Packers Roster Countdown Part 7

Players 57-60 lead off with Diondre Borel and continue with three players who will be fighting to retain their roster spots during training camp.

As we've done in past years, we're counting down the Green Bay Packers' roster, from No. 90 to No. 1.

These rankings are not simply based on skill. Players were ranked on their importance to the team. Skill, a player's position, the depth of his position group, the odds he contributes, salary and draft history all play a part in how a player is ranked. More than the ranking itself, hopefully you will learn a little something about each of the 90 players in the process.

No. 57: Talented target

There was no shortage of praise for Diondre Borel.

Asked what stood out during the offseason practices, coach Mike McCarthy singled out Borel.

Then there was this ringing endorsement from MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers:

"I think Diondre has made as big a jump as anybody from Year 1 to 2," Rodgers said. "He really made the most of his reps on the scout team last year. He's a great teammate, a hard worker and he really understands the game. I think he has the luxury of being a quarterback in college, so he sees the game through a quarterback's eyes, and that gives him a slight advantage over guys he's competing with because he understands timing and progression maybe a little bit quicker than some of those other guys. Diondre, I think, has had one of the top springs out of the guys who you were looking for to make a jump."

Borel threw for 6,698 yards as a three-year starter at Utah State. Quarterback isn't the right profession for someone standing 6-feet tall, so Borel wound up signing with the Packers as a receiver after going undrafted last year. He impressed throughout training camp and spent the year on the practice squad — even turning down an offer to join Tampa Bay's 53-man roster.

Therein lies the intrigue: If Borel looked like a legit NFL receiver then and looks even better now, just imagine how good he could be with two, three or four years at the position.

No. 58: Sidelined again

Through two years, Mike Neal has been an incredible disappointment.

Simply put, you can't make plays if you're not playing.

As a rookie, he missed the start of the season with an abdominal strain, then suffered a season-ending shoulder injury during his second game. Last season, he suffered a knee injury during training camp and didn't get onto the field until Week 11. Playing through pain, he made almost no impact.

In all, Neal has played in 10 of a possible 37 games. By the team's count, he's recorded 11 tackles and one sack.

And now, he's out again, sidelined for four games with a league-imposed suspension for using the prescription drug Adderall — a stimulant used for ADHD — without getting league approval.

Neal's a second-round pick with the strength to play on running downs and the athletic ability to get after the quarterback on passing downs. In other words, he's a potential three-down player in a position group that's mostly filled with specialists. However, with two draft picks and three veterans added to the group, the pressure will be on Neal to live up to expectations. It's not like Ted Thompson to give up on an early draft pick so soon but the cupboard's not exactly empty.

"I think that God tests everybody's character," Neal said. "I think that no matter what happens, God puts you in a situation that He thinks you can handle and I've handled my situation very well. I think He's pleased and there's more bright things in the future to come."

The Packers certainly hope so.

No. 59: Inside job

Jamari Lattimore looked out of place. The undrafted rookie from Middle Tennessee State checked in for training camp last summer at just 230 pounds — hardly the "butt-kicking" size preferred by outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene.

But Lattimore made the team mostly on the strength of special teams. He delivered a key block on Randall Cobb's 108-yard touchdown return in Week 1, and recorded four tackles on the coverage units in his nine games on the gameday roster.

Lattimore, along with Brad Jones, has been moved to inside linebacker. Up to 241 pounds, the versatility to play inside and outside linebacker will be key as he fights again for a roster spot.

No. 60: From starter to ...?

Erik Walden started the first 15 games last season but produced just three sacks. He found himself demoted for the regular-season finale against Detroit and again for the playoff game against the Giants.

Rather than competing to recapture the starting job, Walden will be competing for a roster spot. Clay Matthews and first-round pick Nick Perry will be the starters, barring an injury.

The Packers know what they've got in Walden: a try-hard guy who just isn't capable of making impact plays on anything more than an occasional basis. Walden's not a bad player; he's just not great. The Packers will use training camp to find out if Frank Zombo can stay healthy, if Dezman Moses is for real and if Vic So'oto is more than a curiosity.

If you missed ...

Gurley's detours: 56

Five defenders: 61-65

Don't be surprised if ...: 66-70

It's Noah's Ark: 71-81

Roster long shots: 82-89

Longest of long shots: 90


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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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