Zach Kruse: My Initial Packers 53-man Roster Prediction All Green Bay Packers All the Time

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.


Specialists (3): Mason Crosby, Tim Masthay, Brett Goode

No competition for any of these three this year in camp.


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


48 thoughts on “Zach Kruse: My Initial Packers 53-man Roster Prediction

  1. D.J. Williams will make the team. I could see Crabtree or Quarless getting cut before him. According to some writers Williams has been open a lot, but Flynn and Harrell have not gotten him the ball.

    If Quinn Johnson makes the team I would be very surprised. How often do the packers go big, 5 plays a game? Raji can do what he did last season in a package. You have Kuhn and take your pick from the TEs. Also Johnson is not good on special teams. He should be done this year. Getting rid of him would allow the team to keep an extra WR or and extra CB which are much more important positions.

    Also, put Zombo on the PUP and let a young guy Lattimore or another CB get some reps.

    I know you are just trying to predict what TT will do, not what you think he should do. But I highly doubt DJ williams will get cut.

    But not much different than what I would do as well.

          1. Technically I think the actual distinction is that a player that can’t pass their physical tis allowed to be placed on the PUP. Naturally not being able to pass your physical means you aren’t practicing so really they are the same thing.

    1. D.J. Williams was really hard to keep off my 53. But what has he done to show he belongs? Ryan Taylor has outplayed him. Quarless has a year on him and went into the fire with this team at the Super Bowl. Crabtree is important because he can block. It’s a hard choice either way.

        1. Jay,
          That’s exactly what Andrew Quarless is.. He’s a mini-Finley, except, um, bigger, stronger, and a better blocker.

  2. I think Josh Gordy has a shot at making the roster, especially if Lee and Underwood are released. He seemed to have a good camp. We’ll see I guess.

  3. Agree with nearly all your guesses on O except there’s no way they risk D.J. Williams to the PS. I believe they cut QJohnson, who is way too one dimensional. Taylor will be a blocker in the backfield in the H-Back roll.

    I don’t think Dominquez gets a spot on the 53, but goes to the PS. I don’t know if they pick up a veteran FA as a backup (where are you Tauscher?)

    I think you nailed the D, except I think they keep Underware over Levine based on Brandons athleticism and good early camp b/4 injury.

    FireMMNow, I don’t think Zombo is eligible for the PUP and that he practiced during camp.

    1. I don’t think D.J. Williams would make it through to the practice squad. There’s obviously talent there.

    2. Levine has been injured all camp. I have a hard time seeing him on the final 3. It’s probably Lee vs. Gordy for the 9th DB.

      I think DJ Williams make the cut. Looks like there will be 6 total TE/FB, whether its 5/1 or 4/2 depends on Crabtree vs. Quinn Johnson. That seems like a horse apiece — Crabtree is better on Special Teams and Johnson makes slightly more impact as a blocker.

      You do a good job pointing out that keeping Zombo means 9 LBs. A lot depends on that scapula. Seems like they would have to put Zombo on IR if they wanted 6 WRs.

      Thanks for a good post.

      1. Crabtree has about 6 things that he is better at than Johnson. and Crabtree is guaranteed to play on SP no matter what gameplan we have for the week. I could see Johnson being inactive for about 9 of the 16 games.

        1. Yes, ST is Johnson’s big challenge. But the one thing he is good at is kind of a big thing in short yardage. As you say, tough cuts.

  4. Zach, I’m assuming you’re assuming West will be picked up by another team, and therefore not make it to the Packers P.S.

    Also, are you saying Elmore doesn’t even get a P.S. invitation?

    1. Should have clarified that. Yes, I think Chastin West gets cut, then picked up by another team on waivers. He showed too much in the preseason not to get a roster shot somewhere.

      Why even keep Elmore on the PS? Hasn’t showed anything to make me think he can play OLB. Really tough transition for some guys.

      1. yeah elmore is garbage. We all had hopes for him, but he does not even look close. I mean compare him to where Zombo was last year at this time. And Zombo made the team on a severely sprained ankle. I think Elmore will be a pretty easy cut for TT.

  5. I think Chastin West stays. Either by Zombo on IR, or Quinn Johnson getting cut. I’m not saying we don’t need Johnson, but if we are going into more no huddle then at most you need a blocking RB and Alex Green I think can be that man. For what it looks like they are doing, 1 FB is enough and Green can be the Backup FB and 3rd String RB.

    1. There’s a strong case for keeping West, for sure. No way Zombo goes on IR, he’ll be back this season. It was just hard for me to go from 3 FB’s to just 1 this season. Guess this offense is evolving though.

  6. I’m really struggling with keeping a 3rd QB, especially Graham Harrell, on the 53. I’m going to go out on a not so risky limb here and predict Harrell will never win a regular season game in his NFL career and never make a meaningful contribution to a regular season win as an NFL QB. He has no velocity (throwing for distance and velocity after release are radically different) and can’t make any throws to the deep/intermediate 1/3rd of the field, especially if forced outside the hashes, that a starting DB can’t see coming a mile away.

    This is a playoff team that will get spread out by the better QB’s in the playoffs. I would rather keep one of my rangy (but bubble) DB’s like Levine, Underwood or Gordy) and let them grow anticipating attrition as the year nears the playoffs.

    I can see the dilemma without an offseason that Harrell is familiar and you need to groom ‘somebody’ in the event you lose Flynn, but he’s just not that guy, nor is he worth the spot on a limited 53 considering the return on investment you get.

    I say expose him to waivers, get him on the PS if he clears. If not, who cares. He ain’t winning you anything on the 53 of a playoff team.

    1. Given concussion rules its much more likely that your 3rd QB winds up on the active roster sometime during the season. Who do you want that to be? Driver? Cobbb? Some guy off the street?

      The hard thing would be to lose Harrell on waivers this year and Flynn to FA next.

      The question is if you are seriously contending over the next few years, how can you not guarantee your QB depth. The last few cuts are going to be tremendously hard to do.

      1. Simple question: Should they burn through Rodgers and Flynn due to injuries and you’re now starting Graham Harrell are you making the playoffs? If you’re already in when these unfortunate events take place, are you advancing?

        No. No you’re not.

        There are few backups in the league capable of being ‘serviceable’ starters, and none of them can take you on a playoff run in a QB driven league.

        1. I cannot believe you would rather keep underwood than Harrell. The job of a backup QB is not to win you the Super Bowl, it is to execute the gameplan for a couple weeks while your starter gets back. If we cut Harrell, next season Flynn leaves and we are back looking for another QB late in the draft. Guess who we get late in the draft…guys like underwood, levine etc. So you lose those types of players no matter what. Harrell definitely looks like he could hold his own for two games against the mediocre NFL teams. Is Dalton and Newton better than Harrell at this point? I do not think so. You are not asking you backup to carry you, you just want them to guarantee you a loss.

          1. “Is Dalton and Newton better than Harrell at this point?”

            Yes. Both can make throws physically that Harrell cannot now nor will not in the future. It’s not even a debate.

            1. I guess we will just disagree on that point. Harrell has outplayed both of those guys. You know the throw that Newton and Dalton cannot make yet, the one Harrell made to tie the game last week. Escape the pocket, have the presence of mind to step back from the line of scrimmage in the face of a D-lineman and hit his TE on 4th down. A guy like that can operate very well in the frame of simplified offense with weapons around him. Having the physical tools is half of it, but that does not do you any good unless you are accurate, can read cover and pressure.

            2. As a Packer fan living in the SF Bay Area ask me this, “Is Graham Harrell better than Alex Smith at this point”? It would be very hard to say “No”! Harrell is NOT going to win you the SB, but he has been successful moving the ball down field, far more successful than has Alex Smith of the Niners (stupid saps coulda, woulda, shoulda) but we’re happy they didn’t!!
              And Zack, I agree on most of your roster, but I think B. Jones, Q. Johnson, and J. Bush could gone in favor of the younger guys. D.J. Williams makes the team, watch the film, he’s been the victim of poor throws, especially in the Colts game. And just what has B. Jones done lately? And Bush, well, Bush is Bush, nuff said. And I think Ryan Taylor could possibly double as a blocking back so therefore Johnson’s in trouble. We’ll see.
              And hey, what kinda P.U.P. are you holdin’?

        2. Well if Rodgers and Flynn go out with injury you sure aren’t going to win with Brandon Underwood

    2. While I agree that Harrell wouldn’t win you anything if pressed into action, keeping Harrell is really a move for next year, not this year. Ted is always looking ahead…

      1. And he’s shown you enough to believe he can either grow more or come in next year as Rodgers back-up? I was happy for him last week, but he’s just so limited, even as a back-up. They’re due to take a QB in next years draft with Flynn’s departure.

        I don’t hate the guy, but when you isolate his play and look at what he does it just isn’t pretty, sometimes not even serviceable.

        1. CSS says, “I don’t hate the guy, but when you isolate his play and look at what he does it just isn’t pretty”.
          During training camp of his second season, Brett Favre wasn’t “Pretty”!!!!!

  7. Couple of tid bits that may influence the discussion. Driver is out tomorrow getting injections for SB related injury. Hadn’t heard that one before.

    How deep into the season do Zombo and Neal go before returning? I think some medical info on these guys is yet to be released. I think it’s Monday or Tueday of next week before they have to release the injury report. For being A ok, Neal has sure been invisible. I am official worried. Has anything been said about CJ’s Concussion rehab? Haven’t seen or heard yet. And Finley and Cobb are out again. Hope that’s just a statement on the game.

    TE’s Cut Crabtree and Qarles Add Williamds

    WR’s Add West

    RB’s Cut Johnson

    Oline Cut Domingeuz Add some one from the waver wire.

    Dline needs to determine what to do if Neal and CJ are not able to perform. Anymore Howard Green’s walking around out there?

    1. CJ was back at practice on Monday I thought.

      The MRI said Neal did not have any structural damage, but had swelling and fluid in his knee.

      That sucks if DD is having issues with his SB injury.

    2. Also what’s up with Jones injury. Do we know the severity of that? So already our vaunted receiving core has the following injuries: DD (ankle problems), Jennings (knee bruise), Jones (supposed knee bruise, but really something weird), Nelson (see Jones), Cobb (two knee bruises). I getting the feeling they keep 6 WR’s after all.

      I think Neals injury was not a bruise but a tear (the only question is how bad of one).

      1. Interesting point regarding WR’s injury. Might force the team to at least start the season with 6 WR’s.

        1. I wouldn’t get too excited about injections. I get 4″ needles shoved into my spine annually to alleviate the pain of a 40 yr old spinal fusion, mostly caused by scar tissue. It could be nothin’, it could be problems, the injections take about a week to reach full strength so it could be precautionary. BUT, Goodbye Quinn Johnson, Hello Chastin West!

  8. If I HAD to pick a surprise cut, it’d be Ryan Grant.

    I don’t think it will come to that, because TT and MM will want to show loyalty to Grant and he has been a great player for the Packers.. but his performance thus far in camp and particularly in games hasn’t been great. Maybe he’ll shine in the last game (assuming MM calls run like crazy).

    But I could see the unthinkable happening, Grant getting cut, and Dimitri Nance getting the nod as the #3 RB on the depth chart.

    Also, if Quinn Johnson makes this team, there is a serious injustice being perpetrated on many young guys on this roster. Johnson will be a very successful player on a power gap running team, where he gets told to annihilate anyone in this gap, or he’s given a number to block. He’s not very good at diagnosing and adjusting on the fly, and he’s pretty horrible in open space. Not good for a zone-blocking scheme.. And, as already noted, he’s useless on STs.

    1. Essentially Grant has paid his way onto the roster, I think the Packers have committed too much money and are getting too good of a deal to let Grant go. I would say its highly likely that Grant will be gone next year but definitely not this year.

      1. I understand conventional wisdom amongst fans: Grant is Guaranteed 2.5 million regardless if he makes the roster or not- therefore, the Packers would be crazy to cut him.

        But does it make sense to spend 2.5 million, and then keep what may be an inferior product with limited years left? Or, for less than 500,000 dollars more this season, keep a very young back with potentially more upside?

        Again, I get the conventional thought process. But if you step outside the box, does it make sense to make a short term and/or long term roster mistake because you spent 2.5 million… when you could spend just under 3 million and keep a potentially more talented player with years and years of his career in front of him?

        Not saying this is how it will go down, but if the talent/production evaluation favors Nance, It seems the far more business savvy decision to take the 2.5 million hit and make the smart personnel move.

        1. Personally I don’t think Nance is worth a $3.75 million dollar cut, then again I’m not entirely sure why people are so down on Ryan Grant, he’s proven that he can produce, he’s not the feature back anymore so its going to be a little easier on him this year and his salary really not that much, James Jones is making about $3 million a year and he might be the 4th wide receiver. Between Nance and Saine I’d probably pick Saine and I’m pretty sure he’ll get past waivers and get signed to the practice squad

  9. Sorry, but are you retarded? There’s no way that Quinn Johnson will make it over wiliams!

  10. Zach, sorry for misspelling your name the 1st time.
    Wouldn’t you agree that TT seems to like ‘potential’ over ‘experience’ on the younger guys, therefore keeping a rookie or 1st yr guy with potential over someone like a Bush or a Johnson? Your proposed “roster” doesn’t reflect that.

  11. Not too bad a list but I see Johnson cut at FB with possibility of Taylor or Crabtree taking that spot on limited basis of plays used. Possible West makes starting line-up but I don’t see him and Gurley both making it. Zombo’s injury isn’t severe and that makes DJ Williams a casualty for the PSquad instead of the roster. Not sure the Packers will go with 3QB’s on the roster but Thompson apparently doesn’t want to lose Harrell though he’s not ready to lead the team and Flynn’s the man if Rodgers goes down–this is a big decision for Packers.

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