Wednesday, May 4, 2011

2011 Green Bay Packers Roster 1.0

Since I am never shy about giving my thoughts on what Ted Thompson and company should do, I thought with the 2011 NFL Draft complete for the Green Bay Packers, I would give my thoughts on what the 53-man roster* and 8-man practice squad** should be for the 2011 Green Bay Packers:

Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn, and Graham Harrell
Analysis: With the lack of quality quarterbacks in the NFL the odds are that Harrell would not make it through waivers so the Packers could place him on the practice squad again. As a result I see the Packers keeping three quarterbacks.

Running Back: Ryan Grant, James Starks, and Alex Green
Analysis: Will the Packers keep three running backs or four running backs? Obviously I think they should keep three. That means that Alex Green will beat out Dimitri Nance based on draft position alone. How crazy is it that Brandon Jackson went from being the starting running back for the Green Bay Packers in Week #2 of the 2010 NFL season to being potentially unemployed in 2011?

Fullback: John Kuhn and Quinn Johnson
Analysis: The Packers would obviously need to sign Kuhn to a new contract but I am 95% sure he will be wearing the Green and Gold again in 2011. Besides that, sorry to see you leave Korey Hall but you just never stayed healthy enough to merit a second contract in Green Bay like Kuhn does.

Wide Receiver: Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Brett Swain
Analysis: Jennings, Driver, and Nelson are no brainers. The only question for the aforementioned group is whether the Packers should start working on a contract extension with Nelson because he will most likely become a free agent following the 2011 season. Although James Jones is clearly more talented than Cobb and Swain today, the Packers should save some money by letting him leave via free agency unless he accepts a very cheap contract extension.

Tight End: Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless, Tom Crabtree, and D.J. Williams
Analysis: If the Packers have a ton of quality depth at wide receiver, they have even more depth at tight end. The Packers are so stacked at tight end that when they drafted D.J. Williams (2010 John Mackey Award recipient given to the best collegiate tight end) in the 2011 NFL Draft, they took a player that isn't even guaranteed to make the 2011 opening day roster.

Tackle: Chad Clifton, Bryan Bulaga, Derek Sherrod, and Marshall Newhouse
Analysis: Sorry Mark Tauscher it pains me not to keep you on the roster but with Bulaga, Sherrod, and Newhouse in the fold the Packers need to start their youth movement along the offensive line.

Guard: Josh Sitton, T.J. Lang, Nick McDonald, and Caleb Schlauderaff
Analysis: Odd are that Thompson will relent and give Colledge an extension but if I were in charge I would let Colledge leave via free agency and let the young guys compete for the starting left guard spot.

Center: Scott Wells
Analysis: Lang, McDonald, and Schlauderaff are going to have to wear multiple hats if they want to stay on the roster. Pick one or two of the aforementioned guys to groom as the back-up center for 2011 with the thought of them starting down the road.

Defensive End: Ryan Pickett, Mike Neal, Howard Green, C.J. Wilson, and Jarius Wynn
Analysis: Unfortunately after Pickett there are question marks surrounding the rest of the defensive ends: Neal (coming off an injury), Green (weight problems always just around the corner), and Wilson/Wynn (need to show that 2011 is the rule not the exception). That is a problem because defensive end is one of the most underrated position in the 3-4 defense because they act like the offensive tackles on defense with the linebackers and defensive backs acting like the running backs and wide receivers on defense. Much like letting Tauscher go, it pains me to let Cullen Jenkins leave via free agency but Jenkins will demand more money than the Packers are willing to commit to him.

Defensive Tackle: B.J. Raji
Analysis: As I said above, quality defensive lineman eat up space and make the linebackers, cornerbacks, and safeties look good in the 3-4 defense. Pickett and Green can slide over to defensive tackle but the Packers still need more quality depth at defensive tackle unless they want to run B.J. Raji into the ground.

Outside Linebacker: Clay Matthews, Brad Jones, Frank Zombo, Erik Walden, and Ricky Elmore
Analysis: Aaron Rodgers makes wide receivers/tight ends look good with how well he throws the ball. The same thing applies to Clay Matthews, he makes the other outside linebackers look better than if they played for another team. The Packers have a ton of options to pair with Claymaker so health will probably be the determining factor of who emerges from the group of young and talented outside linebackers to start opposite Claymaker.

Middle Linebacker: Desmond Bishop, A.J. Hawk, Nick Barnett, and Brandon Chillar
Analysis: As crazy as it sounds the Packers will have back-ups (Barnett and Chillar) that would start for most teams at middle linebacker. As I said many times, the Packers only play the 3-4 defense on about 33% of their defensive snaps so they should get Matthews, Bishop, Hawk, and Barnett on the field at the same time as much as possible in 2011. The aforementioned group is schedule to make a ton of money in 2011 so they need to be on the field as much as possible to earn their hefty paychecks.

Cornerback: Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Pat Lee, and Devon House
Analysis: Woodson, Williams, and Shields are the only locks to make the roster while House is a virtual lock since the Packers used a 4th round pick on him in the 2011 NFL Draft. After that it really comes does to Underwood or Lee. Since Lee was drafted in the second round and Underwood was an undrafted free agent you would assume that Lee will get the nod. That is too bad though because Underwood looks like a potential starter but the off the field issues continue to plague him so the Packers will most likely move on without Underwood.

Safety: Nick Collins, Charlie Peprah, Morgan Burnett, and Jarrett Bush
Analysis: In a little more than only one season Atari Bigby went from the starter opposite Nick Collins to just another guy fighting for an NFL roster spot. Part of that comes from Drew Rosenhaus giving Bigby bad advice about holding out for a contract extension and part of that comes down to Bigby's inability to stay healthy. As a result the Packers will most likely move on without Bigby and Anthony Smith. That leaves an open competition between Peprah and Burnett for the starting spot opposite Collins with Bush continuing to serve as the special teams maven.

Specialists: Mason Crosby (K), Tim Masthay (P), and Brett Goode (LS)
Analysis: Masthay and Goode look like the right guys for the job for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately the same can't be said with 100% confidence for Crosby. Since there aren't many better options the Packers need to sign Crosby to a four-year extension that allows them to cut Crosby without a ton of salary cap ramifications if Crosby struggles in 2011 or 2012.

Practice Squad: Chastin West (WR), Ryan Taylor (TE/FB), Chris Campbell (OT), Jay Ross (DT), Lawrence Guy (DE), D.J. Smith (OLB), Josh Gordy (CB), and Anthony Levine (S)
Analysis: With all of the quality, young talent the Packers have on their current 80-man roster they could fill two practice squads. That is what made it so hard to get rid of guys like Antonio Robinson (WR), Adrian Battles (G), Curtis Young (DE/OLB), Cardia Jackson (LB), and Michael Greco (S). The Packers have such a talented 53-man roster though that worrying about who should make the practice squad is less of an issue than having to get rid of quality veterans like Bigby, Colledge, Jenkins, Jones, Nance, Poppinga, Smith, and Spitz.

Hopefully there will actually be a 2011 NFL season so periodically I will update my predictions for who should make the 53-man roster once the lockout is resolved and players get back on the field.

* = I decided to keep 26 players on offense, 24 players on defense, and 3 specialists

** = Unless something changes with the new collective bargaining agreement between the owners and the players, every team is allowed to place eight players on their practice squad.

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