While the Green Bay Packers had been keeping 10 linebackers every season since the switch to a 3-4 defense, I thought they might not have kept so many this year after a lackluster training camp from a couple players. It's not quite 10 players, since the list includes Frank Zombo, who isn't expected back from a broken shoulder blade until October.
It's no surprise to see Vic So'oto make the roster. After he dominated the Chiefs, and he'd been outstanding in training camp and this preseason anyway, he did everything an undrafted rookie could do to make the team.
The locks: Clay Matthews, A.J. Hawk, and Desmond Bishop. No doubt about those three.
The likely: Zombo and Erik Walden. I expected these two would make the team, but a bad training camp by either player might have led to their release. I'm a little surprised that Zombo's season isn't over with a trip to the I.R. but the team must be hearing some good medical reports. Walden has made some plays and his roster spot was never in danger. He was probably a lock after the injury to Zombo.
The returning backups: Robert Francois and Brad Jones. I wouldn't have been surprised if either player had been released because neither stood out during the preseason. They both have experience in the system, and Jones has now played at every linebacker position to provide added depth. They are both good enough to stay, but neither did enough to cement their spot on the team earlier in training camp.
The young blood: So'oto, Jamari Lattimore, and D.J. Smith. When they were signed, I thought So'oto or Lattimore had a shot at making the team as this year's version of Frank Zombo, but I didn't expect both of them would. Lattimore is the biggest surprise because at 230 lbs. he's easily the smallest linebacker on the roster. But he showed he could get into the backfield or drop into coverage, and he was all over the field. The same could be said of Smith, who I'm a little surprised made it too because of his lack of size, but the coaches love him.
The released: Ricky Elmore, Cardia Jackson, and Elijah Joseph. I was initially impressed with Joseph against the Chiefs, but I cooled down a little after I re-watched the game. Elmore looked the part, but didn't produce during the preseason. Jackson might have stood a chance to stick if they didn't have guys like Lattimore and Smith around. Elmore was the biggest disappointment, but it's hard to expect too much from a 6th round pick.