Grading the Green Bay Packers' Final 53-Man Roster
When the Green Bay Packers finalized their 2014 53-man roster on Saturday, I can't say I was too astonished. The roster was set up the way I thought it would be, although a couple of the roster spots awarded were a bit surprising.
Maybe the biggest surprise of the whole weekend was that the Packers signed 10 of their own training camp players to their practice squad. Normally the Packers have signed a few of their own players in the past but have also brought in players who were with different teams during the summer.
It tells you that Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy believe there is a lot of talent and depth on the team.
The 10 players that the Packers put on the practice squad Sunday were wide receivers Myles White, Kevin Dorsey and Alex Gillett, running back Michael Hill, tight end Justin Perrillo, center Garth Gerhart, offensive tackle Jeremy Vujnovich, defensive lineman Luther Robinson, linebacker Adrian Hubbard and safety Chris Banjo.
On Monday, the Packers released Gillett from the practice squad and brought back cornerback Jumal Rolle.
The Packers also posted their depth chart on Packers.com.
I see this team as being a definite contender for winning the Super Bowl.
I'm going to grade how each of the units fared for the Packers after the roster was cut down to the 53-man level.
This is the best group of quarterbacks that the Packers have assembled since Aaron Rodgers became a starter in 2008. Matt Flynn was around for four-and-a-half of those years but never have the Packers had a third-string quarterback as good as Scott Tolzien.
Rodgers is one of the very best quarterbacks in the NFL, if not the best. No. 12 also has the talent around him to win a second NFL MVP award, while his backups are top notch.
Flynn has proven that over the course of his career in Green Bay, while Tolzien is coming off a preseason in which he had a 112.0 passer rating.
Running Back: Eddie Lacy
Running Back: James Starks
Running Back: DuJuan Harris
Fullback: John Kuhn
This is also the best backfield the Packers have had in quite some time. Eddie Lacy is poised to improve on his 2013 season, in which he won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
The hard-charging James Starks also had a nice campaign last season (493 rushing yards) and he has the ability to take it to the house on occasion.
DuJuan Harris was the Packers' best running back in 2012 but injuries made him miss all of last season. No. 26 looks to be a great option at times for the team to use in both the running and passing game at times.
John Kuhn knows the offense of the Packers almost as well as Rodgers does. He does the little things on third down to make sure the play is successful. Whether that means running, receiving or blocking.
It's almost hard to believe that I would still give the Packers such a high grade after losing receivers like Donald Driver, Greg Jennings and James Jones over the past couple of seasons.
But when you have Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Jarrett Boykin as your top three wide receivers, it's still a very talented group. I would not be surprised to see these three receivers have over 200 receptions for close to 3,000 yards and over 20 touchdowns combined in 2014.
There is a lot of talent behind those three as well with rookies Davante Adams and Jeff Janis on the roster. Another rookie, Jared Abbrederis probably would have made the roster had he not suffered a season-ending knee injury.
One of the surprises to me was Jake Stoneburner not making the team. The former Ohio State Buckeye had a nice training camp, but it couldn't help him garner a roster spot.
Richard Rodgers had a nice camp as well, and it has earned him the status of starter as of the moment. That might change when Brandon Bostick returns from his knee injury, but for now Rodgers has shown excellent hands and adequate blocking.
Andrew Quarless has started 15 games in his career in Green Bay and played pretty solidly late in the 2013 season.
Ryan Taylor probably made the team more because of his special teams prowess more than anything else.
Left Tackle: David Bakhtiari
Left Guard: Josh Sitton
Center: Corey Linsley
Right Guard: T.J. Lang
Right Tackle: Bryan Bulaga
Tackle: Derek Sherrod
Guard: Lane Taylor
Center: JC Tretter
No real shocks here. The Packers are gambling a bit at center, because J.C. Tretter is supposed to be sidelined for a number of weeks. That means the rookie Corey Linsley has to hold down the fort. Most observers feel that No. 63 will do just that.
If Linsley was injured, the backup center would either be T.J. Lang or Josh Sitton, who are both very accomplished at their particular positions. Sitton has been one of the best in the NFL for a couple of years now, while Lang had his best season in 2013.
The backup at guard is Lane Taylor.
The Packers should be fine at both left and right tackle. David Bakhtiari continues to look good protecting Aaron Rodgers' blindside, while Bulaga has had a very strong camp coming back from an ACL injury last season.
Backing up the tackles will be former first-rounder Derek Sherrod. Sherrod has been up and down this summer with his performance, but he has shown enough ability to be a much better option as opposed to someone like Marshall Newhouse, who was the swing tackle last season.
Bottom line, if the line can stay relatively healthy, this line might be the best one the team has had in over a decade.
Defensive End: Datone Jones
Nose Tackle: Letroy Guion
Defensive End: Mike Daniels
Defensive End: Josh Boyd
Nose Tackle: Mike Pennel
The Packers were a bit light in terms of depth on the defensive line, but not when you figure in that players like Julius Peppers, Mike Neal and Nick Perry will all get some time on the defensive line in certain schemes.
Mike Daniels looks poised to have a very nice season, similar or better to the year he had in 2013. Datone Jones needs to be like a lot of players in their second year with the team when the light seems to go on regarding their production and performance.
Thanks to the torn bicep suffered by nose tackle B.J. Raji, the Packers are going to use Letroy Guion and Mike Pennel in that spot in their base 3-4 scheme.
The Packers did an adequate job of stopping the run this preseason.
That being said, the Packers only utilize their 3-4 base unit about a quarter of the time defensively. More times than not, the Packers will either be in the nickel (five defensive backs) or dime (six defensive backs) looks.
Outside Linebacker: Clay Matthews
Inside Linebacker: A.J. Hawk
Inside Linebacker: Brad Jones
Outside Linebacker: Julius Peppers
Outside Linebacker: Mike Neal
Outside Linebacker: Nick Perry
Inside Linebacker: Sam Barrington
Inside Linebacker: Jamari Lattimore
Outside Linebacker: Andy Mulumba
Outside Linebacker: Jayrone Elliott
Inside Linebacker: Carl Bradford
The fact that the Packers kept 11 players at linebacker on the final roster, tells you that the team likes the talent and potential with this group.
The Packers should be exceptional at outside linebacker with Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers as bookends. Plus, both Mike Neal and Nick Perry are two very talented backups.
Andy Mulumba made the team as an undrafted rookie outside linebacker in 2013, much like Jayrone Elliott did this year with his strong preseason.
The starters on the inside will be A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones but expect to see both Sam Barrington and Jamari Lattimore get some opportunities if either Hawk or Jones are injured or are not playing effectively.
It was a bit of a surprise that Carl Bradford made the team, but No. 54 showed just enough at inside linebacker versus the Kansas City Chiefs in the last preseason game to make the team. Until that point of training camp, the Packers had utilized Bradford at outside linebacker where he was ineffective.
Cornerback: Tramon Williams
Cornerback: Sam Shields
Safety: Morgan Burnett
Safety: Micah Hyde
Cornerback: Casey Hayward
Safety: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
Cornerback: Davon House
Cornerback: Jarrett Bush
Safety: Sean Richardson
Cornerback: Demetri Goodson
This might be the best secondary that the Packers have had since the 2009 season, when the Packers had a secondary which included Charles Woodson, Al Harris and Nick Collins.
The Packers look especially deep at the cornerback position. Tramon Williams looked very good in the latter half of the 2013 season, while Sam Shields just continues to make big plays.
The slot-corner looks to be Casey Hayward, who had six picks in 2012 at that position. Davon House has had an exceptional training camp and is getting some looks in the dime package.
Jarrett Bush is the best special teams player that the Packers have, plus he can deliver a big play or two when getting time in the secondary.
The safety position will be much better in 2014 compared to last season. A weakness may become a strength this year. The team is much better off with M.D. Jennings off the roster, as the team drafted talented Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft, plus moved Micah Hyde over to safety from cornerback.
Sean Richardson led the team in interceptions at practice this summer and looks much more comfortable in coverage.
I was a bit surprised to see Jumal Rolle get cut from the squad in favor of sixth-round draft pick Demetri Goodson, as Rolle looked very impressive over the course of the summer.
Kicker: Mason Crosby
Punter: Tim Masthay
Long Snapper: Brett Goode
Punt Returner: Randall Cobb
Kick Returner: DuJuan Harris
When one looks at the trio of kicker Mason Crosby, punter Tim Masthay and long snapper Brett Goode, the Packers have three players who are among the very best at their position in the NFL.
Crosby had the best season of his career in 2013, coming back from his worst season in 2012. Masthay continues to get better as a punter, especially when you consider where (Lambeau Field) he punts every fall and winter for eight games a year.
Goode seems to be on the money on each and every snap he makes.
DuJuan Harris showed some nice ability returning kickoffs this preseason, while it appears that Randall Cobb will be the primary punt returner for the team. In his career as a punt returner, Cobb has averaged 10.2 yards a return with two touchdowns.