Packers Roster Countdown Part 10

We continue our look at the team's most important players with No. 41 through No. 45. Leading off is the team's only experienced backup interior lineman, Evan Dietrich-Smith. Plus, a defensive lineman on the bubble, a rising young player, an established young player and a young player who's been cursed.

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. 41: Interior depth

Not only is Evan Dietrich-Smith the primary backup at all three interior offensive line positions, but he's the only reserve center or guard on the roster to have played in an NFL game.

Dietrich-Smith, who entered the NFL in 2009 but officially is a third-year pro, didn't make the Packers' roster in 2010 and was claimed off waivers by Seattle. He never played for the Seahawks, however, and wound up re-signing with Green Bay in time for the Super Bowl. It's a good thing, because he played relatively well while making the first three starts of his career last season. He more than held his own in starts against the Giants, Raiders and Bears and in relief against the Lions (twice).

By's count, he allowed three sacks in the six games in which he saw significant action.

"He's made a lot of gains since he's been here," offensive line coach James Campen said. "His thing with assignments — he was a big overanalyzer. He would call stuff his first year that's like, ‘Why? Tell me why.' Now, Dietrich understands the concepts and what we're doing. He's very solid in his assignments. He's a strong kid, now. He's a dead-strong individual. He's advanced himself tremendously from last year to this year."

No. 42: Wynning

Jarius Wynn enters his fourth year in Green Bay, but how long that year lasts is anyone's guess.

At 285 pounds, Wynn's role on the defense is interior rusher in the Packers' preferred nickel package. However, Wynn had just three sacks and 10 total pressures, according to Among the 32 3-4 defensive ends who played at least 25 percent of a defense's snaps, that tied for 20th. Wynn's pass-rushing production on a per-snap basis ranked 26th, according to PFF's formula.

Compare that to free-agent addition Anthony Hargrove. While Wynn's three sacks and 10 pressures came on 344 pass-rushing snaps, Hargrove recorded three sacks and 20 total pressures in 227 pass-rushing snaps. Hargrove's pass-rushing production on a per-snap basis ranked ninth out of 73 4-3 defensive tackles, according to PFF's formula.

Suspensions to Mike Neal and Hargrove clearly bolster Wynn's chances of surviving the final cut. Assuming Wynn makes the team in September, will he be the odd man out when Neal returns in October or Hargrove returns in November? Simply put, what value does Wynn have when he's not filling his niche on the team?

All of that said, the fact is Neal and Hargrove are suspended, and the Packers certainly could use Wynn to provide some pass rush in a nickel rotation with B.J. Raji and second-round pick Jerel Worthy.

No. 43: Dynamite and small packages

In three starts last season as a rookie sixth-round pick, inside linebacker D.J. Smith tallied nine tackles, 12 tackles and an interception, and nine tackles. That's an average of 10 tackles per start, far better than A.J. Hawk's 7.4 per start and not all that far off of Desmond Bishop's 10.9 per start.

Smith rang up 525 tackles at Appalachian State, leaving the school as the FCS active leader in tackles. The knock on him was his 5-foot-11 frame, but he's a solid 239 pounds, packs a wallop when he tackles and possesses a superior nose for the ball.

For the record, Smith is Bishop's backup. When Smith and Bishop played together in Hawk's absence, Bishop had slid into Smith's role.

"He's in a tough position where he has guys in front of him that have stripes," inside linebackers coach Winston Moss said. "He will have to continue to work hard and do the things that we're asking him to do, and if he wants to play more, he's going to have to take somebody's job. It's as simple as that."

No. 44: What a find

Outside of Tim Masthay himself, nobody could have expected what Masthay has accomplished in two years as the Packers' punter.

After the 2009 season, the Packers gave up on Jeremy Kapinos and decided to let two NFL novices, Masthay and Australian Chris Bryan, battle it out. It wasn't much of a battle. Masthay, who had a bottle of Gatorade during his short time in Indianapolis' training camp in 2009, looked like he needed some seasoning. Bryan looked like someone from Australia. There was no reason to believe the Packers' punting merry-go-round — they had burned through seven primary punters over an eight-year span — was about to come to an end.

Instead, after a slow start to 2010, Masthay has become one of the NFL's best punters. Last season, he set franchise records for average (45.6) and net (38.6). In his last 10 games, his net was at least 40.0 in nine games, with the lone exception coming at Detroit, when his five punts pinned the Lions inside their 20-yard line four times and held them to minus-2 return yards.

"He can kick the kicks, punt the punts, that we need in terms of where he's at on the field, and he's got a good leg," special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said.

No. 45: Return of Zombo?

Every year, some unknown prospect makes waves at outside linebacker for the Packers.

In 2012, it's Dezman Moses.

In 2011, it was Vic So'oto.

In 2009, it was Brad Jones.

In 2010, it was Frank Zombo.

Zombo got his break when Jones was injured and responded by posting four sacks — third among NFC rookies — in eight starts, then added another sack in the Super Bowl.

Zombo, however, can't stay on the field. He missed the final three regular-season games and first three playoff games in 2010 with a knee sprain. Last year, he sustained a broken scapula while warming up before the preseason game against Arizona. He missed the first five games with that injury, missed another game with a knee injury and sat out three weeks with an injured hamstring. He went from four sacks, 13 pressures and two forced fumbles to merely one sack and three pressures.

Zombo will be challenged to make the roster, especially if Moses is for real. But for a defense searching for pass rush, maybe Zombo can stay healthy and return to his rookie form.

If you missed ...

Going hog wild: 46-50

Rookies at key positions: 51-55

Gurley's detours: 56

Fighting for jobs: 57-60

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 and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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