The Lambeau 53: An Early Roster Prediction
Yes I know it's early, we haven't even made it to training camp, but I'd be interested to see what everyone's thoughts on this are. This article stemmed from the fact that whilst trying to write a piece regarding the offensive line, it became very difficult to say who'd make the cut without knowing how many spots there are going to be on the roster to compete for.
So here's my first stab in the dark, comments as ever appreciated.
Quarterbacks (2) - Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn
Rodgers is obviously in, I don't need to waste any of your time telling you why; you all watched the games last year. In Matt Flynn, McCarthy has a developing project QB who may well turn out to be a solid back-up for many years. He knows the system and saw some snaps at the end of last season.
I've gone for just the two here, I think one of either Noah Sheppard or Chris Pizzotti will make the practice squad but ultimately the Pack's depth in other areas keeps them out of the final 53.
Running Backs (3) - Ryan Grant, Brandon Jackson, James Starks
Grant is looking for back-ups so he can remain fresh throughout the season. Jackson makes the roster not only for his underused running, but also his ability as a third-down blocker screen guy. Starks is similar in some ways to Grant in terms of style, but if he stays healthy then he could become a valuable asset on short yardage situations.
Keep an eye on: Kregg Lumpkin - Starks is a health risk and Lumpkin may well get a chance in pre-season to improve upon an average performance last year.
Fullbacks (2) - John Kuhn, Quinn Johnson
Korey Hall is the odd man out here. I just feel that justifying a guy's place, largely on the basis of special teams, doesn't cut the mustard when he's a fullback. Kuhn is good in the passing game and a decent lead blocker. Quinn Johnson shows no sign of being able to catch a cold, never mind a football, but the block he laid out for Ryan Grant in week 17 against the Cards last year, gave us a glimpse of his big potential and mean streak.
Keep an eye on: Korey Hall - Thompson and McCarthy seem to put huge value on special teams play, and I would not be surprised to see Hall get the nod ahead of Kuhn.
Wide Receivers (5) - Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Brett Swain
The first four on the list pick themselves, though in Nelson's case hopefully not as a return man! Swain makes the roster as a special teams guy with the ability to slot in if needed for medical reasons. However with the tight end options being as they are, I see it as very unlikely any passes get thrown his way.
Tight-Ends (3) - Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless, Spencer Havner
Finley and Quarless are locks here. The question comes down to a choice between Spencer Havner and Donald Lee. The latter is on the downswing of his career and is not the player he was. Havner is still very raw but his red-zone threat and ability to play linebacker in a crisis gives him the edge over Lee here.
Offensive Line (10) - Chad Clifton, Bryan Bulaga, Jason Spitz, Daryn Colledge, Scott Wells, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Marshall Newhouse, John Sitton, TJ Lang, Mark Tauscher
OK, here it goes...Clifton and Tauscher are in for starting spots having been re-signed to relatively large contracts. Sitton, Wells, and Lang were all good last year, indeed Sitton was probably the best lineman period on the roster. Bulaga as a first rounder is obviously there, Newhouse is not as raw as Jammon Meredith was and his ability to play guard and tackle in a pinch means he'll make the roster and have the chance to make the most of his talent. Spitz and Dietrich-Smith both play all positions on the interior line and provide good depth and Spitz will likely start at left guard. The 10th guy to make the squad is Colledge who was actually decent at guard before getting abused by Jared Allen at tackle. Remember in the 2008 season he was arguably our best lineman.
Breno Giacomini and Allen Barbre miss out. The former is a converted tight end who hasn't played a down since he was drafted in 2008. The latter was an abomination and did his best to get Aaron Rodgers killed last year.
Defensive Line (6) - Cullen Jenkins, Johnny Jolly, BJ Raji, Ryan Pickett, Mike Neal, CJ Wilson
The first five on this list are locks, either through previous production, or through high draft status. The sixth spot comes down to a three way battle between Wilson, Jarius Wynn, and Justin Harrell. Wilson starts as the favorite in my book, but Wynn could well push him onto the practice squad if the staff feel he's made progress from last year, and again our old friend special teams will come into consideration when thinking about Wynn. Harrell is the outsider and I don't see him making the roster, he's constantly hurt and doesn't really fit the scheme, but Thompson's very loyal to his picks and could stick with him for one last year.
Outside Linebackers (5) - Clay Matthews, Brad Jones, Brady Poppinga, Cyril Obiozor, Tim Knicky
With no OLBs drafted that has to be seen as a vote of confidence for Brad Jones starting opposite Clay Matthews. Poppinga will make the team as a decent backup, although you'd like to see him able to rush the passer more, Obiozor is a protege of Kevin Greene and made the roster at the end of last year.
After that it's all much of a muchness, I've gone for Knicky as he is by all accounts the leader of the hopefuls coming out of rookie orientation camp, but look out for Frank Zombo to make a charge for the fifth spot. They may only go with four OLBs here if they feel that Brandon Chillar can be employed outside, and anynone who saw him hurdle Garrett Wolfe to sack Jay Cutler in week one last year would have a hard time arguing that's not a possibility.
Inside Linebackers (4) - Nick Barnett, AJ Hawk, Brandon Chillar, Desmond Bishop
Hawk and Barnett will start and Chillar's just been re-signed to an unexpectedly large contract so those three are locks. Hopefully Desmond Bishop will be able to see some playing time in the regular season, he's a guy who always looks good in pre-season and then never sees a down. This is his make or break year.
Cornerbacks (6) - Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Al Harris, Pat Lee, Will Blackmon, Sam Shields
The first three are locks. Pat Lee is probably there because of high draft status and if Thompson was prepared to give so long to Justin Harrell then Lee could justifiably expect to make the roster. Blackmon and Shields make the roster largely on special teams value, Blackmon, when healthy is one of the best punt-returners in the NFL and Shields is being seen as a very good gunner. If they feel that Blackmon is too much of a health risk, and that Shields can be used as a return man - his one attempt in college went for a TD, then look for Brandon Underwood to make the roster. He's talented but his character off the field has already been called into question at collegiate level and there were reports last season about the coaches being unhappy with his progress.
Safeties (4) - Nick Collins, Atari Bigby, Morgan Burnett, Derrick Martin
This is the easiest to predict, the first three are locks on the basis of talent, the fourth on being the best ST player on the roster last year. With Will Blackmon reportedly moving to safety from corner, that automatically adds depth should there be injury issues although I would not be surprised to see someone like Khalil Jones on the practice squad for emergency purposes.
Specialists (3) - Mason Crosby, Chris Bryan, Brett Goode
Crosby has had an up and down couple of years, but with a lack of competition to his spot he'll make the team. He still has the leg to be a very good kicker. Bryan is reportedly ahead of Tim Mathsay in the race for the vacant punter spot, but that could still go either way. No long-snapper has been brought in so Goode will make the roster and complete the 53.
Having checked my mathematics repeatedly, I'm sure I've only got 53 here, feel free to leave feedback.
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