Projecting the Green Bay Packers' Final 53-Man Roster After Preseason Week 2
Following two preseason games, the Packers’ roster is starting to take shape.
When training camp opened, the roster was fuzzy. The starters and a few key backups were known, but the bubble players had yet to sort themselves out.
Prior to the Aug. 31 final cut-down date, we take a stab at the Packers’ 53-man roster as the regular season is just around the corner.
QB depth chart: Aaron Rodgers, Graham Harrell
It goes without saying that Aaron Rodgers is the starter, and his spot on the roster is secure.
As for the backup to the regular-season MVP, that situation is a little more murky. Graham Harrell is the No. 2 quarterback by default, but his place on the team is not a given.
Following the second preseason game against the Browns in which he completed only 50 percent of his passes and threw two interceptions, the Packers have to seriously consider acquiring a veteran backup to Rodgers.
Who and how the Packers go about finding a replacement for Harrell is still up in air, whether they choose to trade someone or claim a player on waivers.
Harrell still has a chance, however. The Packers have always preferred to stick with their own players. A good performance in the last two exhibition games will go a long way toward Harrell solidifying his role on the team.
RB depth chart: James Starks, Cedric Benson, Alex Green, Brandon Saine
FB: John Kuhn
The addition of Cedric Benson has put the running back position in a state of flux.
Not only is the starting position up for grabs, but so is the amount of halfbacks the Packers keep on their roster.
James Starks was the presumed starter heading into training camp, but after a so-so performance over the past month, he is neither assured of a starting gig nor a roster berth. His turf-toe injury has only clouded the picture.
As long as Cedric Benson doesn’t flop over the course of the next two weeks, it appears as if he’ll be a big part of the Packers offense.
Alex Green was the starter in the Packers’ second preseason game, but whether he can hang onto that job remains to be seen. At the very least, his roster spot should be assured.
Brandon Saine was making a strong push for a role on the team as a backup and potential third-down back before a pulled hamstring has put his future in doubt.
At fullback, John Kuhn is guaranteed of the same job he’s fulfilled for the past several years, but injuries have slowed his start to training camp while recovering from last season’s knee injury and sustaining a sprained ankle more recently.
WR depth chart: Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Donald Driver, Randall Cobb, James Jones, Tori Gurley
There are five wide receivers assured of roster spots on the Packers. The only question is whether they’ll keep six wideouts or possibly even seven.
As the starters, Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson don’t have to worry about making the team. Neither does Randall Cobb whose job return specialist is secure, and his role on offense would appear to be expanding.
Some might argue that Donald Driver is past his prime, but he adds good depth, and his guaranteed contract all but assures he’ll stick with the Packers for another season.
Others have argued that the Packers should trade James Jones, but no one wanted him in free agency a year ago, and the most likely scenario is that he spends another season in Green Bay.
A lot of offseason attention was placed on Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel, but neither has proven to be a can’t-miss, can’t-cut prospect. They’re probably fighting for one spot on the roster.
The Packers have some undrafted rookie wide receivers on their roster highlighted by Dale Moss and Jarrett Boykin, but they’re more likely practice squad candidates.
TE depth chart: Jermichael Finley, D.J. Williams, Tom Crabtree, Ryan Taylor
Jermichael Finley has missed a lot of time during training camp first with a concussion and later with a quad injury, but after signing a contract extension this offseason, his spot on the roster and job as a starter isn’t in jeopardy as long as he’s healthy.
The job D.J. Williams has done during training camp has been remarkable, and he’s really putting himself in a position to be a big-time contributor this season.
Tom Crabtree has struggled catching the ball during training camp, but he remains the best blocking option among the tight ends and should make the team on those merits.
It’s going to be difficult for Ryan Taylor to find much time on offense during the regular season, but his special teams ability probably wins him a roster spot.
*Andrew Quarless predicted to begin the season on the PUP list.
OT depth chart: LT Marshall Newhouse, RT Bryan Bulaga, Reggie Wells, Andrew Datko
Entering 2012 as the unquestioned starter at right tackle and a potential Pro Bowl player is Bryan Bulaga.
Opposite Bulaga at left tackle is Marshall Newhouse who is the safe choice to start if for no other reason than no one else stepping up to challenge him.
Derek Sherrod would be the top backup at either tackle position if it weren’t for a broken leg suffered last season. It’s looking likely, though not a given, that he’ll start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.
Veteran Reggie Wells was recently signed to provide depth along the offensive line, and he’s a good bet to be the top backup tackle until Sherrod returns.
After a slow start to training camp, Andrew Datko has picked up his play of late and could be one of the final players to make the roster. Herb Taylor, who struggled in the first preseason game, appears to be on the outside looking in.
*Derek Sherrod predicted to begin the season on the PUP list.
OG depth chart: LG T.J. Lang, RG Josh Sitton
By recently signing a contract extension with the Packers, T.J. Lang has solidified his standing on the team both this year and for years to come.
Lang joins Sitton who the Packers signed to a contract extension just a year earlier. Together, they make one of the better guard tandems in the NFL.
The top backup at guard is probably Evan Dietrich-Smith who is also the top backup at center, and would enter the game if any of the three interior offensive linemen went down to injury.
Reggie Wells provides depth at both guard and tackle, at least temporarily, as his roster spot would be in question upon the return of Sherrod.
C depth chart: Jeff Saturday, Evan Dietrich-Smith
Once the Packers lost Scott Wells in free agency during the offseason, they had to make a move and acquire a starting center.
Saturday, instead, will protect an All-Pro quarterback in Aaron Rodgers and solidify the position until the Packers find a long-term replacement at center.
For the time being, Evan Dietrich-Smith remains the top backup at both guard and center, and will spell Saturday if anything were to happen to him.
Sampson Genus and Tommie Draheim would appear to be long shots to make the 53-man roster, at least this season.
DL depth chart: RE C.J. Wilson, NT B.J. Raji, LE Ryan Pickett, Jerel Worthy, Mike Daniels, Daniel Muir
Veteran defensive linemen B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett are starters on the Packers' defensive line and are sure-fire bets to make the roster.
Even though he’s not flashy, C.J. Wilson looks like he’ll be a starter at defensive end in the 3-4 base defense and does a good job defending the run even if he’s not much of a threat as a pass-rusher.
Rookies Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels are all but assured of roster spots as players the Packers have invested draft choices into, but as far as playing time goes, they’re going to have to earn it.
The biggest question mark is created by the suspensions to Mike Neal and Anthony Hargrove, each of whom will miss the start of the regular season, unless a court-ordered injunction saves Hargrove. Neither will count against the roster while suspended.
Benefiting from the suspensions to his fellow defensive linemen is Daniel Muir who is setting himself up to win a roster spot, if only temporarily. The Packers will later have to clear room, if, and when, Neal and Hargrove return.
*Mike Neal and Anthony Hargrove predicted to begin the season suspended.
OLB depth chart: ROLB Clay Matthews, LOLB Nick Perry, Brad Jones, Dezman Moses
Clay Matthews might just be the most valuable defensive player on the Packers, so his roster spot is guaranteed. The only question is whether Matthews can get back to the same high level as 2010 when he had 13.5 sacks.
First-round draft choice Nick Perry has been inserted into the starting lineup opposite Matthews, and the only question about the rookie is how productive he can be in his rookie year.
There’s really some uncertainty about how the Packers will handle the suspension of Erik Walden who’s been ruled out of the first game of the regular season. Will the Packers keep an extra player on their roster only to cut him after Week 1 or cut down to 52 players so there’s room for Walden when he comes back?
Undrafted rookie Dezman Moses has played so well during training camp that it would be surprising to see the Packers cut him.
Brad Jones might be a bubble player, but his special teams experience is his biggest asset. He enters the final year of his contract and will be looking to impress.
Vic So’oto isn’t predicted to make the 53-man roster at this point, but he still has practice squad eligibility.
*Erik Walden predicted to begin the season suspended.
ILB depth chart: Buck A.J. Hawk, Mack D.J. Smith, Jamari Lattimore, Rob Francois, Terrell Manning
The uncertainty about the proposed injured reserve rule may have an impact about how the Packers’ 53-man roster shakes out. Under the proposal, a team may designate one player to come off IR after Week 8, but that player can’t be designated until after Week 1.
Desmond Bishop could be a candidate for injured reserve, but until the NFL and the players union determine a course of action, Bishop’s status may remain in limbo.
With Bishop out, at least temporarily, A.J. Hawk’s spot in the starting lineup is certain. He’ll be joined by D.J. Smith who will take Bishop’s place in the lineup.
The backup jobs at inside linebacker are a little more up in the air. Rob Francois has experience on his side after getting a handful of starts last year and grabbing two interceptions.
Jamari Lattimore makes the team because of his ability to play on special teams and gives the Packers the added flexibility of being able to play outside linebacker in a pinch.
The Packers must make a difficult decision about Terrell Manning who they traded up to draft in the fifth round. Manning has done little to make an impression thus far through training camp.
*Desmond Bishop is predicted to be on injured reserve.
CB depth chart: LCB Tramon Williams, RCB Casey Hayward, Davon House, Jarrett Bush, Sam Shields
Tramon Williams is the leader among the cornerbacks. If he played through injury last year, he can do the same this, although the Packers are obviously hoping he gets back to full strength in his shoulder.
The starting spot opposite Williams is up for grabs, and the leader in the clubhouse is rookie Casey Hayward. He has a lot of competition, however, so he’ll he have to play well if he wants to continue to work with the first-team.
Davon House was having a great training camp and has a chance to be a starter, but his injury has clouded the picture. He’s waiting another week or so until the doctors decide whether or not to have surgery on shoulder.
Love him or hate him, Jarrett Bush is guaranteed to make the roster because of his special teams play, but his role on defense is still up in the air.
It’s been a steep drop for Sam Shields who has good cover ability, but has not been a very physical tackler. He’s in the doghouse, and his elbow injury hasn’t helped matters.
SAF depth chart: FS Morgan Burnett, SS Charles Woodson, Jerron McMillian, M.D. Jennings, Sean Richardson
Charles Woodson just as easily could have been listed with the cornerbacks, but no matter where he plays, his job is guaranteed.
The starter alongside Woodson is Morgan Burnett, and he’ll look to fill the void left by Nick Collins and Charlie Peprah.
When Woodson moves to his slot cornerback position in the defensive subpackages, the safety spot is up for grabs, but rookie Jerron McMillian is making a push to win some playing time with physical play during the preseason.
Pushing McMillian is M.D. Jennings who hasn’t exactly looked good during exhibition play, but he has experience on his side.
The biggest roster surprise might be undrafted rookie Sean Richardson who has a good blend of size and speed and can probably contribute on special teams right away if not on defense.
ST depth chart: K Mason Crosby, P Tim Masthay, LS Brett Goode
In 2012, Mason Crosby will look to build off his career-best season in 2011 when he hit more than 80 percent of his field goals for the first time in his career.
Tim Masthay had the best single-season performance by a Packers punter in team history last year, and he’s probably only going to get better.
Through four seasons, Brett Goode has yet to have an errant snap and looks to continue that streak.