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A look at Green Bay’s practice squad after Tuesday’s moves

Let’s talk about the 69-man roster.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

While the football world was hitting refresh for trade deadline news, the Packers made their headlines on Tuesday through releases and practice squad updates. Aside from just the releases of linebacker Jaylon Smith and long snapper Hunter Bradley, Green Bay provided plenty of clarity on their practice squad situation moving forward, which should become more important in the winter months as vested veterans are subject to waivers.

Vestest veterans are essentially players who are not on rookie contracts, like linebackers Jaylon Smith and Whitney Mercilus, who the Packers signed to the delight of Packers commentors worldwide. From this point on if a veteran is released, NFL teams will have to go through the league’s waiver process, based on team standings, for the first right to a player. For that reason alone, teams are more likely to lean on practice squad movement in the second half of the season than the first half of the season, not including the benefits of not having to teach a new playbook to new faces weekly.

The moves

Practice squad long snapper Steve Wirtel was activated from the practice squad on Tuesday when Bradley’s release was announced. The Packers also released outside linebacker Aaron Adeoye from the practice squad, leaving Tipa Galeai as the lone practice-squadder at the position.

The team signed two practice squad defensive linemen, Abdullah Anderson and Auzoyah Alufohai to the practice squad, giving them three defensive linemen along with R.J. McIntosh. Anderson was in Green Bay’s camp and was on the team’s initial practice squad for a few weeks before his release and his month-long stint with the Tennessee Titans on their practice squad. Anderson was released by the Titans just last week. Alufohai was never in Packers camp, but was worked out by the team a few weeks ago alongside Adeoye, who the team has already signed and released. Alufohai’s path to the NFL came after living in four countries, multiple cases of academic confusion, an injury, and a drop-down to Division II football for a player who once had FBS hopes.

There’s your two-for-two move on the practice squad, but quarterback Kurt Benkert was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, which means that 1 of the 16 practice squad spots in the short term is up for grabs. If I were to guess, they would use in on another running back, as Kylin Hill’s injury has put the team in a situation where they only have three players at the position in practice and may only have two to play with in their upcoming game.

Players called up before

  • WR Juwann Winfree (protected)
  • OL Ben Braden

Two players on the Packers’ current practice squad have already been called up to the game day roster this season, both due to injury. With receivers Davante Adams, Allen Lazard, and Equanimeous St. Brown all potentially returning this week, it would be a bit of a surprise to see Winfree activated anytime soon. It should be noted, though, that the team used one of their four practice squad protections on Winfree this week. Winfree has actually played more offensive snaps than the active roster’s Malik Taylor, but Taylor contributes significantly on the perimeters of the Packers’ special teams.

Braden was also an injury sub when both Elgton Jenkins, who at the time was the starting left tackle, and Dennis Kelly, the backup right tackle, were out. Braden never played an offensive snap and only saw playing time on special teams in the games he was activated for.

Protected players

  • DL R.J. McIntosh
  • OLB Tipa Galeai
  • K J.J. Molson

Up to this point in the season, the Packers’ thought process was to use three of their four practice squad protections Benkert, Molson, and Writel. With Benkert on the reserve/COVID list and Writel called up, they went from three weekly locks to just one on Tuesday. Molson remained a protected player, but Winfree, McIntosh, and Galeai were mostly new names to be protected, aside from the games Winfree was activated in.

Assuming the Packers have Adams, Lazard, and Valdes-Scantling this week, Winfree should be the team’s sixth option at receiver, but will likely be passed on the game day roster for Amari Rodgers and Taylor who contribute on special teams. Galeai and McIntosh have not played a snap this season, unlike 11 line of scrimmage defenders on the Packers’ 53 man roster. There’s a good chance their protection signifies the team simply protecting players who they consider to be talented more than protecting players they planned to play in case of emergency, like they have in prior weeks.

Packers campers

  • RB Patrick Taylor
  • WR Chris Blair
  • TE Bronson Kaufusi
  • OT Cole Van Lanen
  • DL Abdullah Anderson
  • ILB Ray Wilborn
  • CB Kabion Ento
  • SAF Innis Gaines

9 of the 11 players who were not protected on the Packers’ practice squad this week were in Green Bay’s training camp, including Braden. There are two notable players to talk about in this group for varying reasons: Taylor and Kaufusi.

Taylor is important because he is one of three running backs on the Packers’ roster at the moment, a recent issue after Hill’s injury. If the team was planning on activating him to the 53-man roster, one would think he would have been protected. The Packers have made practice squad signings on Wednesday before, though, which is how Equanimeous St. Brown’s activation went down.

Kaufusi is interesting because he is one of five tight ends the team has access to following Robert Tonyan’s placement on injured reserve for his ACL injury. With Dominique Dafney back in the mix, the team could waive Tyler Davis to open up a roster spot in the near future. Davis, who has recorded five offensive snaps this season, was previously on the Indianapolis Colts’ practice squad and may, like Abdullah has recently, return to his original practice squad following a stint with another team. That would put Kaufusi in a spot to be the next man up on the Packers’ 53 man roster in, at the very least, a special teams role.

New(er) faces

  • SAF Shawn Davis
  • DL Auzoyah Alufohai

Davis, a 2021 fifth-round pick by the Colts, the recently-signed Alufohai, and the protected McIntosh are the only players who weren’t in Packers camp this summer. They also all play two of the three positions where Green Bay is rostering multiple practice squaders, signifying the staff adding competition to positions where the players know the playbook. Because of that, it would be a bit surprising to see the Packers use their open roster spot on the practice squad for another receiver, defensive lineman, or safety.