As the Green Bay Packers wrapped up their preseason slate with a 27-20 win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night, attention quickly shifted to the regular season and the organization’s final cut down.
The Packers will complete their annual roster shake-up Saturday afternoon, a day of joy and distress for many players trying to keep their NFL dreams alive. For many of those individuals, their hopes rest in Green Bay’s decision-making at several key positions.
With that in mind, here are three questions I am mulling over in preparation for Saturday’s day of reckoning.
How many defensive backs will the Packers keep?
On Thursday evening, the position battles in the defensive backfield were on full display as several bubble players were tested for their versatility. Chandon Sullivan was featured at safety at times with Will Redmond and Natrell Jamerson seeing action at cornerback. It was a reverse of typical roles for all three players and appeared to be an evaluation period for one of Green Bay’s final roster spots.
On my current roster prediction, I have six cornerbacks and four safeties making the final roster, with Ka’Dar Hollman and Redmond making up the final positions. But Sullivan, who had impressive clips against Kansas City after a few highlight plays in previous games, would not be a surprise keep. With a year of NFL experience under his belt, Sullivan is on the cusp of a roster spot. But 11 defensive backs, according to my personal numbers, would surely impact other positions on the roster, especially with safety Ibraheim Campbell a candidate to return once healthy.
After Thursday night, the secondary became the most intriguing roster battle in my eyes.
Will Mason Crosby be the surprise release?
Up until Thursday afternoon, left guard Lane Taylor was widely speculated to be in the running for the Packers’ most notable final cut. But after Head Coach Matt LaFleur’s vote of confidence yesterday, Taylor’s spot should be safe. That leaves the steady Crosby as the next long-time veteran on the bubble.
With NFC North opponents searching desperately for kicking help in Chicago and Minnesota, it seems risky to part ways with a fairly reliable kicker. But Crosby is entering the final year of his contract, is eight years older than his rival Sam Ficken, and makes almost $4 million more. Although he was near-perfect throughout training camp, Crosby’s missed extra point Thursday night in the midst of a heated battle did not help his cause. And Ficken’s leg on kickoffs adds an extra dimension to consider.
Personally, I am not as comfortable with a potential Crosby release, but it is certainly not as far-fetched of an idea as it once was early in camp.
How will the offensive line numbers shake out?
Green Bay’s starters appear cemented in place on the offensive line:
- LT - David Bakhtiari
- LG - Lane Taylor
- C - Corey Linsley
- RG - Billy Turner
- RT - Bryan Bulaga
After that, the final numbers on the line are just as in flux as the secondary mentioned above. Turner’s ability to kick out to tackle if needed helps the team’s depth, but will Gerhard de Beer and/or Alex Light make the final roster with Jason Spriggs no longer part of the team’s long-term plans? Justin McCray looks to be safe because of his versatility, but he factors into the tackle depth as well.
On the interior, Elgton Jenkins provides excellent insurance if Taylor struggles at guard, while filling an important role as the backup center. Returner Lucas Patrick is also on the bubble for a final roster spot as he and McCray back up the guard positions.
My inclination is that the Packers keep nine offensive linemen, with Jenkins, McCray, Light, and Patrick as the backups. But the final numbers on the line, as well as in the defensive backfield, should be two areas that influence the final roster most.