Two pre-season games are in the books, and the smoke around the Packers roster is starting to clear a bit. There are some roster battles that still have yet to take shape (OL, WR), but others are becoming clearer by the day (CB). It’s hard to put much faith in what some of these guys are doing against 2nd and 3rd string players in a game that doesn’t matter, but really you are just looking of glimpses of potential to help this team.
A lot of these guys playing in the 3rd or 4th quarter aren’t going to make the roster, but the Packers are one of the few teams that aren’t shy about taking a chance on young players, and there’s a strong chance they will do it again. Let’s take a a look and see who has the best shot at making the roster.
QB – Aaron Rodgers, Brett Hundley
QB1 and QB2 are a no-brainer. Rodgers is the heartbeat of this team, and Hundely provides a solid backup. The only thing that could possibly throw a wrench into this is a Hundley trade. Frankly, I don’t think there is a market for him right now, and I don’t think the Packers want to risk their QB depth. Hundley isn’t the top trading chip at QB on the market (Garrapolo by a country mile), and I don’t think they will get the return on a trade that makes sense for a trade. He will either leave in Free Agency and turn into a Compensatory pick, or sign a modest extension in Green Bay.
If the Packers end up keeping three QB’s, I think it is Taysom Hill. He’s a little raw as far as footwork and rhythm, but his athleticism is off the charts. Joe Callahan was a fan favorite hasn’t really showed much the preseason, has been passed around from team to team, and I just think is replaceable by any veteran free agent. He played all of 6 snaps against Washington, and that should tell you everything about Callahan. I still think the Packers ultimately roll with two QB’s, but anything is possible here.
RB – Ty Montgomery, Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, Devante Mays, Aaron Ripkowski
Really, as far as starting running back is concerned, it’s Ty, and then everyone else. Say what you will about the fumble against Philadelphia, he offers the most versatility as a runner and a receiver. Blocking remains to be seen, but there’s a lot to work with here. He’s had an entire off-season to train as a RB(this cannot go understated) , and practice footwork, I think he provides exactly what the Packers need for a RB.
After Montgomery, there is no one that has really separated themselves. Aaron Jones had a nice reception on the touchdown against Washington and a few runs, but nothing that blew me away. Williams has been utterly unspectacular, averaging 1.7 ypc against Washington, and 3.5 ypc against Philadelphia. Mays has been almost non-existent until the Washington game, where he could only muster 2.6 ypc. You could argue Mays may be on the chopping block, but the Packers made the mistake last year of not having enough rostered Rb’s, I don’t think they make it again. Ripkowski is pretty much a lock, but Kerridge could surprise as well.
WR – Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, Geronimo Allison, Jeff Janis, Trevor Davis
The top 4 here are pretty solidified. Cobb had a pretty good run after the catch against Washington on a screen, and Allison had a great cut that sprung him for 25 yards. This unit is very solid and offers Rodgers a wealth of different skill sets for a variety of looks out wide.
I could get a lot of flack here, but ultimately 1 thing remains true in the NFL – availability is incredibly valuable. Janis, for all his shortcomings as a WR, is one of the best special teamers, didn’t look awful as a receiver against PHI/WAS and has not missed a game the last 2 years. Trevor Davis muffed a punt, and there’s no doubt that put some doubt in the coaches mind, but has speed the rest of the WR corps simply does not have, and gives the special teams a shot in the arm. It’s awful that we didn’t see more of Yancey last game, and haven’t seen much of Dupre due to injury, but that’s the NFL. Guys get hurt, and you have to move on. As of right now, I think it costs them roster spots, which is rare considering Thompson absolutely hates cutting draft picks, but again, availability is key.
TE – Martellus Bennett, Lance Kendricks, Richard Rodgers
Second easiest group to predict. Bennett looked good on his jump ball TD against Washington. Kendricks has been quiet, but ultimately, you don’t sign guys to 2 year contracts if you don’t plan on keeping them. Richard Rodgers, while somewhat buried in this depth chart, offers great depth as a 3rd string TE. The Packers only need 3 TEs, and with the injury and subsequent release of Beau Sandland, there is nothing to jeopardize these 3 jobs.
OL – David Bakhtiari, Bryan Bulaga, Corey Linsley, Lane Taylor, Jahri Evans, Jason Spriggs, Don Barclay, Kyle Murphy, Geoff Gray
The starting 5 is solidified, and should be somewhere in the top 10 offensive lines in football. Despite the loss of 2 pro bowl caliber guards, the Packers have adequately filled those void with average starting caliber players. Ultimately, this team possesses an all-NFL bookend tandem in Bakhtiari and Bulaga, and Linsley is an above average center. This unit will compete down after down.
The backups are…a little concerning. The backup Tackle position is Spriggs’ to lose, and he is trying his damnedest to do so. After 2 poor performances, it’s really becoming harder and harder to see if this pick will ever pan out, and even harder to justify trading up in the draft for him. Say what you will about Barclay, he’s the only backup capable of Linsley, and that is an indictment on this bench depth. Murphy offers some versatility as a guard and tackle(something the Packers value greatly), but his talent/athleticism is wanting.
Really, the only backup that has shown anything and looks like he wants a roster spot is Canuck Geoff Gray. Granted, he’s been playing against lesser opponents, he has shown some good raw talent, and should challenge draft pick Kofi Amichia for his roster spot. Amichia has the advantage of being a draft pick and superior athleticism, but his play this pre-season has been poor, and may leave him on the chopping block. Health will dictate this group’s importance, but this will likely need to be addressed next off-season.
DL – Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry, Rick Jean-Francois, Montravius Adams, Brian Price
This starting unit will be the best among 3-4 units, which is kind of moot considering the Packers run 2 down linemen predominantly. Daniels and Clark have looked like absolute bulldozers and should be able to wreak havoc on running downs, and could collapse the pocket on passing downs. Before injury, Lowry was having a great camp, and was poised to make an impact on passing downs. Hopefully his knee injury isn’t serious.
Jean-Francois will almost exclusively line up on running downs, since he doesn’t offer much in pass rush. Price likely makes the cut to fill out the roster, which seems to explain his pretty pricey practice squad salary and the release of Guion. I was dissapointed to see Adams get hurt early in camp. Many believed him to be a little over-drafted, but he offered indcredible athleticism that I think this line needed. With the loss of Peppers and Datone Jones, they need an interior rusher capable of taking on guards, and I think Adams can fill that void. Hopefully he isn’t out long either.
ILB – Jake Ryan, Blake Martinez, Joe Thomas
There really isn’t much to talk about here. The Packers have been moving away from traditional ILB for the last year or so, playing guys like Joe Thomas and Morgan Burnett in that role more and more on passing downs. This seems to be the way the NFL is shifting, and the Packers have the bodies to make that shift. You will still see Ryan and Martinez in on running downs, but expect to see some combination of Thomas, Burnett or Josh Jones in quite often. They need no depth after that, and Jordan Tripp is likely the odd man out.
OLB – Nick Perry, Clay Matthews, Jayrone Elliott, Vince Biegel, Kyler Fackrell
If OL depth is the biggest concern, edge rushers aren’t far behind. Perry and Matthews offer a great thunder and lightening type of 1-2 punch, but health is a concern with these two. Don’t get me wrong, OLB is a brutal position, and the wear and tear these guys see is undeniable, but Perry has never played a full season, and Matthews has often been hamstrung. If they stay healthy for 14 games plus in the regular season, this unit will be fine. Given this units health problems, that is asking a lot.
Right now, Elliot is the only backup I even remotely trust, and that’s not a great sign. Elliot has shown flashes of big play ability, but has yet to consistently perform. I think he will improve with more reps, but that’s a lot of weight to carry for an inexperienced player. Fackrell is an enigma. He has great size and speed, but almost refuses to use it. He gets no leverage, and has a weak motor on the pass rush. He’s actually proved capable in pass coverage, which could be an asset, but not for where the Packers drafted him. They drafted him to rush the passer, and his mentality is ill equipped to do so. Despite Biegel’s injury, I still think he gets the most opportunity in rotational pass rushing situations. Motor has never been a concern of his, and he’s surely athletic enough to play outside. He is the only backup that has played against stiff competition at the collegiate level and performed consistently. While he’ll need to earn his opportunities, there really isn’t much of a threat of that being a concern for him.
CB – Davon House, Kevin King, Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins, Ladarius Gunter, Josh Hawkins
House is probably the only lock on the roster at CB. Say what you will about the end of his tenure in Jacksonville, he was signed to a poor contract and was a cap casualty. He will provide some stability to the DB’s. King is still pretty raw, but he hits like a ton of bricks, and will likely overtake the #2 outside corner role by mid-season given his skillset. Rollins has probably had the best training camp of any corner, and with the injury to Randall, may be the starting nickle corner on opening day.
Randall hasn’t had a poor camp, but has been outplayed thus far, and didn’t seem to have much urgency in his play pre-injury. Nor did Gunter, who is probably the closest on this list to the chopping block. True, he helped stop the bleeding for an ailing secondary last season, he just has such a low ceiling, and probably only serves as a solid backup given his lack of speed. Hawkins has been the talk of the last week, having a solid week of practice and a stellar game against Washington. I’m still not ready to say he is mini Sam Shields, but he’s definitely a contender due to his speed. I like guys like Pipkins and Brown, but ultimately, I think they are prime practice squad players.
S – HaHa Clinton-Dix, Morgan Burnett, Kentrell Brice, Josh Jones, Marwin Evans
This might be the strongest safety unit in the league except for Seattle. Clinton-Dix is coming off his first pro-bowl appearance, and Burnett is being asked to play all over the field. Brice will likely play more this season as they move Burnett around between safety, ILB and dime corner. Everyone’s favorite draft pick, Josh Jones, was nowhere to be seen on Saturday as a surprise scratch. He will likely join Burnett as that rover back. The biggest surprise for me this training camp has been Marwin Evans. Granted, he’s playing quite a bit against 2nd and 3rd string players, he has routinely been disruptive, and has been the Packers top performer according to PFF. I think he squeeks out another roster spot, likely as a special teamer.
ST- Mason Crosby, Justin Vogel, Brett Goode
Crosby had some rust earlier in camp, but seems to have calmed down nicely. Vogel was puting superbly at the start of training camp, but struggled with a few bad kicks against Washington. Nothing that should jeopardize his roster spot, however. Goode seems to be a a lock to make the roster, but this seems to be a fluid roster spot, so who knows.
A quick note. The Packers have a tendency to draft borderline undrafted free agent players in rounds 5-7, so a few of these shouldn’t be much of a shock. Someone might take a chance on a guy like Dupre or Yancey based on talent, but you have to remember, all 32 teams passed on these 2 players several times in the draft, there’s a reason they fell. I like a few of the guys like Michael Clark and Lenzy Pipkins, but they, unfortunately, each play at a loaded position. The rest are talented players that either can’t quite beat out their counter part, or have a lot of raw talent that just needs refining.
It’s important to note that, while a lot of these guys fans will argue should be kept for fear of other teams picking them up, it may only be a concern for 2 or 3 players. Every team loves their roster, and loves the guys they have, both rostered and waived. The Packers will likely be in that same camp, and they’ll likely maintain most of their own talent, but don’t be shocked when they cut your favorite training camp darling. It’s a brutal business, and Thompson and McCarthy routinely say the 53 man cut down is their least favorite time of the year. They’ll make a few players days, but more will leave dissapointed and looking for the next opportunity.
I will update this as the preseason continues to roll on. Feel free to tweet at me(@) if you disagree with any of the choices here – I’m more than happy to debate this, as it’s a fluid list.