Wednesday, August 24, 2011

2011 Green Bay Packers Roster 3.0

Welcome to the 3rd installment of What Ted Thompson Should Do. If you want a brief refresher, take a look back at Version 1.0 and Version 2.0. With two preseason games in the books, the opening day 53-man roster is starting to take shape. Here are my updated thoughts on what the 53-man roster and 8-man practice squad should look like for the 2011 Green Bay Packers:

Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn, and Graham Harrell
Analysis: Matt Flynn has about as much of a chance of being on the 2012 Packers roster as Prince Fielders does of playing for the Brewers in 2012 so the Packers need to see what they have in Graham Harrell.

Running Back: Ryan Grant, James Starks, and Alex Green
Analysis: The Packers restructured Ryan Grant's contract to pay him $1 million less ($3.8 million instead of $4.8 million) in 2011 so that should end the speculation about whether the Packers will cut Grant. Despite Starks looking good, it seems downright foolish to even entertain cutting Grant. Now that Grant restructured his deal, the questions surrounding the running back position are who actually starts (Grant or Starks) and who is the 3rd down back (Starks, Green, or Kuhn).

Fullback: John Kuhn and Quinn Johnson
Analysis: Look for Kuhn to play on special teams, as a full back, and even get an occasional carry as a running back. On the other hand stay tuned on Quinn Johnson because Johnson is hanging on the 53-man roster by a thread.

Wide Receiver: Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones, Jordy Nelson, and Randall Cobb
Analysis: Brett Swain was the 5th receiver for the 2010 Green Bay Packers and looked like a virtual lock to make the opening day roster in 2011. Oh how things have changed. The Packers used a second round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft to select Randall Cobb. Add in that there are a ton of undrafted free agent wide receivers (Diondre Borel, Tori Gurley, Shaky Smithson, Kerry Taylor, and Chastin West) that have shown promise so far in the preseason and the Packers look stacked at wide receiver. There has been a ton of talk about keeping a 6th wide receiver but that Packers already have a ton of money invested in their top five wide receiver so despite all the promise that some of the lesser known wide receivers are showing, the Packers should stick with the household names at wide receiver.

Tight End: Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless, Tom Crabtree, D.J. Williams, and Ryan Taylor
Analysis: Part of the reason why Quinn Johnson's roster spot is not guaranteed is that if Crabtree or Taylor play special teams, tight end, and fullback then Johnson might not be versatile enough. Successful franchises like the Patriots and Packers start trends instead of following trends. One of those trends that both the Patriots and Packers started is using athletic tight ends in multiple ways, which gives them a ton of roster flexibility.

Tackle: Chad Clifton, Bryan Bulaga, Derek Sherrod, and Marshall Newhouse
Analysis: The Packers really like Newhouse at left tackle. Unfortunately for Newhouse he was a 5th round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft and Derek Sherrod was a 1st round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. So even though Newhouse looks better at left tackle than Sherrod right now, Newhouse will have to perform well at right tackle if he wants to make the opening day roster.

Guard: Josh Sitton, T.J. Lang, and Caleb Schlauderaff
Analysis: Thanks to a good performance against the Arizona Cardinals, absent injury, Lang will be the starter at left guard ahead of rookie Derek Sherrod. The competition for the 3rd guard spot is heating up so the next two weeks will be very important for Schlauderaff because his roster spot if far from guaranteed.

Center: Scott Wells and Nick McDonald
Analysis: Much like Schlauderaff's roster spot, McDonald's roster spot is not guaranteed either because the gap between McDonald and Evan Dietrich-Smith for the backup center spot seems to be narrowing.

Defensive End: B.J. Raji, Mike Neal, Howard Green, C.J. Wilson, and Jarius Wynn
Analysis: Hopefully Neal will be healthy for the start of the regular season. If not, the Packers will probably look to add another body along the defensive line.

Defensive Tackle: Ryan Pickett
Analysis: A few years ago I waited in line behind a guy that had "Big Daddy Pickett" on the back of his jersey and kept talking about how he can't wait to see his son play on our way into a game at Lambeau Field. I assumed that it was Pickett's father but I didn't want to bother him since he was with a bunch of family members. Whether or not he was Ryan's father, he sure earned the "Big Daddy" title.

Outside Linebacker: Clay Matthews, Erik Walden, Brad Jones, and Vic So'oto
Analysis: Last week Zombo suffered a broken shoulder but somehow still played in the game. Although heroic, the injury makes Zombo a prime candidate for the physically unable to perform list. With Zombo injured, it was hard to choose between So'oto and Jamari Lattimore so it looks like Ricky Elmore is a long-shot at best to make the roster with So'oto and Lattimore outplaying him throughout the preseason.

Middle Linebacker: Desmond Bishop, A.J. Hawk, D.J. Smith, and Rob Francois
Analysis: Much like the defensive ends, nothing new to add at middle linebacker. The only thing that might change this list is if a young, talented middle linebacker somehow becomes available. I know that seems like a long-shot but the Packers would pick up a guy like that in place of Smith or Francois in a heartbeat.

Cornerback: Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Devon House, and Josh Gordy
Analysis: After Pat Lee struggled against the Browns in the Packers' first preseason game, less heralded cornerbacks like Josh Gordy and Brandian Ross were given stronger consideration. At this point Gordy looks better than Lee so Gordy took Lee's roster spot.

Safety: Nick Collins, Morgan Burnett, Charlie Peprah, and Jarrett Bush
Analysis: I thought it was going to be hard for the Packers to choose between Underwood and Levine for the 4th safety but Levine has been injured and Underwood has a ton of off the field problems. Instead of rolling the dice with either, the Packers should keep Bush as their special teams/defensive jack-of-all-trades like rookie tight ends Ryan Taylor. Although Bush technically moved to cornerback this year, look for the Packers to use Bush as the poor man's Charles Woodson as a hybrid cornerback/safety.

Specialists: Mason Crosby (K), Tim Masthay (P), and Brett Goode (LS)
Analysis: Injury is the only way we see a different person at kicker, punter, or long snapper in 2011 for the Packers.

Practice Squad: Ray Dominguez (G/T), Ricky Elmore (LB), Lawrence Guy (DE), Jamari Lattimore (OLB), Anthony Levine (S), Jay Ross (DT), Brandon Saine (RB), and Chastin West (WR)
Analysis: Thanks to So'oto and Gordy making the 53-man roster there was a little shake-up on the 8-man practice squad. 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), Brandian Ross (CB), and Shaky Smithson (WR).

The Packers travel to Indianapolis on Friday for a game that will go a long way towards determining some of the position battles mentioned above because the Packers will play their starters at least the entire first half. Win or lose, let's hope the Packers or Colts do not suffer any serious injuries. 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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