Predicting the Final Green Bay Packers 2012 53-Man Roster

Ben ChodosCorrespondent IIMay 15, 2012

Predicting the Final Green Bay Packers 2012 53-Man Roster

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    The Green Bay Packers have a lot of talent on their team, and it will not be easy to whittle the roster down to just 53 men.

    That's what Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy and the rest of the Packers' brass will have to do before September.

    Some players on the current active roster are shoo-ins for the final squad while some are on the bubble, and others are long shots.

    Here are the players who will be suiting up for Green Bay at the start of the regular season.

Quarterbacks

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    The Starter: Aaron Rodgers

    Rodgers is the reigning MVP, and his skills may still be on the rise. There's no player in the NFL with a brighter future, and Cheeseheads everywhere cannot wait to see what Rodgers has in store for them.

     

    The Backups: Graham Harrell, B.J. Coleman

    Harrell spent most of last season on the practice squad but has the most experience with Mike McCarthy's system out of all the passers behind Rodgers.

    Coleman was a seventh-round pick with all the physical tools to be a solid backup, but he will need time to develop.

Running Backs

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    The Starter: James Starks

    Starks had an incredible stretch of games in the 2010 playoffs but failed to continue that form into the 2011 season. He split time with Ryan Grant and left a lot to be desired.

    With Grant still a free agent, the starting role may go to Starks and fans hope he can deliver.

     

    The Backups: Alex Green, Brandon Saine

    Starks is a load at 6'2" and 218 pounds, and the Packers need speedy backs to complement him. Both Green and Saine fit this description and are also excellent pass-catchers. 

    These two runners give Green Bay big-play potential out of the backfield and are excellent outlets for Aaron Rodgers when his receivers fail to get open.

    Unfortunately, this leaves no room for Grant on the 2012 final roster. After a couple of disappointing seasons, Grant's days as a Packer will come to an end this offseason.

Fullbacks

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    The Starter: John Kuhn

    The Green Bay Packers have used several fullbacks over the past few seasons, but John Kuhn has continually stood out at the position.

    He's a fan favorite for his selfless attitude and blue-collar work ethic. These qualities have also made him an consummate lead blocker and short-yardage runner. 

    Kuhn has been willing to lay his body on the line for the team since his first day at Lambeau Field, and no other fullback is needed on the roster.

Tight Ends

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    The Starter: Jermichael Finley

    Finley is a special talent with the size to terrorize defensive backs and the speed to blow by linebackers. He has had some problems with drops, but when focused, he's one of the top tight ends in the league.

    The Green Bay Packers rewarded Finley with a new two-year contract this offseason, and they will expect big things from him in 2012.

     

    The Backups: Tom Crabtree, Ryan Taylor, D.J. Williams

    These three players proved last season that they were willing to do whatever it takes to earn a spot of the team. They all made contributions on special teams and stuck their noses in as run blockers.

    Their toughness and lack of ego make them great fits in Green Bay.

    While it may be a little unorthodox to keep four tight ends on the roster, Ted Thompson has showed that he's willing to go against tradition to reward players who play the game the right way. He kept five tight ends on the 2011 squad.

    This will be the second year in a row that the Packers have extra tight ends on the final 53-man squad.

Wide Receivers

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    The Starters: Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson

    Jennings is one of the best receivers in the league, and Nelson emerged as an elite deep threat last season. These two form one of the most dangerous starting-receiver tandems in the NFL, and they will continue to terrorize defensive backs in 2012.

     

    The Backups: Randall Cobb, James Jones, Donald Driver

    This may be the year that Randall Cobb emerges as a major part of the Packers offense. He's smart, versatile and absolutely electric in the open field. He has the potential to be one of the best slot receivers in the game and could start on that path this season.

    Jones is a good player who will continue to be overshadowed by more talented teammates. But Aaron Rodgers spreads the ball around as well as any quarterback in the league, so Jones will still get his touches.

    Driver will occupy the last receiver slot. He's 37 years old but still can be productive in a limited role. His main contribution will come as a locker room presence, as he's a leader who is universally respected by his teammates.

Tackles

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    The Starters: Bryan Bulaga, Marshall Newhosue

    Bulaga took a big step forward last season and proved to be one of the better right tackles in the league. He will continue to protect the right side this season, and at just 23 years old, he should keep getting better.

    Marshall Newhouse and Derek Sherrod will compete for the starting job at left tackle this offseason. 

    Newhouse has the experience after starting 12 regular-season games at the position and should be the starter for Week 1.

     

    The Backups: Derek Sherrod, Andrew Datko 

    Sherrod, the team's first-round pick in 2011, has plenty talent. An injury set him back last year, but he could be ready for a breakout performance in 2012. 

    Datko was taken in the seventh round of this year's draft. Some felt that he could have much higher if not for injury problems. He was a four-year starter at Florida State, and if he stays healthy, he will be a serviceable backup.

Guards

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    The Starters: Josh Sitton, T.J. Lang

    Sitton is a mammoth of a man and gives the Green Bay Packers an edge on the offensive line. His power and consistency make him one of the better guards league-wide.

    Lang, a converted tackle, has taken well to playing on the inside. He improved each game during last season and will continue to get better next year. By the end of 2012, this pair could be mentioned as one of the top guard tandems in the NFL.

     

    The Backups: Evan Dietrich-Smith, Ray Dominguez

    Dietrich-Smith is best known for getting stomped on by Ndamukong Suh, but his solid contributions as a reserve last season went mostly unnoticed. The 25-year-old will continue to quietly do his job in the trenches.

    Dominguez was signed as an undrafted free agent to the Packers practice squad last year but was called up after injuries to a few lineman. He's another converted tackle with excellent. With a bit more experience, he too can become a reliable backup.

Centers

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    The Starter: Jeff Saturday

    The Green Bay Packers lost Pro Bowl center Scott Wells to free agency but immediately addressed their need at center by signing Saturday.

    Saturday has been an All-Pro four times in his career while playing with the Colts, and his veteran savvy will be a major asset for the Packers' offensive line.

     

    The Backup: Sampson Genus

    There's very little depth behind Saturday at center, with Genus and Tommie Draheim being the only other players on the roster.

    The team will likely keep a backup on the active roster, and Genus has some experience with team after spending last year on the practice squad. 

Defensive Tackles

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    The Starter: B.J. Raji

    Raji is a remarkable athlete for a man his size, making him a perfect fir in Dom Capers' defense. He has the size and strength to play nose tackle in a base 3-4 scheme and the athleticism to rush the passer in the nickel package.

    His play suffered last season due to a lack of help from the other rushers, but the the Green Bay Packers reloaded in the draft, and Raji could emerge as an elite player at his position this year.

     

    The Backup: Ryan Pickett

    Pickett is also a starting defensive end, but if something were to happen to Raji, he's the only other player on the roster with the size and skill set to play nose tackle.

    Pickett played in the middle of the line during Raji's rookie year, but the coaching staff had the two players swap positions for the 2010 season, and it worked wonders. 

    Pickett has proven that he can play nose tackle, and if called upon, he can fill in and be successful.

Defensive Ends

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    The Starters: Ryan Pickett, Jerel Worthy

    Pickett is a solid veteran who has been a fixture along the Green Bay Packers' defensive line since being signed in 2006. He takes up a ton of space and plays physically; his contribution to the defense over the past few seasons is easy to overlook but has been immensely valuable.

    Worthy will be called upon to help restore order to the pass rush after a dismal year in 2011. Both C.J. Wilson and Jarius Wynn failed to make any sort of impact from the defensive end position, causing the Packers' coaching staff to make a bold move and jump up a few picks and take Worthy. 

    Cheeseheads will be eagerly watching to see if Worthy can live up to the hype and make the Packers pass rush respectable again.

     

    The Backups: Anthony Hargrove, Mike Neal, Mike Daniels, Jarius Wynn, Lawrence Guy

    General manager Ted Thompson will load up on defensive ends this year in hopes of ensuring a productive pass rush.

    Anthony Hargrove and Mike Neal both have ideal skill sets to rush the passer out from a three-technique, but they will have to serve suspensions before they can prove anything. Neal will also have to avoid the injuries which have plagued his NFL career thus far.

    Daniels is a relentless pass-rusher who was taken in the fourth round of this year's draft. He has a non-stop motor, but he's undersized for the position. His playing time will likely be limited to obvious passing downs only.

    Wynn's substandard 2011 campaign will see him relegated to the back of the rotation while Wilson will be cut in order to make room for Guy.

    Guy was picked in the seventh round of the 2010 draft but ended last season on injured reserve. With a clean bill of health going into training camp, he has the size and skills to earn a spot on the roster.

Middle Linebackers

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    The Starters: Desmond Bishop, A.J. Hawk

    Bishop and Hawk formed a serviceable tandem in the heart of the Green Bay Packers defense last season.

    Bishop was the better of the two, occasionally flashing the ability to make a spectacular play.

    Hawk has been very reliable and consistent throughout his career but has never shown that he can be anything more than that.

     

    The Backups: D.J. Smith, Terrell Manning

    The future middle linebackers for the Packers are waiting in the wings.

    Smith and Manning are both late-round picks who moved from outside linebacker to the middle for the Packers. 

    The two players are ball hawks who play with a mean streak. They are exceptional athletes and have shown the commitment and work ethic necessary to make it in Green Bay.

    It won't be too long before one or both of these guys breaks into the starting lineup.

Outside Linebackers

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    The Starters: Clay Matthews, Nick Perry

    Clay Matthews has been an elite pass-rusher at the 3-4 outside linebacker position since being drafted by the Green Bay Packers in 2009. But fans have always asked the questions: how good could he be with help on the other side?

    In 2012, fans will have their answer. The Packers took Nick Perry, another USC Trojan, with their first pick in the draft. He will line up opposite Matthews, and the two should wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks all year long.

     

    The Backups: Erik Walden, Vic So'oto

    Walden started last year at outside linebacker but failed to produce. He's a serviceable backup due to his experience, but he proved conclusively that his best role is as a reserve.

    So'oto is a converted tight end who had a spectacular preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs in 2011 but did not see the field much in the regular season.

    He's talented but still has a lot to learn. His raw skills will earn him a place on the 53-man squad.


Cornerbacks

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    The Starters: Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams

    Despite a historically awful year in 2011, Woodson and Williams still make up one of the best cornerback tandems in the league.

    Between Nick Collins' injury and a complete failure by the front seven to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks, the Green Bay Packers' secondary was given a difficult task last season. In 2012, they will have had time to adjust to the changes and will have a much better year.

    These veterans simply won't allow the defensive backs to perform as badly as they did last year.

     

    The Backups: Sam Shields, Casey Hayward, Jarrett Bush

    Shields will be a de facto starter if the Packers continue to use their nickel package as much as they have in the past. This allows him to utilize his elite speed and guard receivers out on the edge.

    Shields' play dipped last year after a solid rookie season. Hopefully, he can buck his sophomore slump and have a productive 2012 season.

    Hayward was taken in the second round of this year's draft, and the team has high hopes for him. He will have to work for playing time, but he will have more than enough opportunity to prove himself in nickel and dime packages.

    Bush can be laughably bad in coverage at times, but he's a special teams ace. His skills in punt and kick coverage are invaluable, and they make up for his lack of ability to play cornerback.

Safeties

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    The Starters: Morgan Burnett, Charlie Peprah

    Burnett continued to improve throughout last season and showed exceptional toughness when he played a few games with a cast on his arm. 

    He's a versatile player with the ability to play strong or free safety. He's big, fast, a good tackler and shows the ability to make a play on the ball. He will be in the Green Bay Packers' starting lineup for many years to come.

    Peprah was arguably the weakest link in the the Green Bay secondary last season, and will need to have a better showing in 2012. He was often lost in coverage and will need to improve his discipline and focus.

     

    The Backups: M.D. Jennings, Jerron McMillian

    Jennings was brought on as an undrafted free agent last season and did not see much playing time. He has excellent coverage skills but is undersized for a safety, causing concerns about his tackling abilities.

    McMillian was taken in the fourth round of this year's draft, and unlike Jennings, he has prototypical size for a safety. He packs a punch when he tackles but is a very raw prospect with questionable cover skills.

    Both players have incomplete skill sets and will likely spend the 2012 season on the bench.

Kicker

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    The Starter: Mason Crosby

    Crosby signed a big contract before last season and lived up to the pressure by having an excellent year.

    He made 24 of his 28 field goals and ranked third in the league in touchbacks. 

    At just 27 years old, Crosby will be with the team for a very long time if he keeps kicking like he did last season.

Punter

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    The Starter: Tim Masthay

    The Green Bay Packers have gone through several punters in the last few seasons, but Tim Masthay has the potential to earn a permanent spot on the team.

    His name did not get mentioned much last year, which is a good thing for a punter.

    Masthay did his job last year and did it well. As long as he can do that again, he will have a spot on the roster.