Packer Report's 53-Man Prediction, Volume 1

We've watched every practice and talked to all the coaches to provide our best guess at the final roster. Of the 53 players on our roster, only 41 were on the team in Week 1 of last year. The toughest decisions are in the backfield and tight end.

In three weeks, the Green Bay Packers will kick off defense of their 13th world championship by hosting the New Orleans Saints.

Before then, the Packers will play three more preseason games — including on Friday at home against Arizona — and cut their roster to 75 players on Aug. 30 and 53 on Sept. 3.

Packer Report has attended every practice and interviewed every coach on the staff at least once. Here is our best guess at the 53-man platoon that will run onto Lambeau Field in 22 days.

QUARTERBACKS

Last year's Week 1 total: 2.

Locks: Aaron Rodgers and Matt Flynn.

Good bets: Graham Harrell.

The skinny: Flynn will be starting somewhere next season so the Packers need to keep 2012 in mind. That means Harrell almost makes the roster by default, even though his arm isn't good enough and his accuracy can be erratic.

Prediction (3): Rodgers, Flynn and Harrell.

RUNNING BACKS

Last year's Week 1 total: 6.

Locks: James Starks, Alex Green and John Kuhn.

Good bets: Ryan Grant.

On the bubble: Dimitri Nance, Brandon Saine, Jon Hoese and Quinn Johnson.

The skinny: If Green takes a dramatic step forward and Saine continues to improve, Grant could be the odd man out in a money-saving move. At this point, though, that's not going to happen. Starks hasn't shown he can stay healthy and Green really hasn't shown anything beyond raw potential, so Grant's not going anywhere. At fullback, Johnson is going to have to impress during the games because the practice setting isn't conducive to his thundering style. He was only so-so last season and wasn't even on the gameday roster for the Super Bowl. Plus, he has no value on special teams. Because of the tight ends, the Packers could survive with just one fullback.

Prediction (4): HB — Grant, Starks and Green. FB — Kuhn.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Last year's Week 1 total: 5.

Locks: Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb.

Good bets: Donald Driver.

On the bubble: Shaky Smithson, Chastin West, Kerry Taylor, Brett Swain, Antonio Robinson, Diondre Borel, Tori Gurley.

The skinny: Because of the depth at tight end, it's hard to see how the Packers can sneak six receivers onto the roster. Of the others, West has been the best, though Borel — a college quarterback — has a lot of potential and showed some running ability with a big punt return against Cleveland. Gurley is a tough matchup at 6-foot-4 but doesn't run well enough. He dropped a touchdown pass on Wednesday but rebounded with a strong practice.

Prediction (5): Jennings, Driver, Nelson, Jones and Cobb.

TIGHT ENDS

Last year's Week 1 total: 4.

Locks: Jermichael Finley, D.J. Williams.

Good bets: Ryan Taylor.

On the bubble: Spencer Havner, Andrew Quarless and Tom Crabtree.

The skinny: Could the Packers keep five tight ends? Williams' receiving skills make him a decent insurance policy for free agent-to-be Finley. Taylor is a No. 1 on all of the special teams — which is why he was drafted — and keeps improving on offense. Quarless has the entire skill-set but needs to become more consistent. Crabtree is a rugged blocker and the one guy that nobody wants to face in the run game, Rodgers said. Plus, he looks a lot better in the passing game after catching two passes last season. There's just no room on the roster for Havner.

Prediction (5): Finley, Quarless, Williams, Taylor and Crabtree.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Last year's Week 1 total: 10.

Locks: Chad Clifton, T.J. Lang, Derek Sherrod, Scott Wells, Josh Sitton and Bryan Bulaga.

Good bets: Marshall Newhouse.

On the bubble: Sampson Genus, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Adrian Battles, Nick McDonald, Caleb Schlauderaff, Chris Campbell, Theo Sherman and Ray Dominguez.

The skinny: The guess is Lang will start over Sherrod at left guard. If something were to happen at right guard and right tackle, Lang would probably move over and Sherrod would move into left guard. Sherrod hasn't impressed at guard but seems to have all the tools to replace Clifton in a year or three. Newhouse has been great at practice, especially at left tackle, but allowed a sack at right tackle against Cleveland. Dietrich-Smith didn't make the team last year but could nudge out McDonald to be the backup center. The Packers potentially could trade one of their tight ends to add some depth here because there's not much to really get excited about behind projected top backups Sherrod and Newhouse. The undrafted Sherman and Dominguez have some promise and are worth stashing on the practice squad. Dominguez was horrible at tackle during the one-on-ones but has been better now that he's playing more at guard.

Prediction (9): Clifton, Lang, Wells, Sitton, Bulaga, Sherrod, Newhouse, Schlauderaff and Dietrich-Smith.

DEFENSIVE LINE

Last year's Week 1 total: 6.

Locks: B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett and Mike Neal.

Good bets: Howard Green.

On the bubble: Chris Donaldson, Eli Joseph, Lawrence Guy, Jarius Wynn, C.J. Wilson and Jay Ross.

The skinny: For all the consternation over the loss of Jenkins, Neal essentially replaces him on the roster. Green will do the dirty work on running downs and Neal will get after the quarterback in passing situations. Wynn is having a good camp but Wilson and Guy haven't impressed. Wilson is more of a factor on running downs and defensive line coach Mike Trgovac loves Guy's potential. Ross is brute power. So is Joseph, which should merit him an invite to the practice squad.

Prediction (6): Raji, Pickett, Neal, Green, Wilson and Wynn.

LINEBACKERS

Last year's Week 1 total: 8.

Locks: Clay Matthews, Desmond Bishop, A.J. Hawk, Erik Walden and Frank Zombo.

Good bets: D.J. Smith and Brad Jones.

On the bubble: Elijah Joseph, Jamari Lattimore, Cardia Jackson, Robert Francois, K.C. Asiodu, Ricky Elmore and Vic So'oto.

The skinny: At outside linebacker, nobody has emerged to start opposite Matthews. Walden and Zombo combined for seven sacks last season but neither have shown much during the daily one-on-one battles. Jones, however, has been horrible during the one-on-ones. Still, none of the young guys have made a push for playing time, much less a roster spot. The undrafted So'oto (6-3, 263) has great size and the undrafted Lattimore (6-2, 230) has a great burst off the line. Both have outperformed Elmore, who is easily the most disappointing of the 10 draft picks. At inside linebacker, Smith and Francois have been the No. 2 tandem throughout camp. Smith is a No. 1 on special teams.

Prediction (8): OLB — Matthews, Walden, Zombo and Jones. ILB — Bishop, Hawk, Smith and Francois.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Last year's Week 1 total: 10.

Locks: Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Nick Collins, Morgan Burnett, Charlie Peprah, Jarrett Bush and Davon House.

Good bets: None.

On the bubble: Pat Lee, Brandon Underwood, Anthony Bratton, Anthony Levine, Brandian Ross, Josh Gordy and M.D. Jennings.

The skinny: Bush, as usual, makes it on special teams. House showed a ton of promise until going down with an injured hamstring. In a league starved of good cover guys, he's not going anywhere. This might be the end for 2008 second-round flop Lee, who has been horrible in camp and was worse against Cleveland. He just doesn't have a feel for the ball. He's a No. 1 on some special teams, though. Of the young corners, Gordy has more experience than Ross. Levine, who's out with a concussion, has outplayed the young safeties. Underwood looked good at safety but his knee injury and off-field troubles probably mean he's done here. Of note: Ross played some safety at Youngstown State and Jennings played some corner at Arkansas State, so either could make a late move to push Levine or Gordy.

Prediction (10): CB — Woodson, Williams, Shields, House and Gordy. S — Collins, Burnett, Peprah and Levine. CB/S — Bush.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Last year's Week 1 total: 3.

Locks: Mason Crosby, Tim Masthay and Brett Goode.

The skinny: Masthay was one of the NFL's top five punters during the second half of last season. Crosby hit 6-of-7 field goals on Wednesday, with the miss from 53 yards. Goode is automatic with his snaps.

Prediction (3): Crosby, Masthay and Goode.


Agree or disagree?: Discuss hot Packers topics in our, free forums. Leave Bill a question in the subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum.


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.


Packer Report Top Stories