Cutdown Saturday has come and gone, and the Green Bay Packers' roster now stands at 53 players. While no roster is ever truly final, we now essentially know what Packers will look like when they take the field next week in Chicago.
So how did we get here? How did Green Bay's front office arrive at their personnel decisions? We answer five important roster questions.
Why did Alonzo Harris and Aaron Ripkowski beat out Rajion Neal and John Crockett for roster spots?
It became increasingly clear as the preseason wore on that the Packers thought highly of Aaron Ripkowski as a special-teams contributor. The team allocated a ton of snaps to the Oklahoma rookie, who made plenty of impact plays on the coverage units. Given the age of starting fullback John Kuhn (33 on Wednesday), it seems as though Ripkowski could take his place down the line. Add in the fact that the Packers invested a sixth-round pick on him, and it's not hard to see why he has a spot on the 53.
As for Alonzo Harris, his size and nimble feet made him a natural fit for the offense. An injured hand nearly derailed those plans, but when healthy Harris possesses the size and quickness necessary the team desires of its tailbacks. Health certainly derailed John Crockett, who showed little until the Packers' final game of the preseason due to a sprained ankle. Ultimately it was too little too late for the North Dakota State product.
Still, most expected the final halfback spot (if one existed) to go to second-year man Rajion Neal, who put together a fine preseason. Neal proved himself the most skilled pass catcher out of the backfield and provided added depth at returner. Green Bay's decision not to retain him suggests that the team feels comfortable with Ty Montgomery, Micah Hyde, Jeff Janis and, if needed, Randall Cobb as its returners. With returns no longer part of the equation, the Packers opted to keep the bigger, quicker Harris instead.
Why did the Packers keep only five wideouts?
For the majority of Mike McCarthy's tenure as head coach, the Packers have entered the year with five receivers, though that number has fluctuated during the season. Though the team may have made an exception in 2015, Jordy Nelson's season-ending ACL tear made such a scenario highly unlikely. With Cobb, Davante Adams, Montgomery locks to make the 53, the only question after Nelson's injury was which youngsters would make up the remaining spots.
Jeff Janis entered the NFL as a super-athletic, raw wideout. He still needs to improve as a route runner, but Janis has become a more useful player in his second year. Montgomery will get the most snaps along the boundary opposite of Adams early in the season, but Janis could cut into those snaps somewhat as he builds rapport with Aaron Rodgers.
The final spot came down to Myles White and Jared Abbrederis. White, now in his third season, has probably maxed out his potential, but he's a confident, aggressive pass catcher that can play both outside and in the slot. Abbrederis on the other hand remains a mystery. He has just a few practices and one preseason game under his belt spread out over two years. The Packers gave Abbrederis plenty of run during Thursday's preseason finale, suggesting they still believe in his potential. However, they didn't feel good enough to keep him over White or as a sixth wideout.
Is it strange that the Packers kept seven cornerbacks?
Green Bay doesn't usually keep seven corners (a figure which includes Micah Hyde), but it's not without precedent. In 2012, the team rostered six "pure" cornerbacks along with corner-safety hybrid Charles Woodson. Hyde serves in a similar role, covering the slot in nickel and sub package while also lining up deep in other situations.
The decision to keep so many corners speaks volumes about the depth the Packers have at the position. In addition to returning veterans Sam Shields, Casey Hayward and Hyde, the team brought in enticing rookies Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins and LaDarius Gunter. All had secured roster spots early in the preseason. Green Bay also decided that second-year man Demetri Goodson offered enough on special teams to merit his own roster berth.
Which released players are most likely to sign to Green Bay's practice squad?
Should he clear waivers, the aforementioned Abbrederis should have a job waiting for him on Packers' practice squad. His potential as a returner and pass catcher warranted an extended run during the preseason finale, so it makes sense to give the second-year wideout another look. Offensive lineman Matt Rotheram and tight end Justin Perillo probably showed enough to merit practice squad jobs of their own.
On defense, Christian Ringo probably returns to fill one of the other spots. Green Bay took the defensive lineman in the sixth-round, and Ted Thompson rarely gives up on a draft pick so soon. Edge rusher James Vaughters made enough plays to garner consideration, as did inside linebacker Joe Thomas and cornerback Tay Glover-Wright.
Who gets the axe when Datone Jones and Letroy Guion return?
Because the NFL suspended Datone Jones and Letroy Guion for one and three games respectively, the defensive linemen do not count against the 53-man roster until they return. That means that barring the Packers must either release a player to make room or sever ties with the suspended players. Since the latter is unlikely, two current members of the 53-man roster won't last past the third week of the season.
Though Green Bay could simply swap out some of their current defensive linemen for Jones and Guion, that may not be the team's best option. Only five linemen made the final cut Saturday, and all should have some sort of role on defense. Instead, look for the Packers to open up spots by slashing elsewhere on the roster.
Should they go that direction, the most obvious position groups to trim appear to be defensive back and offensive line. The team can easily cut one of its cornerbacks and/or safeties and still retain a healthy number at either spot. The same holds true for the big uglies, where Green Bay currently possesses nine blockers.