Wednesday, August 31, 2011

2011 Green Bay Packers Roster 4.0

Welcome to the 4th and final installment of What Ted Thompson Should Do. Thompson had to trim the roster down to 80 players by Tuesday, August 30, 2011. Thompson accomplished that by cutting six guys*, which were the easy decisions. The harder decisions will play out in the next few days because Thompson has to cut 27 more guys to trim the roster down to 53 by 5 p.m. on Saturday, September 3, 2011.

With three preseason games in the books (Week 1 @ Cleveland, Week 2 hosted Arizona, and Week 3 @ Indianapolis), the opening day 53-man roster is starting to take shape. If you want a brief refresher, take a look back at all my previous thoughts about the 53-man roster at various points throughout the last few months: Version 1.0, Version 2.0, and Version 3.0. 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: After playing mediocre at best for his first few series against the Colts last week, Graham Harrell's heroics leading the Packers over the Colts erased any doubts of whether Harrell will make the roster.

Running Back: Ryan Grant, James Starks, and Alex Green
Analysis: Often times the 4th preseason game is essentially a useless game for determining starters because the starters usually sit out the game but the Packers need to consider giving all their running backs a look because we are no closer to knowing who will actually start at running back (Grant or Starks) or who will be the 3rd down back (Starks, Green, or Kuhn).

Fullback: John Kuhn and Quinn Johnson
Analysis: The Packers have high expectations for Johnson that so far have gone mostly unfulfilled. Johnson has the body to be a sledgehammer as a fullback but so far Johnson has been unable to put it all together. Hopefully Johnson can sort it out sooner rather than later or he will join Justin Harrell on the free agent scrap heap.

Wide Receiver: Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones, Jordy Nelson, and Randall Cobb
Analysis: Some of the undrafted free agent wide receivers (Diondre Borel, Tori Gurley, Shaky Smithson, Kerry Taylor, and Chastin West) showed flashes of brilliance, the best example is Chastin West's 97-yard touchdown reception against the Cardinals. All the undrafted free agent wide receivers showed promise throughout the preseason but the Packers have a ton of talented wide receivers already essentially guaranteed roster spots. Although there has been a ton of talk about keeping a 6th wide receiver, since the Packers have a ton of money invested in their top five wide receiver, only the household names look like they are going to make the roster at wide receiver.

Tight End: Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless, D.J. Williams, and Ryan Taylor
Analysis: With Spencer Havner getting cut the Packers have five tight ends on the roster but it only looks like there are four roster spots at this point. Since Tom Crabtree is an undrafted player while the rest of the tight ends were drafted, Crabtree is the odd man out. Sleep easy though Tom Crabtree, when the dust settles Ted Thompson will probably keep all five tight ends by making cuts somewhere else.

Tackle: Chad Clifton, Bryan Bulaga, Derek Sherrod, and Marshall Newhouse
Analysis: The Packers shuffled Derek Sherrod, their first round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft between left guard and left tackle all preseason. Instead of picking up a little bit at both positions, Sherrod struggled mightily. The Packers need to keep Sherrod at left tackle, the position they drafted him to play. With how much Sherrod has struggled, if the Packers lose one of their starting tackles (Clifton or Bulaga) for an extended period of time they might actually turn to Marshall Newhouse instead of Sherrod meaning the Packers are in a unique position to essentially red-shirt Sherrod.

Guard: Josh Sitton, T.J. Lang, and Caleb Schlauderaff
Analysis: Nick McDonald and Evan Dietrich-Smith are listed as C/G on the roster. Their versatility over Caleb Schlauderaff who only plays guard almost made me keep both of them ahead of Schlauderaff but the Packers always choose the younger guy (Schlauderaff) ahead of the older guy (Dietrich-Smith).

Center: Scott Wells and Nick McDonald
Analysis: Although Evan Dietrich-Smith pushed Nick McDonald for the backup center spot, it looks like McDonald did just enough to beat out Dietrich-Smith.

Defensive End: B.J. Raji, Mike Neal, Howard Green, C.J. Wilson, and Jarius Wynn
Analysis: The Packers had their defensive ends set heading into camp when they decided to let former starting defensive end Cullen Jenkins leave via free agency so apparently they feel comfortable with the group. I do not share that same comfort level because besides Raji, every other player has at least one question mark. I can only hope that the Packers look at defensive lineman following NFL roster cut downs.

Defensive Tackle: Ryan Pickett
Analysis: Each week I continue to list Howard Green as a defensive end but technically Green is a defensive tackle so the Packers have some depth at the position. As I said under the defensive end analysis, look for the Packers to scour the waiver wire if another legitimate 3-4 defensive lineman becomes available.

Outside Linebacker: Clay Matthews, Erik Walden, Brad Jones, Vic So'oto, and Jamari Lattimore
Analysis: I had a hard time picking between So'oto and Lattimore in version 3.0. With how well So'oto and Lattimore played against the Colts last week, I gave them both a roster spot this week. This is all assuming that the Packers do in fact decide to put Frank Zombo on the physically unable to perform list. If Zombo makes the 53-man roster the Packers will only be able to keep two of the following three: Jones, So'oto, and Lattimore.

Middle Linebacker: Desmond Bishop, A.J. Hawk, D.J. Smith, and Rob Francois
Analysis: Another week with the same four guys making the team as middle linebackers. The Packers like both Smith and Francois but if wither Bishop or Hawk were hurt for an extended period of time look for them to pick up another linebacker or try Brad Jones at middle linebacker.

Cornerback: Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Devon House, and Josh Gordy
Analysis: It was a real tough call between Josh Gordy and Brandian Ross for the 5th cornerback spot because both have shown flashes of being the 2011 version of Sam Shields. Gordy was on the practice squad in 2010 so he got the nod over Ross.

Safety: Nick Collins, Morgan Burnett, Charlie Peprah, and Jarrett Bush
Analysis: Collins and Burnett deserve to be the opening day starters. Look for Peprah to serve as the primary backup at both free safety and strong safety because for how well Bush plays on special teams and how well he played in Super Bowl XLV, Bush has still been a liability in coverage throughout the preseason. The Packers claim Bush is playing cornerback this year but I expect Bush to get more snaps at safety than cornerback in 2011.

Specialists: Mason Crosby (K), Tim Masthay (P), and Brett Goode (LS)
Analysis: With Crosby signed through 2015, look for Masthay to get a contract extension if he plays well through the first half of the season.

Practice Squad: Ray Dominguez (G/T), Ricky Elmore (LB), Lawrence Guy (DE), Anthony Levine (S), Brandian Ross (CB), Jay Ross (DT), Brandon Saine (RB), and Chastin West (WR)
Analysis: some of those guys will probably get signed to another NFL team's 53-man roster so other options for the practice squad are: Diondre Borel (WR), Chris Campbell (OT), Chris Donaldson (DT), Tori Gurley (WR), Jon Hoese (FB), Shaky Smithson (WR), and Kerry Taylor (WR).

The Packers host the Chiefs on Thursday in a game that will be make or break for a few guys that are right on the bubble of making the 53-man roster or the 8-man practice squad. Check back on Sunday for my initial rankings of the 53 players that made the opening day roster for the 2011 Green Bay Packers.

* = K.C. Asiodu (LB), Adrian Battles (G), Spencer Havner (TE), Antonio Robinson (WR), Theo Sherman (T), and Brett Swain (WR)

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