Saturday, August 31, 2013

Packers 53 Man Roster Prediction

By: Matt Bove

Well it is that time of the year again and the day that the Packers roster is announced is always one of the most interesting days on the calendar. Predicting what Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy will do is no easy task, but I will give it my best shot here.

Quarterbacks: (2)

Aaron Rodgers, Vince Young

This is an easy position. Rodgers remains one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL and was solid in his limited preseason action. Young had a rough game at Kansas City, but McCarthy and Thompson remain intrigued by him. B.J. Coleman did nothing to take the job from Young.

Running Backs (5)

Eddie Lacy, Alex Green, James Starks, Jonathan Franklin, John Kuhn

Lacy is now the unquestioned #1 running back with the season ending knee injury to DuJuan Harris. Lacy is a clear cut above the running backs on the rest of the roster. Harris' injury allows both Green and Starks to stay. Also helping both Green ans Starks keep their jobs is the disappointing performance of Franklin. Franklin has been terrible in pass protection and has made no explosive plays. It does not look like he will see the field much this year.

Wide Receivers: (5)

Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Jarrett Boykin, Jeremy Ross

Cobb and Nelson overcame injuries during training camp and it appears both will be fine to go for the opening game at San Francisco. Even though the Packers are weaker at the #4 and #5 wide receiver spots this year, the top three of Cobb, Nelson and Jones is about as good as it gets in the NFL. Boykin has established himself as the clear #4 receiver. Ross did enough on Thursday with three catches for 50 yards to earn the fifth spot and he should be the Packers' kickoff and punt returner. Tyrone Walker and Myles White were impressive in camp but just miss out on a spot.

Tight Ends: (4)

Jermichael Finley, Matthew Mulligan, Ryan Taylor, Brandon Bostick

The tight end spot position is easily the toughest position to pick this year. Finley is obviously a lock, while I also think Mulligan is a lock for his blocking and Taylor is for special teams. I don't see them keeping five, so it will come down to Bostick, Andrew Quarless and D.J. Williams for one spot. I do not think the Packers would be able to sneak Bostick through waivers again and he has too much potential to risk losing. Quarless could be the second best tight end on the team if healthy, but Thompson has not shown much patience lately for players who cannot stay on the field. Williams just has not shown enough to merit a roster spot.

Offensive Line: (7)

David Bahktiari, Josh Sitton, Evan Dietrich-Smith, T.J. Lang, Don Barclay, Marshall Newhouse Greg Van Roten

Quite frankly only six offensive linemen have proven to be deserving of roster spots and keeping seven is a low number to begin with. With the injuries to Bryan Bulaga and Derrick Sherrod the depth here is egregious. Newhouse is a fine third tackle, but Van Roten should not the first backup at the guard and center positions on any team. The Packers have to be looking at offensive linemen who are cut by other teams. While everybody has been focusing on Bahktiari and Barclay this summer, they have looked a lot better than Dietrich-Smith and Lang on the inside in the preseason games.

Defensive Line (7)

Datone Jones, B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett, Mike Neal, C.J. Wilson, Johnny Jolly, Mike Daniels

This is the best defensive line group that the Packers have had under McCarthy and Thompson. Unfortunately, Jones has slowed down ever since his ankle injury. It would be nice to see him healthy again. I list Neal here since that is where he is on the depth chart, although he will be spending a lot of time at OLB. Despite not being a flashy player, Wilson is a great player against the run. I never in a million years thought I would be writing Jolly's name down here, but he is a lock and has earned it. Daniels has been one of the most impressive players in camp for the Packers this summer.

Outside Linebackers (4)

Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Andy Mulumba, Dezman Moses

This number is really five with Neal being the top backup. He has looked much better than I expected at OLB. As long as he is not in coverage he should be fine. Mulumba has shown some good pass rushing ability and Moses has been unimpressive, but he will get another year after a solid rookie season.

Inside Linebackers (6)

Brad Jones, A.J. Hawk, Robert Francois, Terrell Manning, Sam Barrington, Jamari Lattimore

Under normal circumstances six would be far too many for this spot but all of these players are deserving All four backups are key special teams players with potential to become to develop into better defensive players. Francois has had an excellent camp and if all things were equal he would be challenging Hawk for playing time. Manning and Barrington are extremely athletic players who are not afraid to lower the boom.

Cornerbacks: (6)

Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Casey Heyward, Micah Hyde, Davon House, Jarrett Bush

This a very deep and talented group of cornerbacks. Williams appears healthy after his interception in Kansas City. Shields has had a very solid camp. Hopefully, Heyward can overcome his hamstring injury to get back on the field and play like he did last year. Hyde has been one of the most impressive players in camp with his instincts, ball skills and blitzing ability off the edge.

Safeties: (4)

Morgan Burnett, Jerron McMillian, M.D. Jennings, Chris Banjo

Safety is a very thin position, especially if Burnett's hamstring injury is serious. Banjo has really come on at the end of camp and has earned a spot. Neither McMillian or Jennings has separated themselves from one another.

Specialists: (3)

Mason Crosby, Tim Masthay, Brett Goode

Crosby survives after coming on strong at the end of camp. However, with his new restructured contract he will have a very short leash this year. The Packers will not be afraid to replace him.

Overall, this roster is much deeper on defense than on offense. That has been evident in the preseason, as the offense did not generate much of anything with Rodgers, Cobb and Nelson spending a lot of time on the bench. Part of the reason for this is that Thompson has drafted a lot more defensive players recently than offensive players. The Packers better hope that their offensive starters stay healthy. The offense will be one of the best in the league if they do, but depending on which starters go down it could be a problem.

On defense the Packers are extremely deep at defensive line, linebacker and at cornerback. The only position that is thin is safety. Offensive line and safety are really the two positions that the Packers should look to add to from other rosters, with the offensive line being almost crucial that they do.

This roster has enough talent to be a championship caliber team if things break right, which is all you can really ask for.

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