Breaking Down the 53

We analyze the transactions that got the Packers down to 53 players on Saturday afternoon.

The Green Bay Packers kept three quarterbacks, five defensive linemen and seven healthy offensive linemen on the 53-man roster they established on Saturday afternoon.

The goose, as general manager Ted Thompson would say, might not be cooked. Once Thompson gets a handle on the state of his roster and what’s available on the street, there might be some tinkering. Recall last year, when the team signed quarterback Seneca Wallace two days after the final cutdown.

Due to injuries and a bottom of a roster that one scout called “not very good,” there weren’t any major surprises among the 22 players removed from the roster.

Perhaps the toughest two cuts came in the defensive backfield with young cornerback Jumal Rolle and second-year safety Chris Banjo. In fact, one source said Rolle was the “toughest” cut. It probably wasn’t any easier with Banjo, who was a No. 1 on three of the four special-teams units this week. In fact, it’s quite possible that one or the other’s release paved the way for the third quarterback to make the roster.

Rolle and Banjo were caught up in the numbers at positions overflowing with depth. For Rolle, the Packers might have the deepest quintet of corners in the league with Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Casey Hayward, Davon House and Jarrett Bush. For Banjo, safety went from position of weakness to position of strength with Micah Hyde’s transition from cornerback and the addition of first-round pick HaHa Clinton-Dix.

Here’s a position-by-position look at the roster decisions:

Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn, Scott Tolzien.

Whether it was their strong preseasons or lessons learned from last year’s quarterbacking debacle or a combination of both factors, the Packers retained Flynn and Tolzien to work behind Aaron Rodgers. The Packers had Rodgers, Flynn and Tolzien on the roster last year, but they hadn’t taken three quarterbacks into a season since 2008, when Rodgers was joined by then-rookies Brian Brohm and Flynn.

Running back: Eddie Lacy, James Starks, DuJuan Harris, John Kuhn.

No surprises here. The Packers, who took the same number of backs into the season last year, might have the most talented trio in the league.

Receiver: Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Jarrett Boykin, Davante Adams, Jeff Janis.

No surprises here, either, considering Janis had 34- and 33-yard touchdown receptions and a 62-yard kickoff return. The longest plays from Kevin Dorsey, Myles White or Alex Gillett? Dorsey’s 27-yard kickoff return and Gillett’s 21-yard reception. Now, is Janis ready for prime time or will he have to watch and learn as a gameday inactive? Then again, is Adams ready? Or will it be a steady diet of Nelson, Cobb and Boykin?

Tight end: Brandon Bostick, Richard Rodgers, Andrew Quarless, Ryan Taylor.

Quarless looked like he was on the roster bubble as he slogged through the second half of Thursday’s preseason game. But, after pocketing a $350,000 signing bonus in free agency, he beat out Jake Stoneburner, who will be waived with an injury settlement. It’s worth wondering whether Quarless would have earned a roster spot had Bostick been healthy. Either way, if Bostick can’t play at Seattle, there are a lot of eggs in the basket of third-round pick Rodgers.

Offensive line: David Bakhtiari, Josh Sitton, Corey Linsley, T.J. Lang, Bryan Bulaga, Derek Sherrod, Lane Taylor.

With J.C. Tretter out for at least a month with a knee injury, the Packers figure to be scouring the waiver wire to potentially add a veteran. Otherwise, Sherrod and Taylor provide the only depth at a position group in which none of the young linemen (other than Linsley) performed well enough to challenge for a roster spot.

Defensive line: Mike Daniels, Datone Jones, Josh Boyd, Letroy Guion, Mike Pennel.

It’s not quite a strikeout, but the Packers swung and missed on third-round pick Khyri Thornton, who had a disappointing preseason and wound up on injured reserve (hamstring). Neither Carlos Gray nor Luther Robinson played well enough to merit a roster spot, so the Packers will either gamble on having five defensive linemen — they had seven last year (eight with Mike Neal, who was not expected to be just an outside linebacker at this time 12 months ago) — or play a bunch of defenses that require only two defensive linemen to be on the field. They’ll need Guion, who had a week of work due to a hamstring injury, and Pennel, an undrafted rookie, to quickly step to the forefront.

Outside linebacker: Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, Mike Neal, Nick Perry, Andy Mulumba, Jayrone Elliott.

Nate Palmer’s knee injury, which might cost him half the season, took much of the intrigue out of who would stick at the team’s deepest position. Elliott sacked his way onto the roster — a league-high five — and there was absolutely no doubt that he would make the team after drawing a hold and collecting a sack in back-to-back plays against the Chiefs. Mulumba’s toughness made him a good fit on a unit filled with pass rushers.

Inside linebacker: A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones, Jamari Lattimore, Sam Barrington, Carl Bradford.

No surprises for the first four on the list. Bradford, a fourth-round pick, survived the bubble. With Bradford’s monster numbers at Arizona State, Thompson went with long-term potential over Bradford’s disappointing training camp. He looked OK at inside linebacker against the Chiefs, and it’ll be interesting to see how someone with prototype size for the position will develop. Essentially, the Packers went with Bradford as the 11th linebacker instead of Chris Banjo as the fifth safety.

Cornerback: Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Casey Hayward, Davon House, Jarrett Bush, Demetri Goodson.

Sixth-round pick Goodson over Rolle was the biggest surprise of this year’s cuts. Perhaps this decision is based on health, because Rolle was clearly far more ready to contribute than Goodson. Goodson, who missed last week with a concussion, couldn’t be outright released because of the injury. Instead, the Packers would have had to waive him with an injury settlement. In that case, he’d be off-limits for most of the season (the length of the settlement, plus six weeks). Now, once Goodson is healthy, the Packers could release him, hope he clears waivers and then bring him back to the practice squad for much-needed development.

Safety: Morgan Burnett, Micah Hyde, HaHa Clinton-Dix, Sean Richardson.

Banjo’s release ranked as a surprise, considering he was a No. 1 on three of the four core special-teams units. The physical Banjo had a good training camp but Richardson was far better in the race for the fourth safety. Losing him will be a blow to the special teams but the Packers have Richardson and plenty of linebackers to fill some of those roles.

Special teams: Mason Crosby, Tim Masthay, Brett Goode.

The team’s kicker, punter and long snapper went unchallenged in training camp.


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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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