Ted Thompson is facing the most difficult cut-down decisions yet during his tenure. And, that's the idea when your building a perennial contender. Heading into the 2011 season opener, Thompson will have to be even more creative in putting together his 53-man roster if he wants to keep the best players, somewhat regardless of position.
Here's how I think the 2011 Green Bay Packers, 53-man roster stands at 5:00 pm EST.
Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn,Ghrahm Harrell
Although both Flynn and Harrell had very forgettable outings in the preseason finale. Flynn is a top five number two quarterback and Harrell has shown enough thus far to warrant a shot at succeeding Flynn in 2012.
Running Back (4)
Ryan Grant, James Starks, Alex Green, John Kuhn
Only four running backs will be kept but all four can play halfbac,k even the lone fullback John Kuhn. Grant and Starks will likely spell each other with Grant getting the nod as the starter. While any of the three behind Grant could end up as the third down back, it will likely be Kuhn to start the season because he's the best in pass protection.
Tight End (5)
Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless, DJ Williams, Ryan Taylor, Tom Crabtree
The Packers keep five tight ends at the expense of a running back, mainly for special teams reasons. These five are also simply too good to cut loose, especially with the star Finley entering his contract year. Taylor the rookie from North Carolina played a lot of H-back in college so he could serve as the backup fullback.
Wide Receiver (6)
Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Tori Gurley
Six receivers make the team because Gurley's potential simply became too much to ignore. This essentially could be seen as a move for 2012 and as insurance against injury to one of the top five. Gurley, along with the other rookie Cobb, completes the best receiver group in the NFL. These two add components the Packers were lakcing: a tall jump ball type receiver that has the ability to go up and get the ball and a small versatile explosive player that can lineup in the backfield, the slot, the outside, and even at quarterback.
Offensive Line (8)
Chad Clifton, Josh Sitton, Scott Wells, Bryan Bulaga, TJ Lang, Derek Sherrod, Marshall Newhouse, Evan Dietrich-Smith
Thompson kept only eight offensive linemen because only eight were worth keeping and only seven will be active on gameday. Sherrod makes it because he's the first round pick, and Newhouse and Dietrich-Smith because of their ability to play multiple positions.
Defensive Back (10)
Nick Collins, Morgan Burnett, Charlie Peprah. Jarrett Bush, Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams,Sam Shields, Josh Gordy, Davon House, Pat Lee
The Packers are very deep at defensive back and they keep ten. Bush will serve as the fourth safety behind Peprah, Burnett, and Collins, while the rookie House, second year player Gordy, and veteran Lee round out the position behind Woodson, Willams, and Shields. Lee makes it as the sixth corner over Brandon Underwood as the fourth safety because of his special teams value.
Defensive Line (6)
BJ Raji, Mike Neal, Ryan Pickett, Howard Green, CJ Wilson, Lawrence Guy
Neal will apparently be ready to go for the season opener and I expect him to do well as the starter replacing Cullen Jenkins. The surprise here is that Guy makes it over Jarius Wynn because of his size and potential.
Clay Matthews. Frank Zombo, AJ Hawk, Desmond Bishop, Erik Walden, Brad Jones, DJ Smith, Vic So'oto
Thompson keeps the injured Frank Zombo on the roster, even though he will miss the first month of the season. The undrafted free agent sensation of this years training camp, So'oto makes the team as the top backup to starters Matthews and Walden at outside linebacker. Another rookie, D.J. Smith, is the top backup at inside linebacker and Jones makes it as the eighth linebacker over Robert Francois because he has the ability to play inside or out.
Special Teams (3)
Mason Crosby, Tim Masthay, Brett Goode
Crosby is the kicker, Masthay is the punter, and Goode is the long snapper because none had any competition in camp and all three have had solid camps. It's a shame the backup long snapper can't be one of the backup offense linemen, but it is what it is.