The Green Bay Packers have cut their roster down to the required 75 players and now have until Friday to figure out who will make the 2012 squad. Here is a prediction of what the Packers 53-man roster will look like Friday night after the necessary cuts are made.
Aaron Rodgers, Graham Harrell
The reigning MVP has the job locked down until he decides he does not want to play football anymore. The real story has been the backup position behind Rodgers. Harrell is the expected No. 2 but he has yet to show any signs of being able to handle the position. As for now, I have Harrell listed as the backup but I would not be surprised if the Packers bring in a veteran to hold Rodgers’ clipboard.
Running Backs (5):
Cedric Benson, Alex Green, James Starks, John Kuhn, Brandon Saine
The Packers will keep five running backs, including fullback Kuhn. Typically, Green Bay does not keep more than four backs but the addition of Benson and the talent of Saine gives the Packers confidence this group can successfully contribute this season. Benson will be the starter with Starks as the No. 2 and Kuhn taking most of the third down snaps.
Wide Receivers (5):
Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Randall Cobb, Donald Driver
The Packers will once again keep five wide receivers on the roster. These five gentlemen make up the best receiving corps in the NFL, which is a huge reason why Green Bay is favored to win the Super Bowl. The best signal caller in the game throwing to the best receivers will give opposing defenses all sorts of problems again this year as the Packers will coast to at least 12 victories. Jones may have his days numbered in Green Bay and Driver could be done after this season, which will open doors for talented receivers such as Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel next year.
Tight Ends (4):
Jermichael Finley, Tom Crabtree, D.J. Williams, Ryan Taylor
Every single tight end on the Packers 90-man training camp roster has been injured at some point during the regular season. This is certainly a cause for concern for Green Bay as they might end the season with five men at this position. Head coach Mike McCarthy loves his tight ends and will utilize them the best way he can in the Packers high powered offense. The reason Andrew Quarless is not mentioned is because he is currently on the physically unable to perform list after suffering an injury a week ago. Finley apparently told McCarthy he only needs one tight end on the roster so expect big things from No. 88.
Offensive Line (8):
Starting (5): Marshall Newhouse, T.J. Lang, Jeff Saturday, Josh Sitton, Bryan Bulaga
Reserve (3): Evan Dietrich-Smith, Andrew Datko, Reggie Wells
The starting five look as strong as ever, which gives fans great confidence in the protection of Rodgers. Hopefully, they will be able to open up some for holes for Benson to run through as well so he can make it four consecutive seasons with 1,000 yards rushing or more. Dietrich-Smith is a solid backup who has received high praise from Rodgers and the coaching staff. It is still up in the air between Datko, Wells, and Don Barclay for the final two roster spots.
Defensive Line (6):
Ryan Pickett, B.J. Raji, Jerel Worthy, Mike Daniels, Daniel Muir, C.J. Wilson
The reason for six defensive linemen is because Mike Neal will return to the team after he serves his four-game suspension. Keeping an extra lineman up to that fourth game is pointless. Raji, Pickett, and Worthy are the predicted starters while Daniels is a lock as well. Muir will come in to give Raji a few snaps off and could also be the fourth down lineman in certain defensive packages. The last spot will come down to Wilson and Phillip Merling. I personally believe Wilson has shown more in camp and has the potential to give more on a consistent basis.
Outside Linebackers (6):
Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Erik Walden, Dezman Moses, Jamari Lattimore, Vic So’oto
Big things are expected of Matthews and Perry this year while Walden will have to make big plays off the bench. Lattimore, who was previously on the bubble, has shown up in camp and made big plays during the preseason games. After returning an interception for a touchdown to seal the victory against the Cincinnati Bengals last week, he has solidified a spot on the team. So’oto is still on the bubble but has shown so much potential during the last two preseasons.
Inside Linebackers (4):
D.J. Smith, A.J. Hawk, Robert Francois, Terrell Manning
Smith has big shoes to fill after Desmond Bishop suffered a season ending hamstring injury in the first preseason game. Smith will play 100% of the defensive snaps and needs to deliver on every play this season. Hawk must step his game up after being called out for not being aggressive enough in his play. Francois proved his worth last season filling in for Hawk and Manning has shown signs of potential this preseason.
Tramon Williams, Jarrett Bush, Casey Hayward, Davon House, Sam Shields
How the mighty have fallen. After being a huge part of the Packers Super Bowl season, Shields is on the verge of not making the team. House’s shoulder injury basically guarantees Shields a spot. After taking plenty of criticism in the media and from fans, Bush had defied all odds and could be the No. 2 defensive back on the depth chart. Hopefully, he will be able to handle the coverage against the game’s top receivers.
Charles Woodson, Morgan Burnett, Jerron McMillan, M.D. Jennings, Anthony Levine
It will be fun to watch Woodson play safety this season as he switches back and forth between packages. Burnett must take his game to the next level and show why Green Bay is so confident in him. Jennings and Levine have shown great stuff this preseason and could still be playing for the nickel safety position when Woodson switches to corner.
Special Teams (3):
Mason Crosby, Tim Masthay, Brett Goode
Crosby has been a great kicker for the Packers and will hopefully build upon that success this season. Masthay has ended all doubt at the punter position as he has proven to be one of the game’s best.