The Green Bay Packers may get to see quarterback Aaron Rodgers under center for the first time this year and the San Francisco 49ers could finally see Colin Kaepernick enter their starting quarterback battle as the two sides clash in Week 3’s preseason game Friday night at Levi’s Stadium.
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy has kept Rodgers on the sidelines during the two previous preseason victories (both by at least a touchdown over Cleveland and Oakland) with second-year quarterback Brett Hundley and rookies Joe Callahan and Marquise Williams splitting snaps.
But with Hundley listed as out due to an ankle injury and the importance of the preseason’s third contest, Rodgers is likely to handle a series or two in order to build some rapport with the offense before the regular season opener at Jacksonville on Sept. 11.
Green Bay’s also dealing with several other injuries on both sides of the ball, but each should allow younger players a holding out hope for a roster spot more time on the field. Safety Morgan Burnett, offensive linemen Josh Walker and Jacob Flores, and wide receiver Jeff Janis are all expected to sit against San Francisco.
Wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who’s missed all of 2015 with a torn ACL suffered during the preseason, is questionable with a knee injury as well.
Burnett’s absence could help rookies Marwin Evans and Kentrell Brice. Coming out of Louisiana Tech as an undrafted free agent, Brice has led the Packers with nine tackles in the preseason and Evans is tied for fourth on the team with five total tackles as Green Bay perhaps looks for more depth behind starters Burnett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
Kaepernick was suffering from a “dead arm” as early as last week, but leading up to the showdown with the Packers he and Blaine Gabbert have split reps in practice this week. On Wednesday, first-year head coach Chip Kelly said he had yet to decide who will start against Green Bay.
"We haven't discussed it, yet," Kelly said to CSN Bay Area. "We got two days of training to go through. We'll see. (Kaepernick is) on track. We're excited and we're hopeful he will be ready to go. But I'm not going to put the cart before the horse. We have a system. When we get to Friday, we'll know exactly from (head athletic trainer Jeff Ferguson) who's up and who's down."
Gabbert’s currently first on the depth chart and has completed 10 of his 19 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown, but Kaepernick thinks he can reclaim the job that was his for the last three and a half seasons.
"I'm going to go out and show everything I can these next two games," Kaepernick said, "and make sure I put my best foot forward to show this organization, this team, this coaching staff, what I'm capable of."
Meanwhile, San Francisco will continue to see who can claim inside linebacker duties next to All-Pro NaVorro Bowman. It’s currently a three-way race between Michael Wilhoite, Ray-Ray Armstrong, and Gerald Hodges. From a statistical perspective, Wilhoite has the edge with seven total tackles in two games and he’s currently first on the depth chart.
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET but NFL Network will cut into the game starting at 11 p.m. ET
TV Channels: WGBA-NBC 26 (Green Bay); KPIX-CBS 5 (San Francisco); NFL Network
Live Stream: A live stream is available at NFL Game Pass