Packer Report's Third Roster Prediction

Training camp is in the books. All that's left is tonight's preseason finale against Kansas City. There is plenty at stake, and we break it all down as we examine the remaining roster battles.

For the Green Bay Packers, the starting jobs are squared away but there is plenty at stake for tonight's preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

In fact, there probably are only 36 stone-cold locks to make the team. That leaves 17 spots in play tonight. Here is a position-by-position rundown heading into tonight and Saturday's roster cuts.

Wide receiver: If Jordy Nelson, James Jones are Randall Cobb, who rounds out the receiver corps? Jarrett Boykin, last week's fumble notwithstanding, should be No. 4. That leaves Jeremy Ross, Tyrone Walker, Charles Johnson and Myles White battling. Walker has been the most consistent, Ross provides value on special teams beyond his potential as a returner. White has been so-so and Johnson simply isn't ready after missing so much of the offseason and camp. The guess: Walker.

Offensive line: What a mess beyond the starting five and swing tackle Marshall Newhouse. Greg Van Roten, the top backup at center and guard, had a miserable night against Seattle. Lane Taylor, who is on the No. 1 kickoff return, has leveled off after a strong preseason debut. Neither have shown the horsepower to win consistently in the run game. Frankly, only six linemen have earned a roster spot. Someone from the group of Van Roten, Taylor or Patrick Lewis must emerge tonight. "I think it's a big week for these guys, and I think they'll answer that question themselves," offensive line coach James Campen said. "When you turn the tape and you see what transpires, I think that will answer your question. There's a battle for it." The guess: No. 7 might not be on the roster.

Tight end: It's a mess here, too, behind Jermichael Finley, though at least the players in the mix have shown something. Ryan Taylor's probably a lock because of his special teams. From there, who knows? Matthew Mulligan is a good blocker who offers little as a receiver. Andrew Quarless is a factor in both phases but injuries are a concern. D.J. Williams does a little of everything but has dropped too many passes. Brandon Bostick is an intriguing receiving threat, though position coach Jerry Fontenot was luke warm on his route-running consistency. Interestingly, Bostick moved ahead of Williams on special teams, though it's hard to say whether that was based on merit or curiosity. Jake Stoneburner is a promising prospect but last week's fumble was a killer. The guess: Finley, Taylor, Mulligan and Williams.

Running back: DuJuan Harris' season-ending injury changed everything. Alex Green and, especially, James Starks were on the roster bubble. Now, both might survive, though neither are locks. Starks has had a good summer, though last week's fumble was a black eye. Green might be the kickoff returner by default. Johnathan Franklin hasn't done anything; then again, neither has the No. 2 offensive line, so his lack of production is hard to judge. Fullback John Kuhn, who was believed to be in jeopardy with the addition of Eddie Lacy and Franklin, probably returns as the third-down back. The guess: Lacy, Starks, Green, Franklin and Kuhn.

Quarterback: No guessing here: It's Aaron Rodgers and Vince Young, even though B.J. Coleman is surging at the finish line.

Defensive line: This is far and away the best group on the team. Dom Capers, take it away: "I like the combination of people that we have. I think we have some big guys like (Ryan) Pickett and (B.J.) Raji and Johnny (Jolly) (and) C.J. (Wilson) that are all good run players. Yet I think we have some guys that can rush the passer pretty well. Hopefully bringing Datone (Jones) in, Mike Neal on third-down situations. Mike Daniels does a nice job rushing. So, I think we have a better combination of people that can do both." The guess: There's your seven, though losing fifth-round pick Josh Boyd would be tough to swallow.

Outside linebackers: Clay Matthews and Nick Perry are the starters, and Neal and Andy Mulumba have been the No. 2 tandem (when Neal's not on the line). Mulumba, who is a rugged customer against the run and has the strength to produce a good bull rush, probably has locked up a roster spot. Dezman Moses, who as an undrafted rookie a year ago started four games and was third with four sacks, probably makes it, too, though he's had a quiet camp and has battled injuries. "I look back last year and we had a free agent by the name of Dezman Moses that we didn't know anything about and he was our first guy in," Capers said. "We know a lot more about Mike Neal as a football player than we did Dezman Moses, and Dezman Moses started four games for us and played 400-and-some plays, so we know a lot more about him than we did at this time last year. We had Nick Perry, who had never taken a rep in professional football that we put out there the first day. To be honest with you, I feel a lot better about our outside backer position now than I did at this time last year."

Inside linebackers: There hasn't been a bit of change all summer, with A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones starting, Robert Francois and Jamari Lattimore forming the second tandem and Terrell Manning and rookie Sam Barrington forming the third duo. Francois and Lattimore, who finished second and third on the team in special-teams tackles last year, are on all four special-teams units so would appear to be locks. Manning and Barrington look like key cogs on special teams, as well, though they're potentially battling for one spot. "They've shown that they're able to have some type of value for us," inside linebackers coach Winston Moss said. The guess: All six make the team.

Cornerbacks: Casey Hayward, Davon House and Sam Shields are locks, as is rookie fifth-round pick Micah Hyde. There's little reason to believe Tramon Williams won't join them — though his age and salary and the young talent at the position leave at least some doubt. Jarrett Bush went from Week 1 starter last year to total afterthought on defense this year, but he remains a key cog on special teams. James Nixon has been the best of the undrafted corners and might be in position to make the team but he's out with knee and ankle injuries. He allowed two catches on six targets in the first two games. Loyce Means had a tough night against Seattle and potential-filled Brandon Smith needs a year of seasoning. The guess: Shields, House, Hayward, Williams, Hyde and Bush.

Safeties: M.D. Jennings has done enough to be the full-time safety opposite Morgan Burnett, with Jerron McMillian reprising his role as the dime defender. Who's No. 4? The guess: The leader in the clubhouse is Chris Banjo, an intelligent, hard-hitting defender who wasn't in the league last year and was released early in camp by Jacksonville. It's up to him to keep his roster spot tonight. Otherwise, the Packers will be scouring the waiver wire on Saturday evening.

Special teams: The best-case scenario for Mason Crosby is he is asked to kick extra points tonight. He's got the kicking job locked up, unless he stubs his toe on a couple field goals. At that point, the Packers might be paging Giorgio Tavecchio so they don't have to pay Crosby a nickel of a base salary that will be guaranteed once the San Francisco game kicks off. The guess: Crosby, punter Tim Masthay and snapper Brett Goode.

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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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