With two preseason games down and two to go, the Green Bay Packers are fast approaching the cut-down deadlines to reach a 75-man roster (next Tuesday) and the final 53-man squad (the following Saturday). Here at APC, we have had plenty of discussion about the roster battles over the past month, so Tex and Jason are back to break down their predictions for the final roster when it is finalized on September 3rd.
To clarify a few things up front, both Jason and Tex agreed on a couple of items: first, that wide receiver Jeff Janis would likely be placed on injured reserve due to his broken hand, and second that center Corey Linsley will start the 2016 regular season on the PUP list with his hamstring injury. Both of those moves, if they indeed take place, will keep the two in the organization without costing the team a spot on the 53-man roster.
In addition, the Packers have two players suspended for the start of the season: defensive lineman Mike Pennel and cornerback Demetri Goodson. Neither of those players will count against the roster limit either while they serve their suspensions.
Here’s how we see the roster shaking out as of the middle of the preseason schedule.
Tex (2): Aaron Rodgers, Brett Hundley
The only possibility in which the Packers keep a third quarterback on the active roster is if Hundley’s ankle injury renders him unable to play for week one. Joe Callahan probably still has a leg up on Marquise Williams, but they’re fighting for a practice squad spot.
Jason (2): Aaron Rodgers, Brett Hundley
The Packers prefer to keep only two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, and Brett Hundley has shown the coaches heading into his second year that he can handle the offense.
Tex (4): Eddie Lacy, James Starks, John Crockett, Aaron Ripkowski
At this point, Crockett has shown far more in one-and-a-half training camps than Brandon Burks has in the past month - that 3rd tailback job is the only one up for debate, and although Burks has a nice little burst, he has neither the proven production nor the familiarity with the offense that Crockett provides.
Jason (4): Eddie Lacy, James Starks, John Crockett, Aaron Ripkowski
Only two discussion points matter at running backs: Do the Packers keep four total counting the fullback and, if they do, who places behinds Starks? Crockett has looked the best among the backups through two preseason games and probably has done too much to risk trying to pass him through waivers.
Tex (6): Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, Ty Montgomery, Jared Abbrederis, Trevor Davis
The chances of the Packers keeping seven wideouts were always slim, and
Jason (6): Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, Ty Montgomery, Jared Abbrederis, Trevor Davis
Keeping seven wide receivers seems like overkill, and now the Packers can retain Jeff Janis without burning a roster spot on him due to his hand injury.
Tex (3): Jared Cook, Richard Rodgers, Justin Perillo
Kennard Backman might have completed for a roster spot, but Perillo is now contributing on special teams in addition to being one of the teams more sure-handed pass-catchers. Cook has looked terrific in practice so far, and will have plenty of opportunities to make Ted Thompson's big free agent signing look like a good move.
Jason (3): Jared Cook, Richard Rodgers, Justin Perillo
Barring injury, Jared Cook and Richard Rodgers had roster spots locked down before the start of training camp. That leaves a third and perhaps a fourth tight end to determine, but only Justin Perillo has really distanced himself from the pack.
Tex (9): David Bakhtiari, Josh Sitton, JC Tretter, T.J. Lang, Bryan Bulaga, Jason Spriggs, Lane Taylor, Kyle Murphy, Don Barclay
The top six are obvious picks, and though Taylor has not been overly impressive, he’s still the Packers’ best backup guard. Murphy played very well in his first preseason game last week and should have a chance to stick - and back up at both right tackle and guard. The reason I see Barclay making it is only because the Packers need to have somebody who can snap the ball in case Tretter gets hurt. Could Lang shift over in a pinch? Theoretically yes, but until Linsley returns from the PUP, my bet is that Barclay is kept as insurance at center. Once Linsley is back, Barclay becomes the odd man out.
Jason (8): David Bakhtiari, Josh Sitton, JC Tretter, T.J. Lang, Bryan Bulaga, Jason Spriggs, Lane Taylor, Kyle Murphy
The Packers have kept as few as seven offensive linemen after breaking camp, and with Corey Linsley likley starting the season on the PUP, the team doesn’t need to overload this group on their initial 53. Only Kyle Murphy hasn’t performed well during practice or the games, but his draft status and potential to develop into a utility lineman should keep him off the cutting-room floor.
Tex (5): Mike Daniels, Letroy Guion, Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry, Brian Price
The top four are locked in based on contracts and draft position, and with Pennel coming back there is probably only room for one more. I was debating between Brian Price or Christian Ringo, but Price has a little more positional versatility at this point, being able to play on the nose as well as in sub packages as an interior rusher. That will be valuable if Clark’s back issues are anything more than minor.
Jason (5): Mike Daniels, Letroy Guion, Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry, Tyler Kuder
With Mike Pennel returning after his four-game ban, the Packers have every incentive to keep the fifth defensive lineman with the highest ceiling. That appears to be Tyler Kuder, who can realistically play all three spots in Dom Capers’ base defense.
Tex (7): Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, Nick Perry, Datone Jones, Kyler Fackrell, Jayrone Elliott, Lerentee McCray
The top outside linebackers and top inside linebackers are fairly well set - the top five on the outside are locks for the roster at this point. The question becomes which of the next group will make the team? On special teams, the Packers love the body type that Elliott (6’3”, 255) and McCray (6’2”, 246) possess, more so than that of inside linebacker Joe Thomas (6’1”, 227). Although neither of the outside backers has impressed much on defense yet, I’m betting they make it because of special teams contributions.
Jason (6): Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, Nick Perry, Datone Jones, Lerentee McCray, Kyler Fackrell
Kyler Fackrell hasn’t done much to earn a roster spot, but Ted Thompson rarely cuts high draft picks so soon (even Khyri Thornton received a second training camp in Green Bay). Reggie Gilbert has performed well enough to earn 53 consideration, but the logjam ahead of him at outside linebacker could force the team to plan for the practice squad instead.
Tex (4): Sam Barrington, Blake Martinez, Jake Ryan, Carl Bradford
Although Joe Thomas has played reasonably well this preseason, his role as the dime linebacker was quickly supplanted by Martinez and Carl Bradford has been even more impressive. Again, my hunch is that the Packers choose to keep an extra pass-rusher with some special teams ability and hope that Thomas can sneak through onto the practice squad or be available as a free agent if needed in a pinch.
Jason (5): Sam Barrington, Blake Martinez, Jake Ryan, Carl Bradford, Joe Thomas
The three linebackers at the top -- Sam Barrington, Blake Martinez and Jake Ryan -- have their spots locked down barring serious injury. In his third year, Carl Bradford has finally shown the physical tools that convinced the Packers to invest a fourth-round pick in him. Joe Thomas too has impressed, showing abundant aggression and a penchant for big hits.
Tex (5): Sam Shields, Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins, LaDarius Gunter, Josh Hawkins
The top four cornerbacks can feel comfortable making the team, but it would be a surprise if the Packers didn’t carry at least a fifth corner on the roster. So far, Hawkins has been the most impressive of the young players battling for that spot; consistent plays in practice and an interception in a preseason game make this APC favorite a pretty good bet to make the team as of this time.
Jason (6): Sam Shields, Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins, LaDarius Gunter, Josh Hawkins, Robertson Daniel
Sam Shields, Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins make up one of the deepest cornerback units in the league. Josh Hawkins’ athleticism always made him a possible 53 candidate, and Robertson Daniel has made enough improvement to justify the Packers continuing to develop him as a big cornerback.
Tex (5): Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Morgan Burnett, Micah Hyde, Chris Banjo, Kentrell Brice
I had Brice in my initial roster prediction and I’m not backing down now. He has the big-hit ability to make an impact on special teams, and he has been taking snaps with at least one first-team unit. It would be great to see him develop into a gunner on the punt team as well and fill in for Goodson and Janis in that role. The starters and Hyde are locks here, and Banjo has done more than enough to maintain his role as a key reserve and special teams leader.
Jason (5): Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Morgan Burnett, Micah Hyde, Chris Banjo, Kentrell Brice
Like cornerback, safety looks like one of the Packers’ deepest position groups. Chris Banjo has received a handful of snaps with the No. 1 and 2 defenses, so his chances of making the roster appear very high. Kentrell Brice started training camp with longer odds, but his athleticism has translated on the field.
Tex (3): Mason Crosby, Tim Masthay, Rick Lovato
I keep waffling between Masthay and Peter Mortell, but I can’t shake the feeling that the team will stick with the veteran if the two are even at the end of camp. So far, both players have had their inconsistencies, both in practice and in games; with nobody separating to this point, the job stays with the incumbent.
Jason (3): Mason Crosby, Tim Masthay, Rick Lovato
In 2012, Mason Crosby went through unprecedented struggles, converting just 63.6 percent of his field goals. Most teams would have cut Crosby midseason, but the Packers stuck by their veteran place kicker, who has knocked in nearly 86 percent of his attempts since. Tim Masthay could very likely benefit for that same loyalty. His competition, undrafted rookie Peter Mortell, has kicked well, but not so much better that Green Bay won’t ultimately still stick with their long-time punter.