With OTAs winding down and minicamp on the horizon — and the Green Bay Packers likely to give some of their veterans a few days off — let’s take a look at how the team’s roster stacks up currently.
We’ll start with the offensive line, a group that has just three sure-fire starters and no backups who are absolutely guaranteed to be on the team in the fall. Yes, it would be a surprise if some of the other veteran backups or a recent rookie draft pick would miss the cut, but those outcomes still seem possible.
Stay tuned as we break down a few other position groups this week. For now, let’s look at the line.
Probably starts on the PUP list (1)
RT Bryan Bulaga
Bulaga is the toughest player to project on the offensive line, largely because there’s no good way to know if he’ll be ready to contribute just nine-and-a-half months removed from an ACL tear. He had a full 12 months to come back from his first ACL tear, which happened in August of 2013, and with a few more seasons of wear on his body, that recovery will be a tough one.
For now, the PUP list seems a logical place for Bulaga to start 2018. He can sit out the first six games while not occupying a roster spot, getting himself fully in game shape before jumping in mid-season. And with the Packers having a number of options to fill in for him in that time, there shouldn’t be a huge rush to bring him back.
Then again, if Bulaga is medically cleared to play by the end of camp, there would seem to be little reason to hold him back as he remains one of the better right tackles in the NFL when healthy. Whether the Packers use a roster spot on him should be entirely dependent on the medical staff’s evaluation of his rehab.
LT David Bakhtiari, LG Lane Taylor, C Corey Linsley
From center to left tackle, the Packers are as strong as any team in the NFL. Bakhtiari is deserving of a first-team All-Pro honor one of these years (he has been the second-team left tackle twice) while Taylor and Linsley have become rocks for this group on the interior.
Likely to make the team (4)
G Justin McCray, OT Jason Spriggs, OT/G Byron Bell, G Cole Madison
McCray should make the team, given that he is the de facto starter at right guard and can pitch in at other positions in a pinch. Spriggs remains a terrific athlete who needs to put his skills together with the mental aspects of the game. Bell got a half-million-dollar signing bonus a few days ago to join the team, meaning that the front office very much sees him contributing this year.
Finally, Madison was the first pick in the fifth round of the draft (#138 overall), putting him squarely in the “likely” category as well as a virtual fourth-rounder. Yes, the Packers have cut fifth-round picks in the past (DeAngelo Yancey being the most recent example), but the earliest-drafted rookie cut by the Packers in the past decade was Jamon Meredith at 162 overall.
Bubble players (2)
G Lucas Patrick, OT Kyle Murphy
These players both project as depth to start the season, and while that does not mean they’re locks, there’s still a good chance that one or both will make the team. At this point we get into a numbers game; with seven or eight players above them, the Packers may need to hold on to one or two more linemen, making the two third-year pros good, but not exceptionally strong, possibilities to make the 53.
G/C Kofi Amichia, C Dillon Day, G/T Adam Pankey
In Amichia, Day, and Pankey, we don’t quite know yet what the Packers have. Amichia spent his whole rookie season on the practice squad to learn how to play on the interior. Day is a career practice squadder, and although he has earned a bit of praise from a certain Aaron Rodgers, keep in mind that the pads haven’t come on. Pankey got some time on the 53 last year, but only due to injury; it’s also notable that he didn’t start when the team needed tackles, as the coaching staff shifted lifelong guards outside instead of putting Pankey on the field. He also ended up behind Ulrick John later on in the year.
The odds aren’t in their favor (3)
C Austin Davis, OT Kyle Meadows, T/G Alex Light
Sorry to the undrafted rookies this year, but based on the numbers game (and Bell’s recent signing), they’ll have to have a truly magnificent performance in camp or see a lot of injuries happen on the depth chart ahead of them to earn a spot on the roster. If I’m betting on anyone, I’d go for Davis, simply because there are fewer players with experience competing for backup jobs at center than any other position. However, one or two of these names should end up on the practice squad come early September.