The Green Bay Packers made their first round of cuts this week, releasing receiver Brett Swain, tight end Spencer Havner and tackle Theo Sherman on Monday then sending receiver Antonio Robinson, linebacker K.C. Asiodu and guard Adrian Battles packing Tuesday. That trimmed the Packers roster to 80 men before Tuesday’s league-mandated deadline.
Those were the easy cuts.
On Saturday, Packers GM Ted Thompson will have to decide which 53 players he starts the 2011 with and the 27 he doesn’t. It’s one of the most difficult days for his profession. Thompson has to cut some good football players. I, for one, certainly don’t envy the job he has to do over the course of this week.
Here’s my predictions for the Packers 53-man roster, which come before the team’s preseason finale against the Kansas City Chiefs. Following that game on Thursday, I’ll make my final choices for who I think should be on the final 53.
Quarterbacks (3): Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn, Graham Harrell
Harrell hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire, but the Packers understand his worth. You have to like the way he rebounded against the Colts and led them back. Right now, he is too risky to send to the practice squad again. In a year’s time, Harrell could be Rodgers’ backup.
Running Backs (5): Ryan Grant, James Starks, Alex Green, John Kuhn, Quinn Johnson
Grant guaranteed his roster spot by restructuring his contract, but there might have been pressure on him had that not happened. He’s been hesitant in the preseason with limited carries…Starks and Green are clearly the future at the position…Keeping two fullbacks was a tough call, but I don’t see how the Packers go from keeping three in back-to-back seasons to just one this year. Packers coach Mike McCarthy runs as many offensive sub-packages as any play caller in the NFL, and they need Johnson to block when the Packers go big.
Receivers (5): Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Randall Cobb
One of the hardest decisions was keeping just five receivers on this team. Both Chastin West and Tori Gurley have shown enough to make most NFL teams, but not this one. I don’t think the Packers can sacrifice another roster position for a sixth receiver unless they really feel Cobb’s knee isn’t ready to go for a few weeks into the regular season.
Tight Ends (4): Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless, Ryan Taylor, Tom Crabtree
This is quite possibly the tough position on the team to forecast. All five could make the team, but I’m not sure D.J. Williams has shown enough to make it. He looked great in shorts and shells, but it hasn’t transferred over into games. Williams and Quarless are too much alike to keep both, which means Williams is on the outside looking in.
Offensive Line (9): Chad Clifton, Bryan Bulaga, Scott Wells, Josh Sitton, T.J. Lang, Marshall Newhouse, Nick McDonald, Derek Sherrod, Ray Dominguez
No real surprises here except for Dominguez. He’s looked considerably better than Caleb Schlauderaff at guard and deserves the position more…There’s no way around it: the Packers are lacking depth all along the offensive line. It’s a legitimate concern at this point.
Defensive Line (6): B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett, Mike Neal, Howard Green, Jarius Wynn, C.J. Wilson
The Packers have kept six defensive linemen to start the season in each of Dom Capers’ two years in Green Bay. Even with Cullen Jenkins and the health risks of those kept, this should continue…Lawrence Guy hasn’t shown enough.
Linebackers (9): Clay Matthews, Erik Walden, Frank Zombo, Brad Jones, Vic So’oto, A.J. Hawk, Desmond Bishop, D.J. Smith, Robert Francois
So’oto is the name that sticks out in this group. He’s done more than enough in camp and during the preseason to warrant a spot on the 53-man roster. Zombo’s shoulder injury makes it even more necessary to keep him…Cardia Jackson has a decent case for a backup spot but it’s likely that Francois will ultimately be the one they keep on the 53.
Defensive Backs (9): Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Jarrett Bush, Davon House, Nick Collins, Morgan Burnett, Charlie Peprah, Anthony Levine
No Pat Lee, which was hard to do considering he plays on all four special teams units. Those players usually stick. But who do you sacrifice for Lee? He’s had his chance. Time to move on…Brandon Underwood has squandered his opportunity as well.
SPECIAL TEAMS (3)
Specialists (3): Mason Crosby, Tim Masthay, Brett Goode
No competition for any of these three this year in camp.
PRACTICE SQUAD (8)
OLB Jamari Lattimore, WR Tori Gurley, S M.D. Jennings, FB Jon Hoese, DE Lawrence Guy, LB Cardia Jackson, OL Caleb Schlauderaff, WR/KR Shaky Smithson
Lattimore showed flashes of impact speed off the edge, but he needs to put on weight. Perfect practice squad guy…Gurley and Jennings have shown enough at their respective positions to warrant spots. With his frame, Gurley stands a chance to get picked up by another team, however…Retaining Hoese signifies the Packers continued reliance on fullbacks after losing Korey Hall…Guy, Schlauderaff and Smithson are all guys who might not make it through waivers but would be really solid practice squad additions…Jackson is needed for depth on the inside.
Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.
You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.Follow @zachkruse2