defensive end and linebacker.   Neal is showing explosion on the pass rush with his hand on the ground inside and he's a nightmarish rusher off the edge standing up.  It'll be interesting to see where Neal lines up and how's he is utilized.

Many happy returns:  With Cobb nursing that sore biceps, Jeremy Ross will not only get looks at receiver, but he'll likely be the number one return man.  Ross has fared better on the special teams than he has in the offense and a secure night catching punts and a breakout return or two will solidify his stock.

Bakhtiari's baptism:  Rookie David Bakhtiari has all but been handed the starting left tackle job.  He played the entire first half against the Cardinals and will probably get just as many snaps this week. Now he'll be going up against a premier defensive end in Chris Long, on the road where snap counts are hard to hear.  This will be his biggest test by far.

The road show:   McCarthy puts a lot of emphasis on how you conduct yourself in hostile environments.   For many, this will be their first taste of NFL football on the road.  False start penalties, mis-communications are just some of the pratfalls awaiting rookies.  Those who handle it will likely survive to the final pre-season road test in two weeks in Kansas City.

The Rams should provide a stern test for the Pack,  They went 7-8-1 in Jeff Fisher's first year as head coach but were an eye opening 4-1-1 against teams from their division which featured the NFC Champion 49ers and playoff bound Seahawks.  Sam Bradford is on the cusp of stardom and despite losing Stephen Jackson and Danny Amendola, they have plenty of talent to challenge the Packers.