Packer Report Roster Prediction

Big battles are brewing on both sides of the ball as the competition to make the roster intensifies.

Do the Green Bay Packers keep four in the backfield or five? Five receivers or six? Three tight ends or four? Ten linebackers or 11? There are plenty of tough decisions looming when the Packers start shaping their 53-man roster.

Quarterback

Who makes it?: Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien (3).

Why?: Before the start of training camp, coach Mike McCarthy was asked about keeping three quarterbacks in light of the injuries last season. “We all understand what happened last year. You could overreact to that.” True, but Flynn is a gamer and Tolzien is an intriguing package of intelligence, work ethic and arm talent.


Running back

Who makes it?: Eddie Lacy, James Starks, DuJuan Harris and Rajion Neal; John Kuhn (5).

Why?: Harris hadn’t done a whole lot during the first two weeks of training camp. He reminded everyone of his talent against the Titans, however. On an 11-yard run, he made two defenders miss, including an unblocked one at the point of attack. Later, Harris gained an additional 16 yards by making the safety miss in the hole, though a suspect holding penalty against Brandon Bostick limited the gain to 8 yards. Undrafted rookie Rajion Neal, who we’ve been touting for months because of his size, speed and pass-catching ability, had a big night with 39 yards on five carries. He blew through former Packers safety Micah Pellerin on his touchdown.


Wide receiver

Who makes it?: Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Jarrett Boykin, Davante Adams and Myles White (5).

Why?: White vs. Kevin Dorsey is one of the toughest calls. White provides depth in the slot after the season-ending injury to rookie Jared Abbrederis. He’s had a strong training camp if you look past his ups and downs returning punts. Dorsey is a bigger target in the passing game and works with the first and second units on all the special teams.


Tight end

Who makes it?: Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick and Richard Rodgers (3).

Why?: Bostick and the rookie Rodgers are locks. Beyond that, it’s like throwing darts. Does the veteran Quarless get another chance, another year removed from a major knee injury? Without him, the Packers wouldn’t have an experienced tight end on the roster. Ryan Taylor, who has been a special-teams stalwart the past three seasons, wasn’t even working with the first unit on punt and kickoff teams this week.


Offensive line

Who makes it?: David Bakhtiari, Josh Sitton, J.C. Tretter, T.J. Lang, Bryan Bulaga, Derek Sherrod, Lane Taylor and Corey Linsley (8).

Why?: Before the injury to Don Barclay, the question was whether the Packers would keep eight or nine offensive linemen. Without Barclay, the eight-man group seems set, since none of the young blockers have emerged.


Defensive line

Who makes it?: Datone Jones, B.J. Raji, Mike Daniels, Josh Boyd, Khyri Thornton and Letroy Guion (6).

Why?: Someone has to be No. 6, right? Can Guion return to practice in time to be that guy? Or will it be undrafted rookies Mike Pennel or Carlos Gray? Will they turn to the waiver wire or work a trade? Or do they go with five, since Julius Peppers and Mike Neal can help in a pinch?


Inside linebacker

Who makes it?: A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones, Jamari Lattimore and Sam Barrington (4).

Why?: The only question with Lattimore and Barrington is whether one of them will get a shot to run with the starters. Both have had strong training camps. The Packers could go light on the defensive line and keep Joe Thomas as a fifth inside linebacker. Thomas, an undrafted rookie from South Carolina State, has been impressive from the get-go. Korey Jones, who was added early in camp, is an intriguing candidate, as well.


Outside linebacker

Who makes it?: Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, Mike Neal, Nick Perry, Carl Bradford and Nate Palmer (6).

Why?: This is an incredibly deep group, with Palmer’s playmaking ability giving him the nod over Andy Mulumba (a solid run defender) and undrafted Jayrone Elliott. Again, the Packers could go with five defensive linemen and keep a seventh outside linebacker. That might seem like a lot of outside linebackers but, remember, injuries obliterated that position last season.


Safety

Who makes it?: Morgan Burnett, Micah Hyde, HaHa Clinton-Dix, Sean Richardson and Chris Banjo (5).

Why?: Why decide between Richardson and Banjo when you can keep both? There might not be a more improved player on the roster than Richardson, whose comeback from spinal fusion surgery has been well-documented. His play in coverage has been one of the pleasant surprises of training camp. Banjo is a No. 1 on three of four special-teams units. He probably won’t make the team, but undrafted Charles Clay is an interesting prospect as a potential special-teams standout.


Cornerback

Who makes it?: Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Casey Hayward, Davon House and Jarrett Bush (5).

Why?: Jumal Rolle turned in a strong performance against the Titans, with a tackle at the line of scrimmage against impressive rookie Bishop Sankey and a sack and forced fumble against Zach Mettenberger. Sixth-round pick Demetri Goodson was bad (pass interference) and good (broke up a deep pass to the end zone). He needs a year of seasoning on the practice squad.


Special teams

Who makes it?: K Mason Crosby, P Tim Masthay, LS Brett Goode (3).

Why?: The three incumbents have given the team no reason to audition any challengers.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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