Friday, August 14, 2015

Building The 53 - 2015 Preseason Week 1 - Packers/Patriots Review

Going into the 2015 NFL preseason almost everything on offense is settled given that the Packers project to return every starter while almost everything on defense is equally unsettled given that the Packers need to replace at least one starter at both linebacker and cornerback.  Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson will keep a close eye on everything throughout training camp but I am sure there will be an extra focus on the defensive side of the ball given all the personnel changes.  With that in mind, here are a few of my thoughts on how the Packers/Patriots preseason game impacted The 53:

Player that hurt his stock most - Don Barclay: Going into the training camp, I thought Barclay was a borderline lock to make The 53 so I made him one of the nine Most Likelies*.  Barclay is still rehabbing a knee injury that cost him the entire 2014 NFL season and he looked rusty in his first preseason action.  Assuming that all the offensive lineman are healthy, the starters left to right project as follows: David Bakhtiari (LT), Josh Sitton (LG), Corey Linsley (C), T.J. Lang (RG), and Bryan Bulaga (RT).  For the first time in a long time, the Packers actually have some quality depth along the offensive line in Matt Rotheram (G), JC Tretter (C/G), Lane Taylor (G), Jeremy Vujnovich (T), and Josh Walker (G).  It seems crazy to say this but assuming that every offensive lineman is healthy and Thompson keeps eight offensive lineman on The 53 to open the season, Barclay's spot on The 53 could be in jeopardy given the emergence of all the other young pups.

Player that helped his stock most - LaDarius Gunter:  There is no doubt that Gunter turned some heads in practice given the he is the only defensive back with multiple interceptions of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in training camp and he continued his impressive play in his first preseason game action when he picked off backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the 3rd quarter. Despite the fact that Thompson used his first two picks in the 2015 NFL Draft on defensive backs when he drafted Damarious Randall (Arizona State) and Quinten Rollins (Miami University), it still looks like Gunter is going to make The 53 as an undrafted free agent.  Randall sat out against the Patriots with a groin injury but assuming all cornerbacks are healthy and the Packers leave Micah Hyde at safety, here is how the cornerback depth chart currently looks: Sam Shields, Casey Hayward, Rollins, Randall, Gunter, and Demetri Goodson.

Position to watch - Defensive Line: Letroy Guion and Mike Daniels, two of the three presumptive starters along the defensive line sat out the Patriots game due to injury.  That gave a number of backups the chance to show they belong.  Here is a breakdown of the snap counts for each of the defensive lineman against the Patriots: Datone Jones (30), Mike Pennel (30), Bruce Gaston (26), Khyri Thornton (20), Josh Boyd (12), B.J. Raji (11), Christian Ringo (10), and Lavon Hooks (6).  The fact that Pennel and Gaston got more snaps than Thornton is NOT a good sign for Thornton given that this training camp seems to be make-or-break for the former 3rd round pick of the 2014 NFL Draft after he spent the entire 2014 NFL season on injured reserve since there was little chance he would have made The 53 to open the 2014 NFL season.  Given that Jones (suspended for Week 1) and Guion (suspended through Week 3 pending his appeal) will (most likely) be suspended to start the 2015 NFL season, there look to be five spots available along the defensive line for other guys.  If I had to handicap the guys for those five spots, here is how I would hand them out as of today: Daniels, Boyd, Raji, Pennel, and Gaston.  That leaves Thornton and Ringo on the outside looking in at this point but thankfully they have the rest of training camp and three more preseason games to change Thompson's mind.

Final Note: I can't tell you how sick I am of hearing about Deflategate.  If Tom Brady was more forthright, the NFL would have turned the page.  Since that didn't happened, we've been forced to endure one of the most mind-numbing NFL stories in a long time.  If you are a Patriots fan then you think the NFL is out to get you and that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is out to retroactively re-punish the Patriots more for Spygate since many think Goodell let the Patriots off easy given how close he is with Patriots owner Robert Kraft.  If you are a fan of the other 31 NFL teams, you see a dysfunctional commissioner in Goodell that somehow botched what seemed to be a fairly straight forward process.  Ultimately I assume that Brady will NOT miss any games but the fact is that no one wins given how horribly this process has been handled by everyone.

Unless the Packers make any significant roster moves before their next preseason game on the road next Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, check back next Monday for my review of how the Packers/Steelers preseason game impacts Building The 53.

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