Packer Report's 53-Man Prediction, Volume 2

We've watched every practice and talked to all the coaches to provide our best guess at the final roster. There are very few changes from our first prediction, a sign of the stability and talent on the roster.

The first cuts are due on Tuesday, when the Green Bay Packers have to reduce their roster from 86 players to 80. On Thursday, they conclude the preseason with a home game against Kansas City. On Saturday, the Packers must reach the 53-man regular-season limit.

Packer Report has attended every practice and interviewed every coach on the staff at least once. With a few minor changes, here is our best guess at the 53-man platoon that will run onto Lambeau Field on Sept. 8.

QUARTERBACKS

Last year's Week 1 total: 2.

Locks: Aaron Rodgers and Matt Flynn.

Good bets: Graham Harrell.

The skinny: No changes since our first prediction on Aug. 17. Quarterbacks coach Tom Clements likes Harrell's ability to rise to the occasion during the games. With Flynn almost certain to sign elsewhere as a free agent at the end of the season, Harrell almost has to make the roster just to provide an experienced presence next spring.

Prediction (3): Rodgers, Flynn and Harrell.

RUNNING BACKS

Last year's Week 1 total: 6.

Locks: Ryan Grant, James Starks, Alex Green and John Kuhn.

Good bets: None.

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

The skinny: Grant's guaranteed contract guarantees he'll make the final roster and, most likely, will split time with Starks based on down-and-distance situations and personnel groupings. The do-it-all Kuhn is the No. 1 fullback and might be the third-down back because Grant, Starks and Green haven't proven reliable in pass protection. Nance looks like he can protect and catch but he hasn't been given opportunities with the No. 1 offense in the games, so we're assuming he's on the wrong side of the bubble. The big question revolves around Johnson, who is a good lead blocker but isn't a receiving or special teams threat. Still, Johnson can be a major asset for a team that hopes to be running out the final 4 or 5 minutes of a lot of games.

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: Like we wrote in our first roster prediction, because of the depth at tight end, it's hard to see how the Packers can sneak the impressive West onto the roster. Six receivers are a luxury when that sixth receiver isn't a game-changing returner or special teams demon. During his tenure as GM, Ted Thompson has kept four and five receivers but never six. The 6-foot-4 Gurley is an imposing target who knows how to use his size. The Packers would love to keep him, too.

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

TIGHT ENDS

Last year's Week 1 total: 4.

Locks: Jermichael Finley, Ryan Taylor, D.J. Williams.

Good bets: None.

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

The skinny: Taylor is a No. 1 on all of the special teams — which is why he was drafted — and keeps improving on offense. In fact, he's probably had a better camp — and certainly has had a better preseason — than the Mackey Award-winning Williams. Williams' receiving skills — his drop on Friday notwithstanding — make him a decent insurance policy for free agent-to-be Finley. Quarless has the entire skill-set but needs to become more consistent. Crabtree is a rugged blocker who has worked hard to make himself a viable threat as a receiver. The guess is the Packers go with five tight ends, with Taylor or Crabtree lining up at fullback on occasion.

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

OFFENSIVE LINE

Last year's Week 1 total: 10.

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

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 starting five and first-round pick Sherrod are the locks. Newhouse has been great at practice, especially at left tackle, but hasn't played as well during the games. However, neither has Sherrod, giving Newhouse a chance to be the swing tackle to start the season. Dietrich-Smith has played better than McDonald but the coaches remain high on McDonald as the possible center-of-the-future. 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 Sherrod and Newhouse. Schlauderaff probably makes it just because Thompson likes to keep his draft picks. He's smart and athletic, giving him a chance as a long-term prospect. Dominguez was given the team's highest undrafted free agent signing bonus, according to a source, but hasn't played to that level.

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

DEFENSIVE LINE

Last year's Week 1 total: 6.

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

Good bets: Jarius Wynn.

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

The skinny: Raji isn't a budding star. He's a star, period. The Packers absolutely can't lose him or their defense will be in a world of trouble. Pickett and Green provide the beefy run defenders that coordinator Dom Capers covets. Neal and Wynn will be counted on to provide some pass rush. Wilson would be a "good bet" if not for a concussion. A concussion has sidelined seventh-round pick Guy, too. This might be an area the Packers address by picking up someone from the scrap heap after final cuts.

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 D.J. Smith.

Good bets: Frank Zombo 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: It will be interesting to see what the Packers do with Zombo. Given the team-wide injury situation, the Packers should be able to hold a roster spot for him until his broken scapula heals. With Zombo out indefinitely, Jones probably is pretty close to a lock because the Packers have no veteran depth behind starters Matthews and Walden. Because of Zombo's absence, one of the undrafted rookies figures to make the roster. So'oto has been the better linebacker but Lattimore continues to work with three of the four No. 1 units on special teams while So'oto isn't on any. Until So'oto becomes a key player on special teams, we'll defy conventional wisdom and give the edge to Lattimore. Sixth-rounder Elmore is the only draft pick who's not in contention for a roster spot. At inside linebacker, Smith, a sixth-round pick from Appalachian State, continues to impress both on defense and on special teams, where he's a No. 1 on every unit. Francois played outside linebacker last season, giving him extra versatility.

Prediction (9): OLB — Matthews, Walden, Zombo, Jones and Lattimore. 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, Davon House and Jarrett Bush.

Good bets: None.

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

The skinny: Because we're keeping an extra outside linebacker, a player has to go elsewhere. One possibility is at safety. Instead of keeping the usual four, the Packers could go with Peprah as the top backup at both spots with Bush able to fill in in a pinch at corner or safety. House remains a "lock" even though he just returned from an injured hamstring that kept him out for a couple of weeks. Cornerback is such a premium position and House has the skills to develop into a starter. Lee remains a No. 1 on a couple of special teams but hasn't played well on defense.

Prediction (9): CB — Woodson, Williams, Shields, House and Gordy. S — Collins, Burnett and Peprah. CB/S — Bush.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Last year's Week 1 total: 3.

Locks: Mason Crosby, Tim Masthay and Brett Goode.

The skinny: Crosby bounced back from a bad miss by drilling the winning field goal at Indianapolis. Masthay looks like he's ready to build on his superb first season.

Prediction (3): Crosby, Masthay and Goode.


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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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