I’m sure I’m going to be looking at this next week and wondering what the hell I was thinking, but below is my prediction for the starting 53 of the 2011 Green Bay Packers.
I tried to follow a couple of rules when making the roster:
- Drafted players almost always make the 53; only 6 drafted players (about one a year) have failed to make the roster during Thompson tenure. This years draft had a lot of picks so I’m guessing Thompsons cuts two, Ricky Elmore and Lawrence Guy so I tried to keep everyone else.
- I tried to replace players with similar roles, for instance I think Caleb Schlauderaff plays very similar to Jason Spitz which is why I chose him over some of the other linemen. Schlauderaff might not be the best player right now, but he has potential and the Packers have already shown that they like that kind of player (since they kept Spitz for 5 years), not to mention that he was drafted (see rule 1).
- I also tried to keep players as an insurance policy against 2012 free agency. Again Schlauderaff adds some depth behind Josh Sitton should the Packers somehow end up being unable to keep him.
Quarterback -3: Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn, Graham Harrell
No question that the Packers can’t get away with stashing Harrell on the practice squad, he’s played decent enough to be the backup quarterback on some teams (and maybe even the starter at San Francisco). Also the Packers need insurance against Matt Flynn next year so the Packers will have to keep 3 quarterbacks on their roster this year.
Running Back -4: Ryan Grant, James Starks, Alex Green, John Kuhn
Nothing really ground breaking here, though I would probably put Ryan Taylor as the backup fullback. Quinn Johnson in my opinion was never that bruising blocker that he was supposed to become and his forte really doesn’t mesh that well with the forte of the Packers.
Wide Receiver -6: Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Randall Cobb, Chastin West
Really the only question is if the Packers are going to keep 6 wide receivers and it might very well come down to that. In my opinion Chastin West stays over Tori Gurley; the Packers have never been that big on tall wide receivers (outside of Jordy Nelson everyone is around 6 feet) and while blocking punts is a great skill, blocking punts on one of the worst special teams in the league during practice probably won’t translate well to real games.
Tight End -5: Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless, Ryan Taylor, D.J. Williams, Tom Crabtree
In order to keep 5 tight ends and 6 wide receivers I ended up taking a spot away from the secondary, which is definitely a little unusual. My feeling is that tight ends make better special teams players (which is what the 3rd string players are going to be doing for the majority of the time) than cornerbacks because of their body type; they are fast enough to get down the field but also strong enough to block and shed tackles and Tom Crabtree is a very good special teams player, which gives him a spot. D.J. Williams hasn’t impressed much during game day but has excelled in practice and probably will gain a spot on the assumption that he’ll keep improving, and of course he was drafted.
Offensive Line -9: Bryan Bulaga, Josh Sitton, Scott Wells, T.J. Lang, Chad Clifton, Marshall Newhouse, Derek Sherrod, Nick McDonald, Caleb Schlauderaff
The starting line is pretty solid, but after that it becomes a little murky. Sherrod is a lock simply based on his draft status and Newhouse figures to be the backup swing tackle for at least the beginning of the season. In the interior McDonald beat out Evan Dietrich-Smith last year and I wouldn’t be surprised if he does it again (then again I wouldn’t be all that surprised if it goes the other way either). Schlauderaff has the potential to play both guard positions having played right guard in the preseason and left guard in college and was drafted which usually means that he gets a spot.
Defensive Line – 6: Ryan Pickett, B.J. Raji, Mike Neal, Howard Green, C.J. Wilson, Jarius Wynn
This was pretty much the squad from last year and no one new made much of a push to warrant a spot. I could see the Packers adding some depth here via free agency (gasp) and maybe replace Wynn; Wynn is a pass rushing specialist, which means that the Packers might not be comfortable playing him on the first 2 downs, also defensive linemen typically age pretty well (Green is 32 and Pickett is 31) so there are going to be a lot of veterans looking for a job and there are plenty of defensive tackles that could convert to pretty decent ends.
Linebacker – 8: Clay Matthews III, A.J. Hawk, Desmond Bishop, Erik Walden, D.J. Smith, Vic So’oto, Robert Francois, Frank Zombo (with either Brad Jones or Jamari Lattimore taking his place should be get sent to IR)
I’m not exactly sure what the Packers are going to do with Zombo; if he’s only out a couple of weeks then it makes sense to keep a spot for him, but if it takes a month to heal and another month for him to get back into shape and into the lineup, that’s half the season right there and it might be better just to put him on IR. It also always seems like one underdog always makes it in the linebacker core and this year I think its So’oto who probably is more ready than Lattimore right now but Lattimore probably has more potential.
Defensive Back – 9: Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Nick Collins, Morgan Burnett, Sam Shields, Charlie Peprah, Jarrett Bush, Davon House, Josh Gordy
In my opinion Brandon Underwood deserves no place on the Packers, for one he’s a terrible person off the field and second having a player who is constantly in danger of being in jail instead of being on the field is huge a risk (add to that he’s never been that great in coverage, as he’s been moved to safety). Jarrett Bush seems to be wildly inconsistent in coverage and considering his athleticism and range, I feel that safety is probably his more natural position (which just so happens to be where Underwood played). Josh Gordy I think makes the team since he has more experience with the defense after spending last year mostly on the practice squad. Given the choice between Pat Lee and Tom Crabtree, I think Crabtree is a better special teams player, which is probably what both of them would be doing.
Specialist -3: Mason Crosby, Tim Masthay, Brett Goode
Crosby just got paid so he’s a lock. Masthay has played ridiculously well so he’s a lock. Goode hasn’t been heard of (which is what you want in a long snapper) so he’s a lock.
Practice Squad -8: Brandon Saine, Kerry Taylor, Tori Gurley, Sampson Genus, Lawrence Guy, Ricky Elmore, M.D. Jennings, Jamari Lattimore
The Packers traditionally keep a couple wide receivers, presumably so that their backup quarterbacks will have more targets to throw to. Elmore definitely hasn’t made the transition to 3-4 OLB but since he was drafted he will be given every chance to improve. Lattimore has the lateral ability that teams covet but at the moment lacks the size or strength to hold up against the run, but that’s nothing a year on the practice squad and hitting the weight room can’t solve. The Packers are probably betting that after the concussion no one will try to steal Guy off the practice squad so they will try to stash him away (but given the injury history of the defensive line he might be activated soon than later). Brandon Saine I think is a pretty decent back but the Packers don’t have the space to keep him. Finally Jennings has had his moments in the preseason but again the Packers probably don’t have space for them.
Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.