60 minutes, and then the rest of your lives.
That’s the mantra that around 30 members of the Green Bay Packers’ 80-man roster (which currently sits at 79 players) must have today, based on our math. The Packers have their final preseason game tonight against the Kansas City Chiefs, after which they will settle on an initial 53-man roster next Tuesday.
However, according to our evaluation, there are only about seven roster spots really up for grabs at present. We see there being a whopping 36 roster locks on the team and another ten players likely to make the roster (including one who is still on the PUP list), leaving the remaining 33 players to compete for their NFL lives tonight.
Here’s how we see the roster shaping up as of this moment.
Locks: 2 (Aaron Rodgers, Jordan Love)
Virtually No Chance: 1 (Danny Etling)
With need of numbers at other positions, it’s almost impossible to find a way that the Packers will keep three quarterbacks on their opening 53-man roster regardless of whether Etling has an explosive performance on Thursday night. Etling saw just 31 snaps through two preseason games and just six last week against the Saints. The Packers will surely hope to get him onto their practice squad, but the numbers just don’t allow for a third QB, especially with Love showing significant signs of improvement behind Rodgers.
Locks: 2 (Aaron Jones, AJ Dillon)
On the Bubble: 2 (Patrick Taylor, Tyler Goodson)
Long Shot: 1 (Dexter Williams)
We know that Jones and Dillon are locked in — neither has played a snap in the preseason and both are among the better and more complete running backs in the NFL. The interesting battle is for the RB3 job, as well as a question of whether the Packers might be tempted to keep four players on the 53 to start the season.
If they do, Taylor and Goodson look like the easy picks. But in all likelihood, the two are taking their fight for the RB3 spot down to the wire. Each has started one preseason game so far, and the two look like vastly different players — Taylor is tall and thick, a powerful runner who is stout as a pass-blocker, while Goodson is smaller, more nimble, and a better receiver out of the backfield. This battle might come down to who the Packers prefer stylistically rather than who actually plays better, especially if they think they can get one of these players onto the practice squad.
Dexter Williams’ return to Green Bay is a fun story, after he had a cup of coffee in the USFL this summer, but he has a tough road to the 53 behind the other two backs. Don’t count out a practice squad job for him, however, especially if the Packers keep three on the 53 and see another team claim whichever of Taylor or Goodson gets cut. The Packers also have Kylin Hill waiting in the wings on the PUP list, eligible to return after the first four weeks of the season.
Locks: 4 (Randall Cobb, Allen Lazard, Romeo Doubs, Christian Watson)
Likely to Make the Team: 2 (Sammy Watkins, Amari Rodgers)
On the Bubble: 1 (Juwann Winfree)
Long shot: 1 (Samori Toure)
Virtually No Chance: 2 (Travis Fulgham, Ishmael Hyman)
If you said there were six locks on this unit, you might be right. This writer, however, can’t shake the feeling that there is still a world in which either of Watkins or Rodgers is released at the final cut. Watkins’ contract has virtually no guaranteed money; however, he has been held out of preseason action along with the rest of the veterans, so his spot certainly feels secure. Rodgers, meanwhile, would need a truly catastrophic performance to earn a pink slip thanks to his 3rd-round draft selection in 2021, but that also seems like a slim but nonzero possibility.
The biggest question is on the bubble, where Juwann Winfree has consistently spent his NFL career. If the Packers do keep seven receivers, it certainly feels like Winfree will be the last man on, given his workload and varied usage through two preseason games. If Toure hauls in a few big plays (like the one he dropped last week) he could make the decision a little tougher, but he looks destined for a release and either a waiver claim or a practice squad slot. Fulgham and Hyman look like space-fillers, though Hyman might be a practice squad possibility as well.
Locks: 3 (Marcedes Lewis, Robert Tonyan, Josiah Deguara)
Likely to Make the Team: 1 (Tyler Davis)
Long Shots: 2 (Alize Mack, Nate Becker)
Virtually No Chance: 1 (Sal Cannella)
The top three tight ends are locked in after Tonyan’s activation off the PUP list ten days ago. Lewis will play his usual 6th offensive lineman role with Tonyan as the receiving option and Deguara as the jack-of-all-trades.
Davis is where things get interesting. The team still seems to value his contributions on special teams, even as he has caused turnovers on offense in each of the first two preseason games. Is that special teams value alone enough to make the team overlook those mistakes? And can he bounce back with a good game tonight after a reportedly very good practice on Tuesday?
If Davis does get cut, Mack would be the logical replacement as another in-line tight end. However, he has done nothing as a receiver for much of camp. Becker was a recent addition after the Packers released Dominique Dafney and he got a handful of snaps as a fullback and move tight end last week. He appears to already be more useful than Cannella at this point.
Locks: 8 (David Bakhtiari, Jon Runyan, Jr., Josh Myers, Elgton Jenkins, Royce Newman, Zach Tom, Sean Rhyan, Yosh Nijman)
Likely to Make the Team: 1 (Jake Hanson)
Long Shot: 1 (Caleb Jones)
Virtually No Chance: 2 (Michael Menet, Rasheed Walker)
The Packers’ O-line looks pretty set now that Bakhtiari and Jenkins are back from the PUP list. Even if those two can’t go in week one, the line should shake out with Nijman, Runyan, Myers, Newman/Hanson, and Tom/Newman.
Hanson is the only member of that group who we don’t see as a total lock, in part because his play still seems to lag behind that of Newman and Tom in our eyes. It would still be a surprise if he were released, but not a complete shock.
Jones’ play last week at left tackle gives the Packers a viable option (and an extraordinarily large human) if they want a pure tackle instead of an interior backup like Hanson or if they want to keep a tenth OL while Bakhtiari and Jenkins continue to work back towards playing. Menet and Walker have seen virtually no snaps with the second-stringers and appear to be headed for practice squad spots at best, even despite Walker’s status as a draft pick.
Locks: 5 (Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry, Jarran Reed, Devonte Wyatt, T.J. Slaton)
On the Bubble: 2 (Jack Heflin, Chris Slayton)
Long Shot: 1 (Jonathan Ford)
Virtually No Chance: 1 (Akial Byers)
This top five looks totally solid. Clark, Lowry, and Reed have been held out of preseason games as veterans, Wyatt is a first-round rookie, and Slaton has been very impressive in his second training camp. That’s a really good five-man group.
The Packers have often kept six linemen, however, making Heflin and Slayton the best bets to earn the last spot if one is available. Like Slaton, Heflin has taken a good step forward in camp this year after being on the 53 but not seeing any playing time as a rookie. Slayton, meanwhile, has led the line in snaps through two preseason games and has flashed the ability that made him a 7th-round draft pick by the Giants in 2019.
The Packers’ own 7th-rounder from this year, Ford, has showed little in his preseason action, getting passed up by Heflin and Slayton in the rotation. Some flashes this evening might give the Packers pause, however. Byers, meanwhile, did not play in last week’s game and seems like he will not factor into the equation for the 53.
Locks: 2 (Rashan Gary, Preston Smith)
Likely to Make the Team: 1 (JJ Enagbare)
On the Bubble: 4 (Tipa Galeai, Jonathan Garvin, Ladarius Hamilton, Kobe Jones)
No surprises with the starters, as Gary is on the verge of stardom and Smith is back for another go in an even year. Enagbare has impressed once the pads came on and seems all but assured a spot, particularly given his status as a fifth-round draft pick. He might not necessarily be OLB3 in the rotation, but he’ll be on the team unless something drastic happens.
Behind those three, however, the battle for a fourth, or perhaps a fifth, edge player is wide open. None of the four bubble players have stood out enough to guarantee him a roster spot. Galeai provides the most special teams juice but is especially small and light; Garvin has yet to deliver consistently; Hamilton flashes on occasion but is similarly inconsistent; Jones is limited athletically but perhaps pops the most on film. One or two of these players should make it onto the 53, however, and it could well come down to Thursday’s game.
One possibility is that the Packers keep just four outside linebackers, saving the spot for a player to go on injured reserve after the cut-down deadline and preserve that player’s ability to return this season (looking at you, Dallin Leavitt). They could then re-sign one of the released linebackers back to the 53 after freeing up that spot.
Locks: 3 (De’Vondre Campbell, Quay Walker, Isaiah McDuffie)
Likely to Make the Team: 1 (Krys Barnes)
On the Bubble: 2 (Ty Summers, Ray Wilborn)
The most likely scenario for now seems to be the Packers keeping four linebackers. McDuffie’s play both on defense and special teams this preseason has pushed him into full-blown lock category, especially with him starting alongside Walker in the preseason.
Barnes feels like a near-lock as well, with experience and the ability to pitch in on special teams as well. It’s tough to find a pathway to him missing the roster, but a complete implosion combined with a huge game from one of the bubble players might be just enough to do it.
Behind those four, Summers and Wilborn are both fighting for a chance on the 53 that might go to neither of them. They’ll battle with safeties, inside linebackers, and others for a special teams spot.
Locks: 2 (Adrian Amos, Darnell Savage)
Likely to Make the Team: 1 (Shawn Davis)
On the Bubble: 4 (Micah Abernathy, Tariq Carpenter, Innis Gaines, Dallin Leavitt)
Long Shot: 1 (De’Vondre Cross)
Even more of a toss-up than outside linebacker is safety, where literally every backup job remains uncertain — and that’s with one of the starters still out with an injury. Davis seems like he’s likely to lock in one spot, however, especially after Vernon Davis’ release, given that he got the third safety reps in OTAs and minicamp and has again since Davis was injured.
Behind him, however, it’s a wide-open competition for a couple of potential spots. The Packers seem to love Leavitt’s special teams acumen, but his injury appears serious; by not cutting him yet, this seems to suggest that the team may keep him on the initial 53 so they can place him on injured reserve afterwards and preserve his eligibility to return this season. One of the others should probably start the season on the roster, however; Abernathy had a big game a week ago, while Carpenter and Gaines both returned from injuries this week and should get a chance to play on Thursday. Cross, a late-camp addition, seems unlikely at this point, but this position is more unpredictable than perhaps any other on the roster.
Don’t sleep on Rasul Douglas’ recent free safety reps in practice making him a candidate to contribute there, however, especially if Savage’s hamstring injury lingers. That could lead to one fewer safety and one more cornerback being kept than expected.
Locks: 4 (Jaire Alexander, Rasul Douglas, Eric Stokes, Shemar Jean-Charles)
Likely to Make the Team: 1 (Keisean Nixon)
On the Bubble: 2 (Rico Gafford, Kiondre Thomas)
Long Shot: 1 (Kabion Ento)
The starting cornerback trio is locked in, while Jean-Charles has had an excellent camp and good performances in his first two preseason games. Nixon looks like a near-lock as well, given his special teams ability and his reps as a slot corner, though he might be a bit less of a sure thing than Jean-Charles.
Behind them are a few players on the bubble, but we are assuming that the Packers will keep six corners. That would mean either Gafford or Thomas gets the job, but Gafford appears to be leading in that battle for now given his earlier playing time, pure speed, and ability on special teams. Thomas could certainly flip that script, however, and should be a good practice squad candidate if he is released.
This might finally be the end of the line for Ento in Green Bay, as the converted wide receiver still has yet to break out. Still, there’s an outside chance he makes a run at a spot with a big game tonight, especially if the Packers decide they want a seventh corner.
Lock: 1 (Pat O’Donnell)
Likely to Make the Team: 2 (Mason Crosby, Jack Coco)
Long Shot: 1 (Ramiz Ahmed)
O’Donnell is all set as the punter and holder for this team, but kicker is less secure. Crosby remains on the PUP list, but seems on the verge of returning — with Ahmed kicking well over the last week, it seems like he has a good hold on the job should Crosby remain out. Still, the Packers did try out another batch of kickers on Monday, so that’s not a sure thing.
Finally, Coco is listed as Likely because there are no other options on the 53, but it is theoretically possible that the Packers could look to another team’s cuts for a long snapper should they feel Coco isn’t ready.
Likely to Make the Team: 10
On the Bubble: 17
Long Shots: 9
Virtually No Chance: 7