The Green Bay Packers ranked near the bottom of the NFL barrel when it came to special teams in 2009 and so far seem to be willing to do anything they can to improve their squad going into the 2010 season.
They neglected to re-sign punter Jeremy Kapinos who had a dismal season, and brought in two new punters in Tim Masthay and Chris Bryan to compete for the job; so far both have performed much better than Kapinos did.
On Tuesday August 31st NFL teams must begin their roster transformation by cutting their numbers to no more than 75 players; this will be the first step on the way to the 53-man final roster that teams must reach by September 5th.
Throughout camp we’ve seen the Packers try out multiple options such as undrafted rookie Sam Shields at kick returner (failed), John Kuhn at halfback (decent), and Spencer Havner at Linebacker (also decent).
I believe the Packers have improved their depth and talent enough at core positions that they can afford to sacrifice a small amount of depth at those positions in order to try and improve the special teams unit.
Here is what I think could be the final 53-man roster for the 2010 Green Bay Packers.
Active-Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn.
Practice squad-Graham Harrell
Final Thoughts: The Packers will once again keep only two QB’s on their active roster. Rodgers is among the best in the league at his position, but Flynn shouldn’t be taken for granted either, as it’s his abilities as a backup that allow the Packers to run thin at the position.
Active-Ryan Grant, Brandon Jackson, Kregg Lumpkin.
Practice Squad- Quinn Porter.
Injured Reserve- James Starks.
Final thoughts: Grant and Jackson have both had pretty smooth training camps compared to what they are used to. Lumpkin looks decent enough again, and unless the Packers sign someone off of waivers they’ll be comfortable with him as their third guy. Starks has too many injury issues and has missed training camp completely. He’ll hit the IR and have his chance at training camp again next year.
Active-John Kuhn, Korey Hall, and Quinn Johnson.
Final Thoughts: Kuhn’s versatility is what makes keeping three fullbacks again possible and he could even be kept as the third halfback instead of Lumpkin if things got tight. In reality the special teams abilities of these guys are just too great, and there’s just not another guy making enough of a case for that extra spot. All three guys have different talents.
Active- Jermichael Finley, Donald Lee, Andrew Quarless, Spencer Havner.
Practice Squad- Tom Crabtree.
Final Thoughts: I almost think Green Bay is less likely to keep four tight ends than they are three fullbacks. If so, Lee could be the odd man out as there is no chance that Quarless could be snuck onto the practice squad. In the end I think they keep all four due to their abilities, and Havner’s value on special teams and as an emergency linebacker. Crabtree just didn’t catch the ball well enough to make it this year.
Active- Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Brett Swain.
Practice Squad-Jason Cherry, Chastin West.
Final Thoughts: The Packers will find no reason to alter the group of receivers they had last year and will be happy to get Swain back on Special Teams. Cherry and West are my favorites to make the practice squad, but after waivers it’s anyone’s guess on who’ll actually make it there.
Active-Chad Clifton, Daryn Colledge, Scott Wells, Josh Sitton, Mark Tauscher, Bryan Bulaga, Jason Spitz, Marshall Newhouse, TJ Lang.
Final Thoughts: The Packers don’t have the luxury of carrying any fat at this position. They have players elsewhere that are making positive improvements and therefore players like Allen Barbre and Breno Giacomini who have consistently underperformed will be looking for new homes elsewhere. The talent and versatility between Spitz, Bulaga, Newhouse, and Lang will be a huge improvement over last year’s reserves and allows this to be the other position that runs a little thin (although still much improved over last year).
Active- Cullen Jenkins, BJ Raji, Ryan Pickett, Mike Neal, Justin Harrell, CJ Wilson.
Practice Squad- Jarius Wynn.
Final Thoughts: The Decision between Harrell and Wynn will be a tough choice for the sixth spot but with Harrell somehow still healthy and Wynn suffering a concussion against the Colts this is how it could end up. Keep in mind that Ted Thompson has kept Harrell through three injury filled seasons. Now that he’s healthy enough to play he’ll get a serious chance… And there’s the added bonus that Wynn is still practice squad eligible if they do go this route.
Active-Clay Matthews, Nick Barnett, Brandon Chillar, AJ Hawk, Brad Jones, Brady Poppinga, Frank Zombo, Desmond Bishop.
Practice Squad- Robert Francois.
Final Thoughts: Green Bay has taken a lot of heat for not drafting a linebacker to play outside across from Matthews this year, but I think they managed to find some promising young players without reaching for one on draft day. Zombo’s effort in camp has clearly earned him a spot on the roster as a backup, and he may even challenge Jones for the starting job next year. Meanwhile Francois has played well enough to make the practice squad and could be a decent last option if a serious injury bug were to strike.
Active- Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Brandon Underwood, Sam Shields, Pat lee.
PUP- Al Harris.
Final Thoughts: In reality the Packers will most likely keep six corners even with Harris on the PUP list. That sixth player looks like it could be Jarrett Bush, but if it were me making the decisions I wouldn’t waste any more time with him. Shields is a nice surprise to make the roster here, and should help out with special teams on coverage. All in all the Packers corners have done well this offseason. They’ve gotten a lot of exposure and are much improved over where they were last year.
Active- Nick Collins, Morgan Burnett, Derrick Martin, Will Blackmon, Charlie Peprah.
PUP- Atari Bigby.
Final Thoughts: Peprah is the guy I kept in the secondary over Bush. He’ll be a decent option in coverage if he is needed and can be cut without changing the rhythm of special teams too much when Bigby comes back. Derrick Martin could be cut later in the season to make room for Harris when he comes off of the PUP list as well.
Active-Mason Crosby, Tim Masthay, Brett Goode.
Final Thoughts: Crosby has been looking pretty good as of late and part of it might be due to increased consistency in his place holders. Masthay has been the better holder so far and he’s probably been the better punter too. The five second hang-time that he put on his only punt against the Colts was easily the most impressive thing the Packers have seen out of a punter in years. Brett Goode is the Long snapper.
With this roster the Packers get everything they want; three fullbacks, four tight ends, and solid depth at all three of the positions that hurt them a season ago. They also upgrade their punter with Masthay, Ditch dead weight in Barbre and Bush, and have an absolutely solid list of special teams players.
The Packers also sneak in two promising undrafted rookies in cornerback Sam Shields and outside linebacker Frank Zombo. What more could you want?
I know there have been a few articles around the internet on this already but to me this is the groupt of players that makes the most sense based on what we know as fans. I’m interested to hear what you guys think on this and how well it measures up against the other ones out there so tell me your thoughts!
And as always thanks again for taking the time to read my articles and please follow me on Twitter @danielkrem.