The Green Bay Packers took their roster down to 53 players on Saturday, and a few of the players released were somewhat surprising. Some examples are Matthew Mulligan, D.J. Williams, Alex Green and Terrell Manning.
Williams (fifth-round) and Green (third-round) were part of the 2011 draft class for the Packers, while Manning (fifth-round) was part of the 2012 draft class.
The Packers aren't done yet, either. They may have made a claim on some other players who were waived by other teams in the NFL yesterday. The Packers have already signed former Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Scott Tolzien to their practice squad, after he was released by the San Francisco 49ers.
Plus the Packers will be adding seven other players to their practice squad later on Sunday.
Let's take a look at the roster as it stands right now and assign grades and an overview of the players in a specific group.
Scott Tolzien (practice squad)
The grade for the overall position is an A, only because of the excellent play by Aaron Rodgers over the past few years. You have to give the Packers some credit in terms of trying to get at least an adequate backup for Rodgers.
Cutting Graham Harrell and also signing and then cutting Vince Young tells you that the Packers are still looking for reliable and productive backup behind Rodgers.
Scott Tolzien could be that guy, as he and B.J. Coleman might be trading places if the the former Badger looks good in practice this week. If nothing else, Tolzien will have a lot of information on the San Francisco 49ers, with whom he has been with for the past two years.
The Packers open their season in San Francisco on September 8.
The Packers like what they saw of Eddie Lacy this preseason, and he will open the season with the first-team offense. Behind him will be James Starks, who finally had an injury-free training camp, and that fact helped Starks to win a roster spot instead of Alex Green, who was cut yesterday.
Rookie Johnathan Franklin did not have a good overall training camp, but he looked much better in the final preseason game, except for a couple of bad blocks in blitz pickups.
Fullback John Kuhn looks to be the back used primarily on third down, because of his blocking and receiving skills.
Even after the losses this offseason with Donald Driver retiring and Greg Jennings leaving via free agency, the Packers still have the Big Three. I'm talking about Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and James Jones. The three combined for 193 receptions for 2,483 yards and 29 touchdowns last season.
Jarrett Boykin claimed the fourth-receiver slot, while Jeremy Ross will be the fifth receiver, as well as being the primary kick returner.
The good news for the Packers is that Jermichael Finley looks like he is going to have a great year in 2013. The backup situation is not as favorable.
First, the Packers surprisingly cut Matthew Mulligan and D.J. Williams. Mulligan was particularly shocking, because he is such a good run-blocking tight end.
Instead, the Packers will use Andrew Quarless in that role. Ryan Taylor made the team mostly because of his special teams prowess, while Brandon Bostick is probably the most athletic tight end on the team except for Finley.
Greg Van Roten
The Packers certainly didn't expect to see left tackle Bryan Bulaga go down for the season with an ACL injury on their Family Night scrimmage. That injury has had a couple of implications.
For one, rookie David Bakhtiari moved over from right tackle to left tackle to take Bulaga's old job. So far, so good with the rookie from Colorado overall.
The coaches then gave second-year offensive lineman Don Barclay a shot at the right tackle job, after looking at him primarily on the inside (guard and center) earlier in camp. Barclay started six games (including the postseason) at right tackle in 2012.
Marshall Newhouse will be the backup at the tackle position, while former first-round pick Derek Sherrod is on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list and isn't eligible to play until after Week 6, if he is deemed healthy enough by the medical staff to play.
Evan Dietrich-Smith is back at center, while Greg Van Roten will be his backup.
The starters at guard will be Josh Sitton at left guard and T.J. Lang at right guard. Undrafted rookie Lane Taylor will be the backup at guard.
* Also plays outside linebacker
Most people expected the Packers to keep six defensive linemen, but the team kept eight instead. The surprise addition was rookie fifth-round pick Josh Boyd.
Another surprise in many ways was the addition of veteran Johnny Jolly, who hadn't played since 2009 because of a suspension for violation of the NFL's substance-abuse policy.
Jolly had some rust, but he also looked very similar to the player he was in 2009, when the Packers had the No. 1 run defense in the NFL.
The Packers hope that rookie first-round pick Datone Jones is soon completely healthy from his sprained ankle. Before the injury, Jones was very quick at the snap and to the ball.
With B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett and C.J. Wilson, you have three players who are very effective versus the run.
Mike Daniels and especially Mike Neal have had their moments when it's time to rush the passer. Neal will also see some time at outside linebacker in passing situations.
* Also plays defensive end
The Packers had a couple of surprise cuts yesterday at the linebacker position when they let go of Dezman Moses and Terrell Manning. Moses was hampered by a turf-toe injury, while Manning was outplayed in camp by others.
The four starters from right to left will be Clay Matthews, Brad Jones, A.J. Hawk and Nick Perry. Matthews has been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his four years in the NFL. Perry is looking to have a breakout year on the other side at left outside linebacker.
Rookies Nate Palmer and Andy Mulumba will backup at outside linebacker, while the team has also had Mike Neal getting some reps there.
Hawk and Jones led the linebackers in tackles last season, but both players need to make or cause more turnovers. The backups at inside linebacker will be Robert Francois, Jamari Lattimore and rookie Sam Barrington.
Francois and Lattimore are exceptional on special teams.
The Packers certainly have some question marks at the safety position. Morgan Burnett has been hampered by a hamstring injury, and his status for the opening game against the 49ers is unknown.
Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings have had a spirited battle in training camp to win the other starting safety spot, but neither player has separated himself from the other.
Undrafted rookie Chris Banjo made the team because he hit anything that moved in practice and in games.
Sean Richardson is on the PUP list (neck). The star of training camp this year, defensive back Micah Hyde, is a possibility to play at safety as well, as he has played the position in the past at Iowa.
The current group of cornerbacks might be the deepest and most talented group the Packers have had in a couple of years. That is really saying something, especially with the loss of veteran Charles Woodson.
Tramon Williams has been hampered by a knee injury throughout camp, but he picked off a pass in his only play from scrimmage. The Packers want to see the Williams of 2010, as opposed to the Williams of 2011 and 2012 who was playing with nerve damage in his shoulder.
Sam Shields has had a great camp and is trying his best to get a long-term deal done with the club. A productive season will do just that.
Casey Hayward had a great rookie season in 2012, when he picked off six passes and played the slot-corner position very well. He, too, has been hampered by hamstring issues, but he will be on the field when he's healthy.
Davon House won the starting cornerback position last year opposite Williams early in camp, only to injure his shoulder in the first preseason game. House had to wear a harness all season long in 2012. He had a tough start in camp but has come on strong as of late.
The talk of the defensive backfield this training camp has been rookie Micah Hyde. Hyde is not fast, but he is very instinctive and alert. He is also a good tackler and has held down the slot-corner position while Hayward has been out with the hamstring injury.
Jarrett Bush made the Packers because he comes to play every day and is probably the team's best tackler on special teams.
Kicker- Mason Crosby
Punter- Tim Masthay
Long Snapper- Brett Goode
Returners- Jeremy Ross and Micah Hyde
The Packers have looked at three other kickers (Giorgio Tavecchio, Zach Ramirez and Havard "Kickalicious" Rugland), but it looks as if incumbent Mason Crosby has held on to his kicking job after having a strong camp overall, even with having a couple of tough days this summer.
At least the team has some options if Crosby falters during the season. Crosby looked more like the 85.7 percent field-goal kicker from 2011, as opposed to the 63.6 percent field-goal kicker from 2012 in camp this summer.
Masthay has become one of the better punters in the NFL.
Goode is also among the very best at his position.
The Packers will be looking at Jeremy Ross and perhaps rookie Micah Hyde in the return game this year, as the team wants Randall Cobb to focus on his primary job as wide receiver for the Packers.
Except for his costly fumble on a punt return in the postseason versus the 49ers, Ross looked very good as both a kickoff and punt returner in the small window he performed those duties last season.
Hyde has sure hands, plus he had two years of experience returning punts at Iowa.