Predictions on the Packers 53-Man Roster: Defense

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Predictions on the Packers 53-Man Roster: Defense
(Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
For part one of the Packers’ 53-man roster breakdown, check out the offense.  Jumping right into things, here’s who I think gets kept on the defensive side of the ball.

 

Defensive End

Who Makes the Team?: Cullen Jenkins, Ryan Pickett, B.J. Raji, Johnny Jolly, Jarius Wynn, Anthony Toribo (6, 31)

Why: The Packers are ecstatic that their best down lineman, Cullen Jenkins, is finally back, healthy, and wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks. 

Pickett and Raji make for a huge defensive line that the middle linebackers have to love.  They provide great push on the line as seen in the pre-season and will be a key to the Packers’ run defense this season.

In the 3-4 defense, depth is huge on the defensive line, so Jolly will be extremely important.  He won’t start, but he will see many reps during games and will be just as important as the three starters.

Wynn is a rookie out of Georgia who the Packers are very high on.  Despite his small size (6′3″, 275 pounds), he is a hard worker and someone the Packers had pegged since the NFL Combine.

Toribo is an undrafted nose tackle who latched 0n to the Packers at the end of the season but will now provide backup to Pickett and Raji in the middle of the line.  He has a huge frame and had a good preseason to secure his spot. 

One big name left out is Michael Montgomery, but he could make the team if the Packers feel Raji and potentially Jolly can take good reps at nose.

 

Outside Linebacker

Who Makes the Team?: Aaron Kampman, Clay Matthews III, Jeremy Thompson, Brady Poppinga (5, 36)

Kampman, Matthews III, and Thompson are all locks in the system and will be a focal point in the defense this season.  Kampman has been slow at times in coverage but does an excellent job sealing the end and containing backs. 

He seems fine rushing out of a two-point stance rather than his traditional three point at defensive end, but it remains to be seen if he can make the full transition.

Matthews III and Thompson are both young stars who, in my opinion, are going to fully succeed in the defense. 

Matthews has seen limited time due to his hamstring injury, while Thompson has played fairly well.  All three linebackers need to play better in coverage but as a whole, they should be just fine this year.

The fourth spot is given to Poppinga over the likes of Brad Jones because of his experience. 

Putting Jones on the practice squad will give the Packers a chance to keep both, but it is doubtful that Poppinga would make it on the practice squad.  Someone in a 4-3 defense would likely pick him up and give him a spot on their roster.

Havner will make the team due to his versatility, as mentioned in the tight end portion of Part one of the roster breakdown.

 

Inside Linebacker

Who Makes the Team?: Nick Barnett, A.J. Hawk, Desmond Bishop, Brandon Chillar (4, 40)

Why: This position could quite possibly be the Packers’ best statistical position outside of wide receiver and quarterback. 

In the 3-4, holes are opened up to let the inside linebackers dominate and rack up the tackles, and that is exactly what Hawk and Bishop have done this pre-season.

Bishop has arguably been the MVP of the defense this pre-season and Hawk seems rejuvenated in his new role.  Reports out of Packers camp say that Chillar has made the biggest strides in practice and will be an integral part of the defense.

Despite these three players, the defense will still rotate around Barnett.  He is finally back after missing pretty much the whole pre-season, but looked fine against the Titans and is ready to have a huge season being injured in 2008.

He will be vital to the team’s success, but if there is one player you want to have that title, it’s Barnett.

 

Cornerback

Who Makes the Team?: Al Harris, Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Will Blackmon, Brandon Underwood Pat Lee (6, 46)

Why: Harris and Woodson will once again form one of the best cornerback duos in the league, and Woodson especially seems to be taking a big liking to the new defense. 

More zone is being played, allowing Woodson to move around and break on the ball instead of playing his usual shutdown man-t0-man.  Harris is aging but still is a top 20 cornerback in the league.

Williams is waiting in the shadows of the starters to break out, but it was seen last year that he is ready to take on a larger role this season.  The Packers now know they have a legitimate nickel cornerback they can use in most situations on the field.

Blackmon is suited for the return man role but can play cornerback when necessary. Underwood and Lee both have a lot of grooming to do, but the Packers have learned over the last few years that depth at this position is vital to the success of the past defense. 

Harris and Woodson are both one year older and plus, Underwood can play some safety if need be.

 

Safety

Who Makes the Team?: Atari Bigby, Nick Collins, Anthony Smith, Jarrett Bush (4, 50)

Why: The strong safety spot is still up for grabs after Smith had a huge preseason, but the odds are that Bigby retains the spot. 

Collins had some negative off-season headlines but reported to camp on time without a new contract.  Bush has finally become the player most people thought he could become, and is a huge asset on the punt team.

Aaron Rouse has struggled this pre-season and trade rumors have been swirling around his name.  If he isn’t traded, there is a chance he would make it on to the practice squad, but it is doubtful at this point.

 

Special Teams

Who Makes the Team?: Mason Crosby, Jeremy Kapinos, Brett Goode (3, 53)

Crosby has looked shaky at times during pre-season and in practice, but his strong leg and good days are enough to offset any bad he does. 

He has been consistent over his two years as kicker and will hopefully have a lot of opportunities to kick extra points and kick off this season.

Kapinos won the punting job this pre-season and did not disappoint against the Titans, averaging over 52 yards per kick. 

The punt team has been the best unit on the special teams this season, and Kapinos’ leg has been one of the main reasons why.

Goode is the long snapper and that’s about all there is to say about that.

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