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10 questions the Green Bay Packers need to answer before roster cutdowns

There’s still a lot of answers the Packers need before the regular season kicks off.

Syndication: PackersNews Samantha Madar/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin / USA TODAY NETWORK

Green Bay Packers training camp officially concluded on Tuesday, as the team will use Wednesday to travel for the final preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday. Head Coach Matt LaFleur announced yesterday that the Packers who were held out of action in Week 1 and Week 2 will continue to be held out in Week 3, meaning the only starters the squad is expected to play are the offensive linemen and rookie first-round inside linebacker Quay Walker.

Still, the Packers’ roster sits at 79 players, as of today, and will need to be shaved down to 53 by August 30th. As a reminder, players can now officially be placed on the regular season physically unable to perform and injured reserve lists, which allow the team not to count them toward their roster count. If a player is placed on injured reserve, though, he cannot be designated to return at any point during the 2022 season. If a player is placed on injured reserve before August 31st, he is out for the season.

With so many jobs on the line, let’s take a look at the ten burning questions the Packers must answer before nailing down their 53-man roster. LaFleur stated yesterday that they will have two more practices in Green Bay between their matchup against the Chiefs and the cut deadline and that their cut decisions will not be made until after those practices. Still, with preseason games focusing on the end of the roster and with practice reps being split between starts and backups, the game against Kansas City can be the last shot a lot of these players have at changing the minds of the organization.

#1) Patrick Taylor or Tyler Goodson?

More than likely, the Green Bay Packers will roster three running backs when they announce their initial 53-man roster. The top backs in the running for the third slot behind Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon are Tyler Goodson and Patrick Taylor, though, Dexter Williams is still on the roster.

Goodson, the Week 1 starter, has taken 22 carries for 79 yards this preseason while Taylor, the Week 2 starter, has recorded 11 carries for 30 yards. In Week 1, Goodson was given a true start while Taylor was subbed in as a short-yardage and passing downs pass-blocker. In Week 2, the two traded series throughout the first half.

Head coach Matt LaFleur has stated several times that special teams contributions will impact who the team ends up keeping in that final running back spot. Taylor’s big frame (6’2”, 217 pounds) may end up getting him on the team because of punt team (as a personal protector), kickoff and punt block.

The team also placed Kylin Hill on the regular season physically unable to perform list, which means he will miss the first four weeks of the season but will be able to return to the active roster after a month. Goodson’s scatback-like skillset can be replaced by Hill, while Taylor’s size and pass protection ability cannot be found in the Packers’ remaining options. After recorded 23 carries for 89 yards and a touchdown in the regular season last year, who knows if Taylor, a 24-year-old who went undrafted due to an injury that cost him most of his rookie season, will be claimed by another 53-man roster if he’s exposed to waivers.

#2) Do the Packers keep 7 receivers?

To put it simply, Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, Sammy Watkins, Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs would be shocking releases at this point in the summer. The next highest-played receivers this preseason, in the team’s key snaps, are Amari Rodgers, who is starting as a punt returner, and Juwann Winfree, who is out-snapping Rodgers 22 to 7 snaps as an outside receiver in the first half of preseason games.

Both are contributing heavily on special teams, and the recent trade of Cole Van Lanen, puts the Packers in a situation where they can realistically carry seven receivers on the team. The fact that the reserve cornerbacks can play gunner and vice means the team no longer needs to roster a player like the recently-released Malik Taylor, who was a non-returning special teams ace. Things are aligning in a way where Green Bay could realistically stash seven of their receivers on the 53-man roster in Week 1.

#3) Tyler Davis or Alize Mack?

Last week, Alize Mack was more involved with the first-team offense against the New Orleans Saints. After not recording a single snap in the first half against the San Francisco 49ers, Mack was used as an inline tight end five times in the first half against the Saints, the same amount of snaps that Tyler Davis played the position and more than Josiah Deguara (two snaps) put his hand in the dirt for.

Mack has also been starting as a middle-of-the-field frontline defender on kickoff return and has played snaps as a wing on punt team. Following the release of Dominique Dafney, it seems like Davis’ biggest competition for a roster spot is Mack, a highly-athletic tight end who signed a futures contract with the team in February. Davis, who has struggled, is likely to make the roster but isn’t a roster lock. The fact that Robert Tonyan, coming off of an ACL tear, has been activated off of the physically unable to perform list but has still yet to take team snaps in practice only makes the situation more complicated.

#4) Do the Packers keep 10 offensive linemen?

Following the trade of Cole Van Lanen for a seventh-round pick, the top nine players on the Packers’ offensive line seem fairly settled. While David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins haven’t played team snaps yet, Yosh Nijman, Jon Runyan Jr., Josh Myers, Royce Newman, Jake Hanson and Zach Tom are rotating in and out of the first-team lineup offensively. Beyond them, third-round rookie Sean Rhyan, who is transitioning to guard from tackle at UCLA, will almost certainly make the team.

The next man up is a bit of a question mark, but undrafted rookie tackle Caleb Jones, who is the second-team offense’s left tackle this preseason, is probably the tenth lineman on paper. Teams usually carry nine to ten linemen, meaning Thursday’s game is probably Jones’ last chance to convince the Packers to keep him off the practice squad before the cutdowns to 53 players.

#5) What’s with the logjam at DL6?

Behind starters Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry and Jarran Reed, first-round rookie Devonte Wyatt and key backup T.J. Slaton, there are a lot of questions on the defensive line. Will the team just go into games with five linemen? Will they keep six? If they do keep six, who actually is the sixth player?

Jonathan Ford, a seventh-round rookie, has basically played the third nose tackle spot this summer behind Clark and Slaton. Jack Heflin, who made last year’s 53-man roster, has started as a 3-4 defensive end this preseason but has rarely seen playing time as a nickel defensive tackle, both roles that Chris Slayton — who was claimed off of waivers in May — has played significantly.

It’s a three-man race for maybe one open job, which should bring a lot out of the defensive line group against the Chiefs.

#6) Who will emerge at outside linebacker?

Behind starters Rashan Gary and Preston Smith, the Packers will probably roster three outside linebackers, based on how the team has talked about the position this summer. Rookie fifth-round pick Kingsley Enagbare has broken out recently, which likely cements his roster spot, and Tipa Galeai is easily the most played outside linebacker on special teams in the preseason, which gives him a good chance to make the team.

Green Bay is playing three other outside linebackers, La’Darius Hamilton, Jonathan Garvin and Kobe Jones, about equally this preseason. They are likely fighting for one roster spot and none of them have really separated themselves from the pack as of yet. Both Garvin and Hamilton were on the Packers’ 2021 roster while Jones was picked up as a street free agent after he was unclaimed when he was waived by the Tennessee Titans in May.

This could be a position that the Packers add a body to during the waivers process, but the trio of backups besides Enagbare and Galeai have another opportunity to prove their worth against Kansas City.

#7) Does Ray Wilborn make the team?

For the first time in a long time, it seems like the Packers have pretty good inside linebacker depth with De’Vondre Campbell, rookie first-round pick Quay Walker, Isaiah McDuffie, 2021 starter Krys Barnes and Ray Wilborn on the roster. In the preseason, the team has opened up with a lineup of Walker-McDuffie, with Campbell being held out of competition, and then used McDuffie-Barnes and Barnes-Wilborn later on in the first halves of games.

Wilborn, who was on the team’s practice squad in 2021 after a strong preseason, is on the cutting edge of the roster bubble right now. It’s possible that the team keeps five inside linebackers, but that becomes a tougher ask if the Packers also keep six defensive linemen. Decisions need to be made, even if Wilborn is a special teams contributor and is getting cracks at first-half snaps this preseason.

#8) Who is CB5/CB6?

A week ago, it felt like a cornerback room of Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes, Rasul Douglas, Shemar Jean-Charles, Keisean Nixon and Rico Gafford was a lock, but the emergence of Kiondre Thomas has made it a seven-man race for likely six roster spots. Against the Saints, Jean-Charles played 31 snaps, Gafford played 24 snaps and each of Nixon and Thomas played 13 snaps at cornerback in the first half. In Week 1 against the 49ers, Nixon out-snapped Thomas 14-to-1 in the first half.

Still, Nixon got first-team reps on Tuesday’s practice as a nickelback following Douglas’ move to the safety position. That’s somewhat of a surprise, as Jean-Charles out-snapped Nixon 11-to-6 in the slot in the first half against the Saints. Overall, what seemed to be a settled position very quickly became a game of musical chairs once again.

#9) Who are the Packers’ four safeties?

Starting safety Darnell Savage went down with a hamstring injury in Family Night and has yet to return to the team. Prior to then, Shawn Davis was used as the team’s third safety in three-safety dime packages this summer, which led us to assume that he was going to be the next man up at the position. Instead, Vernon Scott replaced Savage and, in an even more surprising turn of events, Scott and 2022 signing Dallin Leavitt got the nods as the starting safeties against the 49ers in the preseason opener.

Leavitt was burned badly on a touchdown by San Francisco quarterback Trey Lance and later went down with a shoulder injury that Leavitt hasn’t recovered from. With Leavitt and Savage out against the Saints, Scott and Davis got starts, before Scott himself went out with an injury. On Tuesday, Scott was waived by the team with an injury designation.

Aside from Davis, the only other healthy safety on the Packers’ roster who has seen first-half snaps at the position this summer is Micah Abernathy, who played in the USFL last spring and was signed by the team in mid-August. With cornerback Rasul Douglas taking “starting” safety snaps across from Adrian Amos in practice this week, it’s hard to know exactly what Green Bay is thinking at this position.

#10) Is Mason Crosby going to play Week 1?

In Week 1 of the preseason, the Packers used kicker Gabe Brkic against the San Francisco 49ers, a game in which injured his hamstring and later led to him being placed on waivers with an injury designation. Brkic was replaced by former USFL kicker Ramiz Ahmed in Week 2.

Following the Week 2 game, the Packers decided to work out five kickers on Monday. Incumbent kicker Mason Crosby has yet to practice with the team this summer, as he started training on the physically unable to perform list with a knee injury. Head coach Matt LaFleur has stated that the team “likes” where Crosby is at in his rehab process, but the fact that he still isn’t ready to practice just a few weeks before Green Bay’s season opener is concerning.