Green Bay Packers Roster 2012: Latest News, Cuts, Preseason Predictions
Friday Aug. 31 is the date by which all 32 NFL teams must trim their rosters down to at least 53 players.
With news breaking seemingly every minute about which players have been cut and which have been kept, we keep you up to date about the makeup of the Green Bay Packers' roster in advance of the 2012 regular season...
Aug. 31 Roster Cuts
All official transactions published on the Packers' official website since players reported to training camp...
From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel...
DL Daniel Muir: After an impressive training camp, many thought Muir had the Packers' roster made. Not so. The Packers must think they're plenty deep at defensive tackle between B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett and the rookies on the roster.
OL Reggie Wells: A surprise move that leaves the Packers with little veteran backup experience on the offensive line. Wells was being prepared to back up Marshall Newhouse and Bryan Bulaga, but the Packers might have to go shopping unless they think Derek Sherrod is ready.
WR Tori Gurley: A big-bodied receiver, Gurley was squarely in the mix to earn a roster spot on the Packers, but they've apparently decided to go in another direction.
WR Diondre Borel: Borel is an athletic former college quarterback who's been used by the Packers in the return game, but wasn't deemed good enough to make the 53. He could be a practice squad candidate if he can clear waivers.
QB B.J. Coleman: By cutting Coleman, the Packers are going with only two quarterbacks on their roster, Aaron Rodgers and Graham Harrell. Coleman will almost certainly be added to the practice squad.
RB Marc Tyler: After averaging only 2.3 yards per carry on a team leading 45 rushes during the preseason, Tyler did little to impress other than to remain durable.
S Anthony Levine: Levine had an opportunity to be the nickel safety in Green Bay, but didn't do enough to prove he should stick around.
OT Andrew Datko: The seventh-round draft choice of the Packers was hampered by a concussion for the last few weeks of training camp, but will more than likely be asked to be on the practice squad.
FB Nic Cooper: By cutting Cooper, the Packers are choosing to go into the season with only John Kuhn as a fullback. It's possible Cooper could be asked to join the practice squad, but with the fullback position becoming extinct in the NFL, perhaps the odds aren't good.
C Sampson Genus: Genus was a member of the Packers' practice squad last season and could begin the 2012 season in the same spot as a backup center.
OG Greg Van Roten: Van Roten gained a reputation for doing a good job in one-on-one blocking drills during training camp, but was still too raw for primetime. He may be afforded time to develop on the practice squad.
WR Dale Moss: The former college basketball player at South Dakota State showed he had an abundance of athleticism, but was hampered by a deep position that had a lot of other talent.
TE Brandon Bostick: While seemingly every other tight end on the team was dealing with injury issues, Bostick stayed healthy and was always available. His talent didn't quite compare to the other tight ends on the team, however.
WR Curenski Guilleylen: Gilleylen did a good job making the transition from college running back to professional wide receiver, but like some of the other wide receivers on the team, it's hard to make the team when guys like Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are ahead of you on the depth chart.
C/G Tommie Draheim: Draheim has some versatility to play both guard and center and probably even his college position of tackle, but he didn't show during the preseason.
OT Shea Allard: Allard played both right and left tackle in Green Bay, but he's a nondescript cut at Packers camp.
CB Otis Merrill: The defensive back impressed with a 60-yard kickoff return during the preseason, but it wasn't enough to justify keeping him on the roster.
OT Derek Sherrod: Placed on the reserve/PUP list, will be eligible to return a minimum of six weeks into the season.
OLB Vic So'oto: Placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury.
OLB Erik Walden and DL Mike Neal are suspended to begin the regular season.
8/27/2012 The Packers placed linebacker Desmond Bishop, guard Ray Dominguez, wide receiver Shaky Smithson, running back Du'ane Bennett, defensive lineman Johnny Jones and tight end DeMarco Cosby on injured reserve. Tight end Andrew Quarless and linebacker Frank Zombo were placed on the reserve/PUP list. Defensive lineman Jarius Wynn and fullback Jon Hoese were released.
8/24/2012 The Packers released defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, offensive lineman Herb Taylor, wide receiver Andy Brewer, safety Micah Pellerin and cornerback Dion Turner.
8/12/2012 Running back Cedric Benson was signed as a free agent, while tight end Eric Lair was placed on injured reserve.
8/8/2012 Veteran offensive lineman Reggie Wells was signed. Wide receiver Andy Brewer was claimed off waivers from the Philadelphia Eagles. Offensive lineman Jaymes Brooks was placed on the reserve/PUP list, and offensive lineman Mike McCabe was placed on injured reserve.
7/30/2012 The Packers signed street free agent DeMarco Cosby to bring their roster to 90 players. The Packers had one roster spot open since releasing Charlie Peprah and Grant Cook five days earlier.
7/25/2012 The Packers released safety Charlie Peprah and guard Grant Cook and signed guard Greg Van Roten. The release of Peprah came as a mild surprise. He had arthroscopic knee surgery during the offseason, which must have been a more serious injury than anyone let on. The Packers will be relying on relatively inexperienced safeties without Peprah.
Full Team Roster and Projected Depth Chart
QB (2): Aaron Rodgers, Graham Harrell
RB (4): Cedric Benson James Starks, Alex Green, Brandon Saine
FB (1): John Kuhn
WR (6): Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, James Jones, Donald Driver, Jarrett Boykin
TE (4): Jermichael Finley, Tom Crabtree, D.J. Williams, Ryan Taylor
OT (2): Bryan Bulaga, Marshall Newhouse
OG (3): Josh Sitton, T.J. Lang, Don Barclay
OC (2): Jeff Saturday, Evan Dietrich-Smith
DE (3): C.J. Wilson, Jerel Worthy, Phillip Merling
DT (3): B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett, Mike Daniels
OLB (4): Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Dezman Moses, Brad Jones
ILB (5): A.J. Hawk, D.J. Smith, Rob Francois, Jamari Lattimore, Terrell Manning
CB (6): Tramon Williams, Davon House, Jarrett Bush, Sam Shields, Casey Hayward, Brandian Ross
SAF (5): Charles Woodson, Morgan Burnett, Jerron McMillian, M.D. Jennings, Sean Richardson
ST (3): Mason Crosby, Tim Masthay, Brett Goode
Injured Reserve: LB Desmond Bishop, G Ray Dominguez, WR Shaky Smithson, RB Du'ane Bennett, TE DeMarco Cosby, TE Eric Lair, OL Mike McCabe, DL Johnny Jones, OLB Vic So'oto
Reserve/PUP: TE Andrew Quarless, LB Frank Zombo, OL Jaymes Brooks, OT Derek Sherrod
Suspended: OLB Erik Walden, DL Mike Neal
Last 5 in
CB Brandian Ross is one of 11 defensive backs currently on the Packers' roster. They obviously must like what Ross offers, but because there's so much depth in the secondary, Ross must watch his back if the Packers make any roster claims.
DL Phillip Merling was a surprise pick to stay on the roster over fellow defensive lineman Daniel Muir. The Packers must like Merling's potential that made him the 32nd overall draft choice back in 2009.
ILB Terrell Manning never really impressed all that much during training camp, but the Packers made an investment into him by trading away two extra seventh-round draft choices away to get him. They're sticking to that investment.
RB James Starks is talented, but he has had an incredibly difficult time staying healthy. He begins the season with a turf toe injury, and his return to full health is still at a date to be determined.
S M.D. Jennings probably fell behind undrafted rookie Sean Richardson in the safety pecking order after doing little to stand out during training camp. His experience in the Packers' system is the best he can offer at the moment.
Last 5 out
DL Daniel Muir did a good job of showing off his skill set during training camp, but the Packers ultimately went with Phillip Merling ahead of Muir.
WR Tori Gurley did enough to gain the interest of the Minnesota Vikings last year, and will probably attract the interest of more NFL teams once again on waivers. It makes sense that former Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin might have interest out in Miami.
WR Diondre Borel is in the same boat as Gurley after flirting with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last year. The Packers might want him on their practice squad, but they might not be lucky enough to get him.
OL Reggie Wells was one of the few veteran options the Packers had available to them. Currently the Packers only have seven offensive linemen on their roster, so they're likely to make a move to acquire at least one more.
OT Andrew Datko was obviously hurt by the concussion he suffered during training camp. Had it not been for that, he may have made the 53-man roster. He's very likely to make the practice squad.
QBs on roster: Graham Harrell, Aaron Rodgers
Projected starter: Aaron Rodgers
Offseason additions: None
Roster cuts: None yet
Projected final roster: Aaron Rodgers, Graham Harrell
Aaron Rodgers is not only assured of the starting quarterback job for the Packers in 2012, he assured of a spot in the starting lineup for years to come as long his health and his contract allow.
Coming off a season in which he was named an All-Pro and league MVP, Rodgers is at the peak of his game. He set a league record for single-season passer rating, and set similarly high marks in most other passing categories.
It will be difficult to surpass last year’s numbers, but Rodgers will try. He has a fantastic receiving corps, and the sky is the limit. Perhaps the only thing that could improve is the Packers’ rushing attack, which could—in theory—take pressure off Rodgers.
Graham Harrell enters 2012 as one of the most inexperienced backups in the entire NFL. Without taking so much as a single regular-season snap, Harrell has little to rely upon other than preseason action. One thing is for sure, the Packers will give him plenty of preseason action in order to prepare him for the regular season. Some people might argue that the Packers would be doomed without Rodgers’ services, but Harrell will be out to prove them wrong.
In B.J. Coleman, the Packers took a flier on a seventh-round, small-school prospect with the hopes he can provide depth and exceed expectations. It’s too early to tell how Coleman will do with the Packers, but the early returns are promising. He’s shown he’s not afraid to push the ball down the field.
RBs on roster: Running backs: Cedric Benson, Alex Green, Brandon Saine, James Starks. Fullbacks: John Kuhn
Projected starter: Running back: Cedric Benson Fullback: John Kuhn
Offseason additions: Cedric Benson
Roster cuts: Jon Hoese, Du'ane Bennett*, Nic Cooper, Marc Tyler
Projected final roster: Running backs: Cedric Benson, James Starks, Alex Green, Brandon Saine. Fullbacks: John Kuhn
Cedric Benson hasn't been signed just to provide depth at running back in Green Bay. Based upon the early returns, he's a good bet to be a starter in the Packers' offense.
Starks' job is seriously in jeopardy, and he has to prove he can stay healthy, which has been an issue for him dating back to his college days.
Alex Green will provide a stiff challenge to Starks and Benson and has gotten off to a good start to training camp after coming back from a torn ACL suffered last season. Green missed the entire offseason program, but was ready to contribute during Day 1 at camp.
Making a push to be part of the mix is Brandon Saine who might best fit as third-down back given his speed and receiving skills, but he has to prove he can pass block if he's to be trusted.
Marc Tyler has done a good job staying healthy and available, but he just doesn't seem like he has what it takes to make it in the NFL.
At fullback, John Kuhn is the unquestioned starter. Nic Cooper has seen a lot of action when Kuhn was previously out injured, but he'll be hard pressed to make the practice squad.
WRs on roster: Jarrett Boykin, Randall Cobb, Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, James Jones, Jordy Nelson
Projected starters: Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson
Offseason additions: Jarrett Boykin
Roster cuts: Shaky Smithson*, Dale Moss, Curenski Gilleylen, Tori Gurley, Diondre Borel
Projected final roster: Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Donald Driver, Randall Cobb, James Jones, Tori Gurley
Thanks to his appearance on “Dancing With The Stars” this past spring, Donald Driver’s notoriety has reached national proportions. He’s the oldest player on the Packers’ roster, however, and the question is whether the game has passed him by. In any case, he’s off to a good start to training camp.
Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson are the unquestioned No. 1 and No. 2 wide receivers on the Packers and will see the most snaps among all players at the position. Jennings is a two-time Pro Bowler and Nelson might be on the brink of such honors after getting over 1,200 yards and 15 touchdowns last year.
It appears as if Randall Cobb might be due for a breakout season. After creating a stir with his performance on kick and punt returns last year, he proved he’s dynamite when he gets the ball in an open area. It’s worth watching whether Cobb or Driver will see more playing time as the slot receiver this season.
James Jones also figures to be in the mix, and among the wide receivers on the team he might be the strongest. He’s known for getting yards after the catch.
Beyond Jones, the fight to make the roster gets really interesting with Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel looking to be the sixth and possibly seventh wide receivers kept on the roster. Both were on the practice squad last year but are looking for a promotion in 2012. Neither has made much of an impression thus far through training camp.
Due to the depth at wide receiver, the rest of the players are long shots, including Dale Moss, Curenski Gilleylen and Jarrett Boykin. They might be fighting for one spot on the practice squad among them.
TEs on roster: Tom Crabtree, Jermichael Finley, Ryan Taylor, D.J. Williams
Projected starters: Jermichael Finley
Offseason additions: None
Roster cuts: Andrew Quarless*, DeMarco Cosby*, Eric Lair*, Brandon Bostick
Projected final roster: Jermichael Finley, Tom Crabtree, D.J. Williams, Ryan Taylor, Andrew Quarless*
Jermichael Finley is the headliner of the group, and could be among the best pass-catching tight ends in the NFL if he becomes more consistent. Finley has the raw skills and the ability to be one of the new-age hybrid tights dominating the league. He just has to avoid the dropped passes and those stretches where he’s seemingly absent.
Last year, Andrew Quarless was asserting himself as the team’s No. 2 tight end by really making strides in blocking as well as becoming a dependable receiver. That was before a gruesome knee injury late last season derailed his campaign. Quarless is on the PUP list and may be able to contribute at midseason.
With Quarless out, the Packers have turned Tom Crabtree as their No. 2 tight end who provides a stark contrast to a guy like Finley. Crabtree is never going to be much of a downfield threat. Rather, his calling card is his blocking. He lines up in the backfield quite often as a fullback.
Both D.J. Williams and Ryan Taylor made the 53-man roster last season, but neither made much of an impact outside of special teams. Their roles could increase this year, and Williams in particular, has turned heads so far during training camp by being a favorite target of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Williams is small in stature, but his hands are very good. Because of his size and mobility alone, Taylor can’t be overlooked.
*Quarless will begin the season on the PUP list, which does not count against 53-man roster. Lair and Cosby are on injured reserve.
OTs on roster: Bryan Bulaga, Marshall Newhouse
Projected starters: Bryan Bulaga, Marshall Newhouse
Offseason additions: None
Roster cuts: Herb Taylor, Mike McCabe*, Shea Allard, Reggie Wells, Derek Sherrod*, Andrew Datko
Projected final roster: Bryan Bulaga, Marshall Newhouse, Derek Sherrod*, Reggie Wells, Andrew Datko
When the Packers released Chad Clifton in the offseason, the let go of more than a decade’s worth of experience. Clifton was a Pro Bowler and the cornerstone of the offensive line for a very successful stretch of team history.
There was some speculation whether the Packers might move Bryan Bulaga to the left side to take over for Clifton, but the coaching staff has elected to keep Bulaga at right tackle where he’s played each of the last two seasons. Bulaga is becoming comfortable and could be on the verge of becoming of one of the best right tackles in the NFL.
Marshall Newhouse is the player who’s become Clifton’s successor at left tackle after getting lots of playing time at the position last year when injuries hit. There were both ups and downs to Newhouse’s 2011 performance, but he’s mobile and there’s reason to believe he can improve upon his performance in 2012.
It’s thought that Derek Sherrod could be the top backup at both right and left tackle, but first he has to get healthy. Sherrod has been on the PUP list since the start of training camp, but Mike McCarthy has expressed optimism that he’ll be back before the start of the regular season. The Packers can only hope that’s the case, because they have little experience beyond Bulaga and Newhouse.
Andrew Datko was drafted a seventh-round selection with potential, but he has a long way to go before he can be trusted to play during a regular season game. The good news is that he’s been getting a lot of reps with Sherrod out injured, but is now dealing with a concussion.
Reggie Wells was signed a couple weeks into training camp and provides a veteran's presence along the offensive line and the ability to play all five positions. He's likely to make the roster to begin the season, even if he's cut later on when Sherrod comes back.
*Sherrod is predicted to begin the season on the PUP list. McCabe is on injured reserve.
OGs on roster: Don Barclay, T.J. Lang, Josh Sitton
Projected starters: Josh Sitton, T.J. Lang
Offseason additions: Don Barclay
Roster cuts: Grant Cook, Ray Dominguez*, Jaymes Brooks*, Greg Van Roten
Projected final roster: Josh Sitton, T.J. Lang
The leader among the guards is Josh Sitton. He’s the most experienced of the group and the best player. The Packers won a Super Bowl with Sitton at right guard in 2010, and he also won the NFL Alumni’s Offensive Lineman of the Year Award the same season. Sitton is the best run blocker in Green Bay.
One player that’s on his way joining the same status as Sitton is T.J. Lang, the unquestioned starter at left guard. In 2011, Lang had a successful first season as a starter, and he figures to only build on that experience. Of note is Lang’s contract, which expires after the 2012 season. Players entering their contract year very often play with high motivation.
Late last season, Ray Dominguez was elevated from the practice squad to the 53-man roster, though he didn’t play in a regular season game. He's been placed on injured reserve when a severe ankle sprain ended his season.
A trio of undrafted rookies round out the guards: Don Barclay, Jaymes Brooks and Greg Van Roten. Brooks has been on the PUP list since training camp began, which has put him at a disadvantage. Van Roten was signed on the eve of the start to training camp when Charlie Peprah was cut, so he hasn’t had the benefit of learning the Packers’ system during the offseason. That perhaps gives Barclay the upper hand among the rookie guards as the one player that’s had the most practice time.
The Packers cut Grant Cook the day before training camp began when it was presumed he wasn’t able to pass either the team’s physical or conditioning test.
*Dominguez was placed on injured reserve and Brooks was placed on the reserve/injured list.
OCs on roster: Jeff Saturday, Evan Dietrich-Smith
Projected starter: Jeff Saturday
Offseason additions: Jeff Saturday
Roster cuts: Tommie Draheim, Sampson Genus,
Projected final roster: Jeff Saturday, Even Dietrich-Smith
Scott Wells had arguably his best season as a professional football player in 2011, being named to his first Pro Bowl, and then promptly left Green Bay in free agency leaving the Packers without an obvious replacement.
The Packers looked for a temporary solution to their opening at center by signing veteran Jeff Saturday, formerly of the Indianapolis Colts where he was a solid player for years. Saturday brings a wealth of experience as Peyton Manning’s former center and someone who has directed an effective no-huddle offense. But Saturday is also 37 years old. There’s some concern whether Saturday will be able to hold up at his age.
Evan Dietrich-Smith made the roster last season because of his versatility and his ability to play guard as well as center. But because of Saturday’s age, Dietrich-Smith is an important piece of the Packers’ puzzle. He played well in spot duty last year and will be remembered for being the guy that Ndamukong Suh stomped during the 2011 Thanksgiving game. Whether Dietrich-Smith can be the long-term starter at center is unknown, but he’s the most experienced backup for the time being.
Last season, Sampson Genus was kept on the practice squad for the entire season, so the Packers must like something about him in order to keep him around that long. But Genus hasn’t done anything yet to assure he has a future in Green Bay. He’ll have to prove he’s worth keeping around for another season.
After the NFL draft, the Packers showed how highly they think of Tommie Draheim when they offered him the largest signing bonus of any undrafted rookie on the team. He was a left tackle at San Diego State in college that’s looking to make the transition to center in the NFL. Draheim will be in a battle with Genus for a backup center spot.
DEs on roster: Phillip Merling, Mike Neal, C.J. Wilson, Jerel Worthy
Projected starters: C.J. Wilson
Offseason additions: Phillip Merling, Jerel Worthy
Roster cuts: Anthony Hargrove, Jarius Wynn, Lawrence Guy
Projected final roster: C.J. Wilson, Jerel Worthy, Mike Neal*
Because the Packers spend so much time in their nickel, dime and other subpackage defenses with only one or two defensive linemen on the field at any one time, it’s sometimes difficult to categorize players as strictly defensive ends.
The Packers selected Jerel Worthy out of Michigan State in the second round of this year’s draft, and wasted no time making him one of their starting defensive tackles in the subpackage defenses. But the Packers are also taking things slowly with Worthy and are being careful not to overwhelm him. He hasn’t played much end in the base defense yet, but he may as training camp progresses.
Even though he hasn’t made a big-time impact during his first two seasons in Green Bay, C.J. Wilson has been a starter at defensive end in the base 3-4 the entire offseason. Perhaps Wilson’s contributions have just gone under the radar, because he’s actually been a good run defender. If Wilson can also be a pass rusher, he would go a long way toward becoming a complete player.
During the offseason, the Packers looked to boost their pass rush by signing Phillip Merling.
Mike Neal will be serving a four-game sentence for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Neal was a projected starter at defensive end last season before injuries set him back. It might be Neal’s last chance in Green Bay, because if he doesn’t show anything this season, the Packers might cut ties.
Benefiting from the suspension to Neal is Lawrence Guy and Merling. Neither of them is a lock to make the roster, but they stand a better chance of doing so because their teammate is suspended. Guy spent all of last season on injured reserve with a concussion.
*Neal is projected to begin the season suspended and won't count against the 53-man roster
DTs on roster: Mike Daniels, Ryan Pickett, B.J. Raji
Projected starters: B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett
Offseason additions: Mike Daniels, Johnny Jones
Roster cuts: Johnny Jones*, Daniel Muir
Projected final roster: B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett, Mike Daniels, Daniel Muir
Some liberty is taken with listing both B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett as defensive tackles. When the Packers are in their base 3-4 obviously only one of them can play the nose tackle position while the other plays at end. Last season, the two took turns playing end and tackle.
Raji made the Pro Bowl last season for the first time in his career, but it may have had more to do with his reputation than his play on the field. While he didn’t exactly play poorly, Raji didn’t make as much of an impact in 2011 as he did in 2010 when he had 6.5 sacks. Maybe having more talent around him will help Raji become more of a pass-rushing force once again.
Pickett is the same solid and steady player he’s always been since coming to Green Bay as a free agent back in 2006. He’s a wide-bodied run stuffer that is among the best in the NFL at doing a job that doesn’t get much publicity. For the most part, Pickett will play on early downs but will come out of the game on passing downs in favor of a better pass-rushing tackle.
The Packers made a somewhat curious choice by selecting Iowa’s Mike Daniels in the fourth round of the draft simply he doesn’t fit the mold of NFL defensive tackle at 6’0” and under 300 pounds. The Packers aren’t exactly looking for Daniels to play in their base 3-4 defense, however. More than likely, he’ll only play on passing downs as a interior pass rusher in their subpackage defenses.
Daniel Muir was signed as a free agent during the offseason as a player who has previous experience in Green Bay. Muir was signed as an undrafted rookie by the Packers back in 2007, but has played in Indianapolis for each of the past four seasons.
*Jones was placed on the reserve/PUP list.
OLBs on roster: Brad Jones, Clay Matthews, Dezman Moses, Nick Perry, Erik Walden
Projected starters: Clay Matthews, Nick Perry
Offseason additions: Dezman Moses, Nick Perry, Erik Walden
Roster cuts: Frank Zombo*, Vic So'oto
Projected final roster: Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Dezman Moses, Brad Jones, Erik Walden*
Clay Matthews is Clay Matthews. Even though he didn’t have the same sack production last season as he did in his first two seasons in the NFL, Matthews was still one of the best defensive players on the Packers. Part of it is because he’s an all-around athlete. His forte might be as a pass rusher, but he’s also good in pass coverage and can hold his own against the run.
The Packers didn’t have anyone to take any pressure off Matthews a season ago, so they set about trying to fix that situation by taking Nick Perry in the first round of the NFL draft. As a 270-pound defensive end at USC, Perry has to make the transition to stand-up outside linebacker in the pros. He also has to get used to playing on the left side of the defense, which has allowed Matthews to return to right outside linebacker.
Perhaps among all the undrafted rookies on the team, Dezman Moses has made the biggest impression. During the team’s offseason program, he got occasional playing time with the starters when Matthews sat out to rest his hamstring. And he’s off to a good start to training camp and is putting himself in a good position to win a roster spot.
Erik Walden was the starter opposite Matthews for much of last season, but didn’t make a big impact. He actually made bigger headlines when he was jailed after a domestic dispute with his girlfriend. Even though Walden didn’t miss any games this season, he was suspended for one game to start the 2012 season. Brad Jones replaced Walden in the starting lineup in the playoffs, but Jones isn’t a lock to make this year’s team either. Perhaps working in Jones’ favor is his special teams experience and ability to play inside linebacker in a pinch.
Vic So’oto made the Packers roster last year with a strong preseason outing that saw him get sacks and interceptions and forced fumbles. If he wants to make the team again, So’oto will need to make another impression, because his roster spot isn’t guaranteed.
*Erik Walden is projected to be suspended for the start of the regular season and won't count against the 53-man roster
ILBs on roster: Robert Francois, A.J. Hawk, Jamari Lattimore, Terrell Manning, D.J. Smith
Projected starters: A.J. Hawk, D.J. Smith
Offseason additions: Terrell Manning
Roster cuts: Desmond Bishop*
Projected final roster: A.J. Hawk, D.J. Smith, Jamari Lattimore, Terrell Manning, Robert Francois
Desmond Bishop's season is done after he tore his hamstring in the preseason opener. At one point there was hope that Bishop would be able to join the team late in the season through a new rule that would allow one player to come off injured reserve, but that rule hasn't been approved by the players' union.
A.J. Hawk is the incumbent starter and a steady, consistent player, but he just hasn’t made a lot of big plays. He hasn’t been the type that’s made sacks, grabbed interceptions or forced fumbles. On the other hand, Hawk has been reliable, and maybe there’s something to say for that, but his hold on a starting spot has become more precarious every year.
D.J. Smith will replace Bishop in the starting lineup. He got his first opportunity at playing time when Bishop and Hawk were injured last year, and he continued to get more opportunities early in training camp when Bishop was on the non-football injury list. He's made a good impression early in training camp.
The Packers traded up to select Terrell Manning in the fifth round of the NFL draft, which showed how much they value his skill set. Like many other rookies, he has a long way to go to prove he can be trusted on the field, but he has a very good opportunity to see a lot of special teams playing time early in his career.
Rob Francois played well in spot duty last season and actually snagged two interceptions. He’ll be pushed for a roster spot by Manning, however, and perhaps Jamari Lattimore as well. Lattimore was moved to inside linebacker after playing outside last season as a rookie.
*Bishop was placed on injured reserve
CBs on roster: Jarrett Bush, Casey Hayward, Davon House, Brandian Ross, Sam Shields, Tramon Williams
Projected starters: Tramon Williams, Jarrett Bush
Offseason additions: Jarrett Bush, Casey Hayward, Brandian Ross, Dion Turner
Roster cuts: Dion Turner, Otis Merrill
Projected final roster: Tramon Williams, Jarrett Bush, Sam Shields, Davon House, Casey Hayward
Without question, the best competition on the Packers’ roster has been at cornerback where the Packers are looking for a starter opposite Tramon Williams. Charles Woodson will continue to play the slot cornerback position in the team’s nickel and dime defenses, but a perimeter cornerback spot is up for grabs.
After playing sparingly as a rookie, Davon House might have made the biggest leap among all players during the offseason. It seems as if every day head coach Mike McCarthy says something positive about House. At 6’1”, House has good size among cornerbacks, where the Packers are looking for more physicality from both a tackling and a bump-and-run standpoint. He’s gotten practice time with the starters early in training camp, but his performance in the exhibition games will determine if he can stay there.
On the first day of training camp, Jarrett Bush was inserted among the starters, perhaps surprisingly. Bush is a tough and physical defensive back, but he’s had troubles in coverage in the past. Last year, it was Sam Shields getting most of the reps opposite Williams, but he’s fallen out of favor by not showing much toughness from a tackling standpoint. Shields’ strength is his speed and ability to stay stride for stride with receivers, so he’ll have to do that during preseason games to get back in the good graces of the coaches.
The Packers traded up in the second round to grab Casey Hayward out of Vanderbilt, and he’s gotten a little bit of time with the first-team in the dime defense during training camp. Whether he can be a perimeter cornerback remains to be seen. Most of the time he’s seen thus far has been in the slot ala Charles Woodson.
Williams’ spot in the staring lineup is secure. The only question is whether he can regain the strength he lost last season when an injury caused nerve damage in his shoulder. The early returns from camp are that Williams is progressing well. He’s back to pressing receivers at the line of scrimmage and put a good hit on tight end Jermichael Finley the first day of practice.
Further down the roster, Brandian Ross and Otis Merrill long shots to make the roster. Ross was on the practice squad last year. Merrill can consider himself lucky if he's offered the same opportunity.
Safeties on roster: Morgan Burnett, M.D. Jennings, Jerron McMillian, Sean Richardson, Charles Woodson
Projected starters: Charles Woodson*, Morgan Burnett, Jerron McMillian
Offseason additions: Jerron McMillian, Sean Richardson
Roster cuts: Charlie Peprah, Micah Pellerin, Anthony Levine
Projected final roster: Charles Woodson, Morgan Burnett, Jerron McMillian, M.D. Jennings, Sean Richardson
The big news at training camp is that Charles Woodson is getting significant playing time at safety. It might not be a full-blown move, however. From the looks of things, Woodson will play safety in the Packers’ base defense, but he’ll continue to play a slot cornerback position in the subpackages the Packers play a majority of the time.
The one full-time safety that’s assured of a starting spot in the secondary is Morgan Burnett. Entering his third year in the NFL, Burnett might be poised for a big increase in production. So far through his young career, he’s been plagued by injuries including a torn ACL that forced him to miss most of his rookie year. Then in 2011, Burnett wore a cast on his hand that appeared to limit his effectiveness. If he can stay healthy, Burnett can be a big contributor.
When Charlie Peprah was released on the eve of training camp, it opened the door to a pair of safeties who are looking for increased playing time. Among them, M.D. Jennings is seeing time with the starters when Woodson heads over to the slot. It’s been a good learning experience for Jennings, but he’ll have to make a play or two during the exhibition season if he’s going to hold off any challengers.
The Packers took Jerron McMillian out of Maine in the fourth round of the draft, which was earlier than many projected. From a size standpoint, McMillian looks the part, which is good if he’s an in-the-box safety. Regardless, he has to prove he can stay in coverage with opposing receivers, including today’s hybrid tight ends.
Anthony Levine is entering his third season in Green Bay if you count his time spent on the practice squad, but he has yet to play in a regular-season game. Levine has an advantage over the younger players on the team by knowing the Packers’ schemes. He’ll be in a battle with undrafted rookie Sean Richardson.
*Charles Woodson is being considered a safety and not a cornerbacks for the purpose of this article.
Kicking specialists on roster: Mason Crosby, Tim Masthay, Brett Goode
Projected starters: Mason Crosby, Tim Masthay, Brett Goode
Offseason additions: None
Roster cuts: None
Projected final roster: Mason Crosby, Tim Masthay, Brett Goode
To show how confident the Packers are in their kicking specialists, they didn’t so much as sign an undrafted rookie this year. There’s no one to even push Mason Crosby or Tim Masthay in training camp or give them a rest.
Both Crosby and Masthay have earned the right to win their jobs by default, however. Both had fantastic seasons last year, and might be among the best players at their position in the entire NFL, which is impressive considering the adverse weather they must endure in Green Bay.
Crosby was named an alternate to the Pro Bowl last season after notching the highest field goal percentage of his career (85.7%) and setting the franchise record for the most consecutive field goals (24). He’s also solid on kickoffs, which is good considering the amount of times the Packers had to kick off last year thanks to a high-scoring offense.
In a performance that went largely under the radar, Masthay had perhaps the best season by a Packers punter in team history. He set single-season records in both gross (48.0) and net (38.6) punting average. Masthay is also a good situational punter who excels with the Aussie-style kick that helps keep punts from reaching the end zone and pins opponents inside the 20.
Long snapper Brett Goode enters his fifth season in Green Bay and has yet to have an errant snap.
Returners on roster: Randall Cobb, Tramon Williams, Jordy Nelson, Sam Shields, Diondre Borel, Otis Merrill
Projected starters: Randall Cobb projected to be both kick and punt returner
Offseason additions: Diondre Borel, Otis Merrill
Roster cuts: Andy Brewer
Projected final roster: Randall Cobb plus backups
It didn’t take long for Randall Cobb to impress onlookers last year. In the nationally televised season opener, he set an NFL record for the longest kick return in league history in a moment that was eventually voted the NFL’s Play of the Year.
Cobb is as explosive as they come, and should be a threat to take every kick back for a touchdown for seasons to come. If there’s one thing he has to work on, he’s got to eliminate the fumbles.
As long as Cobb is healthy, he will be the return specialist on kicks and punts. Any repetitions anyone else gets during training camp are just to keep them sharp in case Cobb were to get injured, because no one is taking his job.
Other players who will back up Cobb are Tramon Williams, Jordy Nelson, Sam Shields, Diondre Borel and Otis Merrill.