It’s that time again. Tomorrow, the Green Bay Packers and the other 31 NFL teams will reduce their rosters down to their initial 53-man active lists. This year is a strange one, as goes the refrain all summer; with no preseason games to rely on for evaluation, it will be difficult for teams to make decisions on the very back ends of their rosters.
It is even more difficult for us to predict what the Packers will do given the dearth of information out there due to the team’s media policy in training camp. While we know a few snippets of what has been going on, there is little to no clarity on, say, which players are running with the second-team offensive line.
Still, it’s time for our best educated guesses at who the Packers will keep on the initial 53-man roster. A few reminders are worth mentioning, however: Players placed on injured reserve prior to the cutdown deadline at 3:00 PM Central on Saturday are not eligible to return this season. Thus the Packers must hold on to any players they wish to bring back from IR through the deadline, which is why rookie linebacker Kamal Martin still appears on the roster. Additionally, only players currently on the active/NFI or PUP lists now are eligible for the reserve versions of those lists on Saturday.
This year, nine APC contributors submitted roster predictions. After compiling them together, here is our composite prediction for Saturday’s roster.
Starter: Aaron Rodgers
Backups: Tim Boyle, Jordan Love
No surprises here. The Packers have three quarterbacks on the roster and appear to be in no position to change that unit. Rodgers will start, Love will sit, and Boyle probably serves as the primary backup.
Wide Receivers (5)
Starters: Davante Adams, Allen Lazard
Backups: Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown, Jake Kumerow
Released: Reggie Begelton, Darrius Shepherd, Malik Taylor, Malik Turner
APC went with a 12 personnel starting offense by a nearly unanimous vote — only one individual went with three wideouts in 11 personnel — so Adams and Lazard get the top spots. MVS, EQ, and Kumerow round out the unit at just five.
The Packers in all likelihood will need one of the other players sometime this season, so expect the team to try to get two or more of these players on the practice squad. Begelton, Shepherd, and Taylor seem like good candidates, but we just don’t have room for them with the Packers going with more heavy personnel and working Tyler Ervin in with the wideouts a bit.
Running Backs (4)
Starter: Aaron Jones
Backups: Jamaal Williams, AJ Dillon, Tyler Ervin
Released: Demarea Crockett, Dexter Williams
Reserve/NFI: Patrick Taylor
Jones and Williams have well-defined roles on this team, while Dillon makes the 53 as a third option. There has been some speculation about Williams being on the chopping block, but with LaFleur’s comments at the Combine about wanting three ball-carriers he can lean on over the course of a season, expect him to stay and serve a complementary role to Jones. Meanwhile, Ervin will serve as the primary return man and a gadget player on offense.
Tight Ends (4)
Starters: Robert Tonyan, Marcedes Lewis
Backups: Jace Sternberger, Josiah Deguara
Released: Evan Baylis
Surprisingly, Tonyan sneaks ahead of Sternberger in our picks for the starting lineup, in large part due to his experience. Lewis gets the other starting spot as the team’s primary blocker. Meanwhile, Sternberger will play a heavy receiving role while the team figures out how to deploy third-round pick Deguara.
Offensive Linemen (9)
Starters: David Bakhtiari, Elgton Jenkins, Corey Linsley, Lane Taylor, Rick Wagner
Backups: Billy Turner, Lucas Patrick, Jon Runyan, Jr., Yosh Nijman
Released: Cody Conway, Jake Hanson, Zack Johnson, John Leglue, Alex Light
Reserve/NFI: Simon Stepaniak
The line may be the most difficult position to decide upon, as a handful of our contributors kept ten. Ultimately, the most difficult decision came down to whether the team can keep three players who back up the interior of the line — Patrick, Runyan, and Hanson — or just one.
The starting line, at least for week one, seems to have been settled by Turner’s knee injury. Taylor appears to have locked down the right guard spot, leaving Turner and Wagner in a battle at right tackle, which for now goes to Wagner by default. Patrick can then back up any of the three interior spots, while Runyan probably ends up as a backup guard on day one with Nijman as the swing tackle. Nijman vs. Light was another intriguing battle, but we’re going with athleticism and upside.
If Hanson is indeed released, he would be a sure bet for a practice squad spot, as the only 2020 draft pick for whom we could not find a roster spot.
Defensive Linemen (5)
Starters: Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry
Backups: Kingsley Keke, Tyler Lancaster, Treyvon Hester
Released: Montravius Adams, Will Previlon
Several contributors predicted that the Packers would keep just four defensive linemen, but the group ultimately went with five. Adams’ injury and lack of impression this summer mean that there’s little chance of the former third-rounder sticking around. That practically gives Hester the fifth spot by default, though the Packers could scour the waiver wire on Sunday for another option.
Outside Linebackers (5)
Starters: Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith
Backups: Rashan Gary, Jonathan Garvin, Tim Williams
Released: Tipa Galeai, Randy Ramsey, Greg Roberts, Delontae Scott
Behind the top three, the Packers have a number of young and intriguing players fighting for spots. Garvin has an inside shot as being one of them by virtue of his status as a draft pick, and he has seemingly had a nice rookie camp. Meanwhile, Williams gets our pick as a fifth player at the position, putting his athleticism to work in camp and providing pressure on the Packers’ offensive line.
Inside Linebackers (4)
Starter: Christian Kirksey
Backups: Oren Burks, Ty Summers, Kamal Martin
Released: Krys Barnes
Reserve/PUP: Curtis Bolton
The Packers’ inside linebacker unit is in quite a difficult spot with injuries. Kirksey should have one spot locked down, but Martin appears to be headed for injured reserve after undergoing knee surgery this week. In order to keep him eligible to return this season, the Packers will need to keep him on the initial 53-man roster.
Oren Burks returned to practice this week, thankfully, giving him a shot at the starting lineup, while Summers returns with potential and special teams prowess in his corner. That probably leaves Barnes as an odd man out, though the team could try to bring him back for the practice squad or onto the active roster following Martin going on IR.
Starters: Adrian Amos, Darnell Savage, Raven Greene
Backups: Will Redmond, Vernon Scott
Released: Henry Black
Despite missing a few practices — along with Burks — we’re expecting Greene to get the start in week one as a linebacker next to Kirksey. That would give the team a base dime defense once again, as we’ll get to momentarily.
Amos and Savage return as the no-brainer starters, while Redmond provides valuable special teams play and insurance at the position. Scott also makes the team in our prediction, with the ability to pitch in from the slot on occasion.
Starters: Jaire Alexander, Kevin King, Chandon Sullivan
Backups: Josh Jackson, Ka’Dar Hollman, Stanford Samuels
Released: DaShaun Amos, Kabion Ento, Will Sunderland
Mike Pettine made it very clear that Sullivan is the team’s starting nickel back when he spoke to the media on Thursday. He was equally clear about Josh Jackson having a major role, as he appears to have solidified himself as the number three option on the boundary. We then see the team going DB-heavy, giving Hollman another shot and keeping Samuels as the sole undrafted rookie for the opening 53.
Ento’s injury helped settle things here, as he likely would have had a good chance of making the team before that point.
SPECIAL TEAMS (3)
Mason Crosby, JK Scott, Hunter Bradley
There’s no discussion here. The Packers have one player on the 80-man roster at each of the three specialist positions.