Every year there is that one cut that catches you flatfooted. I personally call this the Jon Ryan award. If you can remember a few years ago the Packers had a pretty good punter, Ryan, and decided to cut him on the eve of the regular season with no replacement currently on the roster. It led to some bad punting and special teams that year and is still a curious decision to this day.
Well now that we have the first preseason game in the books I decided to poll the APC staff as to who each of us would choose as our surprise cuts. My question to Tex and Kevin was simple: "If you were GM of the Packers which fairly recognizable name would you cut and why?" The player is not one lots of people think should be cut, but it's also one where the GM has at least some reason.
The results that came back were interesting. All three of us chose a starter from last year, and all three players chosen were key contributors during the Super Bowl run. Two of the players chosen were also currently starters on this year's team. Two of the starters though face heavy competition at their respective positions. Let's see who each of us selected....
PA's choice: James Starks. What PA wrote about his decision to cut Starks:
I'm getting close to the point where I am just done with James Starks. He's simply unreliable. He hasn't played a full season of football since college (and mind you not his last year of college, he was out for all that one with an injury too). His receiving skills have been average, but he has been getting more of a case of the dropies (for example last night). He is still struggling with blitz pick up. In this offense these problems should be enough on their own to get a guy cut, but then you also need to factor in that he's just not running well this camp. At camp he's not juking many guys and producing much. At Family Night or last night he didn't break any tackles. Even last year he was totally unimpressive running the ball. Starks is a guy who has had one good stretch of games during the Super Bowl run and then after that he has been a dud. Combine all this with the fact that he's a low round pick and there isn't much of a drop off from Starks to say, Brandon Saine or Alex Green and I don't see a reason why Starks should be using a roster spot let alone be the starting running back. It's time to give Marc Tyler or Du'ane Benett a shot. They have fresher legs and add talents to the running back group that Starks just doesn't have (Tyler can push the pile better than Starks and Bennett is more elusive with a better top speed).
Tex's choice: A.J. Hawk. What Tex wrote about his decision to cut Hawk:
Before Desmond Bishop's injury, A.J. Hawk was my pick for the biggest surprise cut in camp, and I'm sticking with him despite Bishop's absence. Hawk has been an average inside linebacker at best for the past few seasons, and Ted Thompson has stockpiled young talent at the inside linebacker spot. Hawk graded out below average through all of 2011 by Pro Football Focus and is a major liability on passing downs, as he doesn't cover or rush the passer well. Look closer at PFF's number, and it doesn't appear that Hawk as done ANYTHING well recently. D.J. Smith has shown enough to look like a starter-in-waiting like Bishop a few years ago, and although he plays primarily the same position as Bishop, I'm confident he would force his way on to the field if/when Bishop returns. The other young players, Robert Francois, Jamari Lattimore, and Terrell Manning, are making progress and showing some decent skills. I think that there's a very good chance that they show enough promise over the next few weeks to make Hawk expendable even with Bishop out for a while.
Kevin's choice: Sam Shields. What Kevin wrote about his decision to cut Shields:
Most fans expected to see Sam Shields make a big jump during this offseason and take over the starting outside corner role, including the authors at this blog. Instead, he appears to have taken a step backwards. Shields entered camp behind Jarrett Bush and he hasn't done anything to surpass him. Meanwhile, Davon House has stepped up and is the clear favorite to win the starting job if his shoulder injury isn't too serious. If Shields isn't even on the first team dime defense, he has to be a legitimate candidate to get cut. I have trouble picking out a surprise candidate (that's why it's always a surprise!), but I think Shields is more likely to go than James Starks or A.J. Hawk.
So which one of us do you agree with? Or do you think all of us are full of it and there is another guy just barely holding on that would surprise us all?