Packer Links: James Johnson Is A Packer, Shields Is The Nickel Back, Williams Is The Punt Returner

There's less than a week to go before the Green Bay Packers open their season against the Eagles, but I'm still looking back at the moves made to set the roster this weekend.

RB James Johnson was added to the practice squad. I expected they would add a running back with their final roster opening. There's not much to say about his NFL career so far. He spent the 2008 and 2009 seasons with the Bengals and was re-signed by them in mid-August as an injury replacement. During his last season of college (2007), he was part of a running back platoon with RB Leon Patton in an offense that gave them "only token inclusion." He was college teammates with WR Jordy Nelson and Bucs QB Josh Freeman. He had 34 receptions as a senior, the same year that Nelson had 122 receptions. It looks like they wanted a running back who's also a good receiver, and can backup RB Brandon Jackson as the 3rd down back. 

According to the Journal-Sentinel, the Packers led the NFL with 5 players claimed. It's interesting that all 5 were originally undrafted free agents. Those are solid players, but I don't think the Packers lost a lot either.

I'm still surprised that CB Sam Shields has won the nickel back job. I expected someone more tenured like (shudder) CB Jarrett Bush would get the nod until CB Al Harris returns mid-season or CB Brandon Underwood's shoulder heals. Shields is the best of the rest. But what caught my eye in this Journal-Sentinel article was that he's roommates with starting rookie SS Morgan Burnett. The idea of them learning from each other after practice is interesting, and it obviously helped both of them.

I was expecting Nelson would return punts and RB Brandon Jackson would return kickoffs. Instead Nelson is the kick returner and CB Tramon Williams is the punt returner. Nelson's a solid, not a home run threat, but he's had a bunch of good ones in his career. I'm not sure I like the idea of Williams running around on defense, and then having to lineup on special teams. But anyone who remembers Williams on punt returns in 2007 will know he's a home run threat. They are the two best options, so it's certainly the correct decision in that regard.

One of the changes this season is that LB Clay Matthews has switched to the left side of defense. The first reason for this (so I've read) is to put him on the side opposite DE Cullen Jenkins, and have their top two pass rushers on opposite sides. That sounds good in theory, but it obviously didn't hurt Matthews last season to play alongside Jenkins. The reason I like better is that he's now on the strong side, and typically over the tight end. As a former defensive end who weighs 10-15 lbs. more than LB Brad Jones, it makes sense to have him play on the side that typically has the extra blocker and the bigger offensive lineman.

From the Journal-Sentinel. With the waiver and injury settlement to RB Quinn Porter, and previously S Will Blackmon, the Packers are starting a new trend. In previous years, they usually kept players on I.R. all season. It probably doesn't hurt to keep them around (they're getting paid either way) and then they have first hand knowledge whether the player can fit into their plans for next season. But instead they're clearing out the I.R. and now only CB Josh Bell remains on it. RT Allen Barbre was released earlier after receiving an injury settlement followed his trip to the I.R. 

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