The dog days of summer are coming to a close. Training camp is only 6 days away. At this point, the Packers have 82 players on their roster. The limit is 80, but the draft picks don’t count until they’re signed. With the Packers officially at 80 players, the team will have to make a corresponding roster move when linebacker Clay Matthews III and defensive lineman B.J. Raji are under contract.
With that said, we continue to rank the players from No. 1 to No. 83 (a figure that includes Carson Butler, who was released this week). This list doesn’t necessarily list the players from best to worst, but we take into account the players’ importance on the roster and other factors such as contracts and potential.
Packer Report Ranking: 6
— Greg Jennings, WR: Jennings showed his potential during a rookie season in which the second-round pick surprisingly worked his way into the Week 1 starting lineup. In 2007, he emerged as one of the NFL’s big-play targets with 53 catches, 920 yards and 12 touchdowns. Last year, he exploded with 80 receptions, 1,292 yards and nine touchdowns.
Even at a slightly undersized 5-foot-11 and without top-end speed, Jennings has a knack for getting deep. He led the NFL with eight receptions of 40 or more yards and trailed only Carolina’s Steve Smith with 21 receptions of 20 or more yards. His 24 career touchdown receptions have averaged a whopping 31.3 yards.
Still, the Packers need Jennings to become more consistent, especially after becoming one of the NFL’s highest-paid receivers in June. He had three 100-yard games in the first quarter of last season but only two in the final 12 games. He averaged just more than 19 yards per catch in the first half of the season compared to 14.3 in the second half.
Part of that is because defenses shifted more of their attention to Jennings, which freed up Donald Driver. But Driver won’t be there forever, which begs the question of whether Jennings needs a top-notch sidekick to be at his best or if he’ll continue blossom into a true elite receiver. At Jennings’ money, the Packers are betting that he hasn’t reached his peak.
Packer Report Ranking: 7
— Ryan Pickett, NT: In the 3-4 defense, everything starts with the nose tackle. The best 3-4 teams in the NFL — Pittsburgh, with Casey Hampton; New England, with Vince Wilfork; and Baltimore, with Haloti Ngata — have elite nose tackles.
Pickett probably won’t perform at that level, but as long as he remains a stout run defender who demands a double team on every play, he’ll provide exactly what the Packers need. Pickett (6-foot-2, 340 pounds) needs to be a monster in the middle because inside linebackers A.J. Hawk (250 pounds) and Nick Barnett (236 pounds) don’t have prototypical size for the scheme.
For the most part, Pickett did his job last season, even though the Packers’ run defense was horrible for most of the season and allowed six 100-yard rushers. Even while facing a double team on practically every running play, his 81 tackles trailed only Johnny Jolly (82) and Aaron Kampman (87) among the defensive linemen, even though he played far fewer snaps. That he provides no pass rush isn’t much of a problem in this defense because the pressure is expected to come from the linebackers.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.