Wednesday, August 17, 2011

2011 Green Bay Packers Roster 2.0

As I said in my 2011 Green Bay Packers Roster 1.0 post, I am never shy about giving my thoughts on what Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson and company should do. With the craziest free agent period in NFL history nearly complete and one preseason game in the books, I thought I would give my updated thoughts on what the 53-man roster and 8-man practice squad should look for the 2011 Green Bay Packers:

Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn, and Graham Harrell
Analysis: Matt Flynn continues to impress as a back-up. I know it is only a small sample size against a bunch of back-ups (besides the Patriots regular season game in 2010) but Matt Flynn is starting to become the new-school version of Matt Hasselbeck in Green Bay.

Running Back: Ryan Grant, James Starks, and Alex Green
Analysis: If the Packers kept a 4th running back it would be a two-horse race between Dimitri Nance (holdover) and Brandon Saine (undrafted rookie free agent) for that spot. Unfortunately for Nance and Saine the Packers are loaded on offense at all the other skill positions so the odds are somewhere between slim and none that they keep four running backs.

Fullback: John Kuhn and Quinn Johnson
Analysis: With the emergence of rookie tight end Ryan Taylor I contemplated cutting Quinn Johnson but the Packers already invested a bunch of time and energy in trying to make Johnson the next William Henderson. Based on Johnson's large body of work, pun intended after he showed up to camp over weight, he has a long way to go before he will ever be compared to Henderson.

Wide Receiver: Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones, Jordy Nelson, and Randall Cobb
Analysis: The rich get richer because the depressed free agent market for James Jones cost Brett Swain a roster spot. Instead of having an open competition for the 5th wide receiver spot the Packers have a number of wide recivers fighting to make the practice squad at this point.

Tight End: Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless, Tom Crabtree, D.J. Williams, and Ryan Taylor
Analysis: Speaking of the rich get richer, the Packers are stacked at tight end too. Much like there is a small chance that the Packers keep four running backs, there is a small chance that the Packers actually keep five tight ends. By the end of training camp it is going to be a four horse race between Crabtree, Quarless, Taylor, and Williams for three roster spots.

Tackle: Chad Clifton, Bryan Bulaga, Derek Sherrod, and Marshall Newhouse
Analysis: The Packers are flirting with starting Sherrod at left guard but based on his play so far Sherrod really belongs at his natural position, left tackle. With Clifton entrenched as the starter at left tackle, Sherrod might get a shot at right tackle. If Sherrod played well at right tackle that would allow the Packers to move Bulaga to left guard. Unfortunately if things play out that way there would be a ton of shuffling of positions along the offensive line with very little time before the home opener against the New Orleans Saints for Sherrod and Bulaga to get settled. Absent injury, look for Bulaga to stay at right tackle no matter how well Sherrod does at right tackle.

Guard: Josh Sitton, T.J. Lang, and Caleb Schlauderaff
Analysis: With Sherrod struggling at left guard Lang will most likely take over as the starting left guard for the departed Daryn Colledge. That leaves the Packers searching for an adequate back-up to Sitton and Lang. With McDonald getting a ton reps at center the Packers need someone else as a backup at guard. Since Schlauderaff was drafted and Ray Dominguez is an undrafted rookie free agent, I gave the roster spot went to Schlauderaff.

Center: Scott Wells and Nick McDonald
Analysis: It looks like McDonald went from being the left guard of the future to the center of the future. Either way the Packers must see something they like in McDonald to not only keep him around but give him a bunch of practice reps.

Defensive End: B.J. Raji, Mike Neal, Howard Green, C.J. Wilson, and Jarius Wynn
Analysis: With Raji moving back to defensive end and Pickett moving back to defensive tackle the Packers are counting on Mike Neal to be fully recovered from injury by the end of training camp to replace the departed Cullen Jenkins. Wilson and Wynn are having a mediocre camp so look for the Packers to add another defensive end after roster cut downs unless they both really pick things up.

Defensive Tackle: Ryan Pickett
Analysis: Moving Pickett back to nose tackle is one of the smartest decisions the Packers made in a long time. Pickett eats up multiple blockers but does not actually get to the quarterback like he did earlier in his career. With Pickett eating up blockers the rest of the defense is going to benefit and hopefully cash in with a bunch of sacks and turnovers. Look for Raji and Green to slide over to defensive tackle to give Pickett an occasional breather.

Outside Linebacker: Clay Matthews, Frank Zombo, Erik Walden, and Brad Jones
Analysis: After Zombo and Walden preformed better than Jones the Packers need to see how versatile Jones can be otherwise Jones will go from being a promising starting outside linebacker to a free agent in less than a year.

Middle Linebacker: Desmond Bishop, A.J. Hawk, D.J. Smith, and Rob Francois
Analysis: The Packers need to replenish their depth at middle linebacker with Nick Barnett and Brandon Chillar gone. While the Packers are high on Smith despite him being short for the position, Francois is really going to have to fight for a roster spot because the Packers would replace him with a better option at middle linebacker in a heartbeat.

Cornerback: Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Devon House, and Jarrett Bush
Analysis: Look for Bush to claim the 5th cornerback spot and challenge rookie Devon House for the 4th spot on the depth chart. Keep an eye on Josh Gordy, Pat Lee, and Brandian Ross too because there is a chance that the Packers keep six cornerbacks and possibly only three safeties since Bush could fill in at safety in a pinch.

Safety: Nick Collins, Morgan Burnett, Charlie Peprah, and Anthony Levine
Analysis: Tough to choose between Levine and Underwood for the fourth safety spot. Look for that battle to continue throughout the preseason. All things being equal I kept Levine because he is the guy without the police record.

Specialists: Mason Crosby (K), Tim Masthay (P), and Brett Goode (LS)
Analysis: Crosby just cashed in. Look for Masthay and Goode to follow suit if they perform in 2011 like they did in 2010.

Practice Squad: Ray Dominguez (G/T), Ricky Elmore (LB), Josh Gordy (CB), Lawrence Guy (DE), Jay Ross (DT), Brandon Saine (RB), Shaky Smithson (WR), and Chastin West (WR)
Analysis: There is a good chance that a number of the players I put on the practice squad won't make it through waivers so some other options for the practice squad are: Diondre Borel (WR), Chris Campbell (OT), Chris Donaldson (DT), Jon Hoese (FB), Jamari Lattimore (OLB), and Vic So'oto (OLB).

The Packers host the Arizona Cardinals on Friday in a game that will go a long way towards determining some of the position battles mentioned above. Check back next Wednesday to see my updated predictions for who should make the 53-man roster and 8-man practice squad.

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