It probably goes without saying that the 2011 Green Bay Packers should have a deep, talented roster.
That was likely the case before the last season begun, too, and it was proven time and time again during the course of the season when 15 players went to IR. Because of that talent and depth in the roster, the Packers were able to overcome the injuries and win the Super Bowl.
Heading into this season, the Packers only lost a handful of players from that run. The list of players from 2010 playing elsewhere this year: Cullen Jenkins (Eagles), Nick Barnett (Bills), Brandon Jackson (Browns), Daryn Colledge (Cardinals), Jason Spitz (Jaguars), Korey Hall (Saints) and Brady Poppinga (Rams). Brandon Chillar, Mark Tauscher, Anthony Smith, Atari Bigby, Matt Wilhelm, Justin Harrell and Derrick Martin are currently free agents without a team.
From those names, only Jenkins, Jackson, Colledge, Spitz and Hall were with the team the entire season. All the others were either mid-season pickups or went on IR at some point during the year. The point here is that the Packers found adequate replacements for the rest of the players listed, somewhat nullifying their impact on this year’s roster.
It’s a testament to GM Ted Thompson and his team of scouts, as they have done a terrific job of identifying talent, regardless of which avenue they’ve taken to acquire it.
However, the impressive depth of the Packers 2011 roster could mean that Thompson has to back off a strategy he’s used so well in recent years: keeping an undrafted free agent or two on the 53-man roster.
The lockout robbed many of them of valuable time during summer practices, but it’s also forcing both the UDFA’s and Thompson to make quick evaluations during training camp.
The players have had to learn an entire playbook quickly and still impress coaches with their play on the practice field. As if they were already behind, who do you think lost out the most from Saturday’s rainout at Family Night? These guys. Only the No.1 offense and No. 2 defense got any reps in team action. Typically, the scrimmage is just another critical evaluation period for the bottom of the roster. But that didn’t happen Saturday night, as storms called off the practice just 30 minutes or so in.
That also puts a strain on Thompson, who has been as successful with undrafted free agents as any general manager in the NFL today. He’ll have to make the call on these guys after seeing very limited reps—reps in which the players are just starting to digest and understand an NFL playbook.
It’s been an unusual offseason, to say the least. That could just mean that the no undrafted free agents make the Packers roster.
Let’s quickly run down the undrafted free agents to see if any have a legitimate chance to crack the 53.
WR Diondre Borel (Utah State): The Packers are loaded at receiver, but he may be worth an extra look because he can contribute on special teams. Still, it’s likely practice team or nothing for Borel, a former quarterback at Utah State.
S Anthony Bratton (Delaware): He may have a decent chance at making the 53. The Packers lack depth at safety behind Nick Collins, Morgan Burnett and Charlie Peprah. Bratton will likely have to beat out Anthony Levine to win the fourth safety spot.
DE Chris Donaldson (Oklahoma State): Depth along the defensive line is questionable, too. But Donaldson has a tough hill to climb to unseat any of the incumbents.
G Ray Dominguez (Arkansas): He’s struggled in camp so far, as he’s been forced into switching back-and-forth between guard and tackle. Dominguez will likely have to beat out sixth-rounder Caleb Schlauderaff to win a spot.
C Sampson Genus (South Florida): The Packers could use a young understudy to Scott Wells, but they also have other options at the position. Nick McDonald can play there if necessary, and Evan Dietrich-Smith was the backup towards the end of the season.
WR Tori Gurley (South Carolina): You have to love the frame and athleticism, but where does Gurley fit? The Packers are stacked at receiver. He’s practice squad or bust.
FB Jon Hoese (Minnesota): The only way Hoese makes the team is if the Packers decide to stick to their old way of three fullbacks. I think they have better uses for a roster spot than a third fullback.
S M.D. Jennings (Arkansas State): Like Bratton, Jennings could push for a spot because of a lack of depth at safety. Still, 187-pound safeties don’t usually make NFL rosters.
DE Eli Joseph (Temple): Injuries have kept Joseph out of practice to start camp. That’s a roster death-wish for an undrafted free agent who’s already this far behind.
LB Peanut Jospeh (Temple): Peanut, Eli’s brother, could benefit from the Packers depth issues at inside linebacker. Cardia Jackson and Robert Francois have looked good early in camp, however.
LB Jamari Lattimore (Mid Tenn. State): OLB Frank Zombo stuck last year, giving Lattimore an outside chance of winning a spot if he has a big camp. He’s shown some good things so far.
CB Brandian Ross (Youngstown State): Picking off Aaron Rodgers to start the Family Night scrimmage can’t hurt his cause, but Ross has plenty of competition at cornerback to win a spot. He’ll need to keep making those kind of plays to warrant a look.
RB Brandon Saine (Ohio State): His size and speed combination are worthy of an NFL running back. Saine will need to show something on third down and special teams to convince the Packers to keep an extra back. He’s definitely practice squad material, however.
T Theo Sherman (James Madison): The Packers have needed extra bodies at tackle during camp, but that has more to do with the coaches caution in regards to Bryan Bulaga and Chad Clifton. The emergence of Marshall Newhouse at tackle could eliminate the need to carry an extra one.
WR/KR Shaky Smithson (Utah): He’s slowly become a fan favorite, but Smithson is still a long shot to make the team. If Randall Cobb and Alex Green can handle the returning duties, the Packers won’t need to waste a roster spot on a player who is solely a returner.
LB Vic So’oto (BYU): He’s an interesting pass-rushing prospect, but is he good enough to beat out the likes of Brad Jones or Erik Walden?
WR Kerry Taylor (Arizona State): I like the bloodlines (nephew of 49ers receiving great John Taylor), but like most receivers in camp, how does he fit in? If a guy like Brett Swain, who made the roster last season, is a likely cut, how can a guy like Taylor make the team?——————
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