Earlier in the offseason, I examined a couple ways the Green Bay Packers could shuffle around the 53-man roster to make room for six wide receivers. Both Diondre Borel and Tori Gurley are making a strong push to make the final cut, and the possibility is certainly there. Today, however, I’m going to play the Devil’s advocate and present a few reasons why the Packers won’t even decide to keep that extra receiver.
1. Offensively Useless
First and foremost, there simply isn’t room for a sixth wide receiver in the offense. The maximum number of receivers you can have in a given play is five, and it’s highly doubtful Mike McCarthy would line up Borel or Gurley in place of one of the “Top 5.” He’s going to put the best talent on the field, and that’s not going to include numero seis on the depth chart. Plus, according to the “Football Outsiders Almanac 2012,” the Packers offense lined up in a 4+ WR set on just 7% of their snaps.
Some might counter that having a sixth receiver provides good depth if someone were to get injured; however, we have to remember that tight ends also play a factor. Jermichael Finley and perhaps even D.J. Williams make the issue of depth a little moot. On top of that, the practice squad is always there in case of dire emergencies.
2. Special Teams Factor
Since the offense doesn’t really benefit from having a sixth receiver on the squad, the extra player to make the team would need to have a strong special teams role. McCarthy continues to stress that performance on special teams units is a key factor in determining which back-up players make the cut. In fact, that is perhaps the one reason the Packers would cut Donald Driver.
Diondre Borel has, admittedly, been making a push as a kickoff and punt returner, so he actually has a leg up on Gurley in this category. On the other hand, Gurley has shown some prowess on special teams himself. He’s a big guy who hits hard and who has been known to block the occasional punt. But the questions remains: is that enough?
3. More Pressing Concerns
Although I outlined before how the Packers could make room for an extra receiver on the roster, there suddenly seem to be some roster spots that are no longer expendable. It’s no secret that the Packers have been suffering a large amount of injuries this preseason, and the depth at certain positions has really been tested.
Primarily, Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy may want to keep an extra body along the offensive line. Derek Sherrod’s injury from last season could put him on the PUP list for the first six weeks this year, and Marshall Newhouse’s concussion on Family Night highlighted just how thin the Packers are at tackle. Herb Taylor failed to impress (that’s putting it lightly), and Andrew Datko is still very early in his development.
Then there’s the sudden injury to Desmond Bishop, who could make it back this season depending on how his hamstring surgery turns out. They may also keep Bishop on the roster for the first week to take advantage of the possible new NFL rule that allows teams to reserve an injured player and bring him back later in the season.
We can also turn to the running back position, where injuries to James Starks, Brandon Saine, Du’ane Bennett, and John Kuhn have made the position extremely thin. Cedric Benson was just signed this week to provide more depth and perhaps more boost, but that position group may no longer be able to spare a roster spot for a sixth wide receiver.
Finally, the talent along the defensive line has shown enough promise that the Packers might just want to keep an extra player for depth and rotation purposes. Keeping a sixth wide receiver seems to be much more of a luxury move than keeping an extra guy at one of these other positions of need.
4. There Will Be Others
Truth be told, neither Borel nor Gurley have, to this point, proven themselves as indispensable. I’m sure the Packers would love to keep them on the practice squad another year until Donald Driver moves on, though they would probably have to pay them extra to keep them away from other teams. Nevertheless, Dale Moss and Curenski Gilleylen might be good enough for the practice squad if the other two would happen to be picked up by other teams. Ted Thompson will also have the 2013 draft to pick up another receiver if he really needs to.
So there it is. I’m not saying the Green Bay Packers won’t decide to keep six wide receivers this year, but in looking at the arguments against the move, it might be difficult for them to do so comfortably. As McCarthy said in June, “My job is to create opportunities for these players to come together and form a team, and it’s maybe not always the most talented team, but it’s the best football team. The most-talented player doesn’t always stay; it’s the best football player that stays.”
Diondre Borel and Tori Gurley are not just fighting the guys in their position group for a roster spot, they are also battling the rest of the roster.——————Follow @ChadToporski