Opportunity Knocks, Even on Jam-Packed Roster

The Packers are loaded with returning talent but history shows the forever-young team will keep most (if not all) of its draft picks and probably a few undrafted players, as well.

Coxson photo by David Butler II/USA TODAY

When you have as talented and as accomplished of a team as the Green Bay Packers, it’s always going to be a challenge to find room on the roster for the incoming crop of rookies.

That’s undoubtedly true of this year’s eight-man draft class.

Is there room on the roster for eight or 10 rookies? On the surface, no. But the Packers will find room for them, anyway. Out with the old – or the almost old, or the almost-almost old – and in with the new is how they’ve rolled under general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy.

“When you have an opportunity to coach the Packers, you agree to anything,” McCarthy said of Thompson’s forever-young approach to building a roster. “When he said there’s a chance we’re going to be young, I didn’t think we were going to be that young in ’06 or ’07. But it’s our path, it’s our plan. Draft and develop, we’ve been doing it since Day 1 and the statistics speak for themselves. You have to have it. When the personnel department and the coaching staff are on the same page, good things happen. We’ve had that in place here for 10 years.”

With Tramon Williams, Davon House, Jarrett Bush, A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones, Jamari Lattimore, Jarrett Boykin and DuJuan Harris no longer on the roster, that’s eight openings on the roster. That, however, is countered by the return of six players who ended last season on injured reserve -- defensive linemen B.J. Raji and Khyri Thonrton, linebackers Andy Mulumba and Nate Palmer, offensive lineman Don Barclay and receiver Jared Abbrederis – and eight players who finished last season on the practice squad.

In total, the Packers’ 88-man roster includes 62 players who were on last year’s roster in some form or fashion, the eight draft picks and 18 undrafted rookies.

Here are a few positions that will challenge Thompson when he has to formulate his 53-man roster in three-and-a-half months.

Quarterback: For most of McCarthy’s tenure, the Packers have had only two quarterbacks on the roster. Unless fifth-round pick Brett Hundley adapts to the NFL game and learns the Packers’ scheme in record fashion, they’ll have to keep three, with Scott Tolzien being No. 2 and Hundley the No. 3.

Running back: The Packers had a total of four last season, with John Kuhn the lone fullback. Unless sixth-round pick Aaron Ripkowski beats out Kuhn, will the Packers have to keep two fullbacks to make it five in the backfield?

Wide receiver: The Packers had five for most of last season. With Jeff Janis hyped by McCarthy as a potential breakout player and with Abbrederis moving past a torn ACL, it could be a crowded receiver corps with third-rounder Ty Montgomery. And that’s not even mentioning the talented undrafted contingent, which is led by Stony Brook’s Adrian Coxson, who started his career at Florida but transferred when his father went blind due to diabetes.

Defensive line: This is a unit that doesn’t have a lot of big names but it is a big list of names. Raji and Thornton are back and a sixth-round pick was used on Christian Ringo. Those three join Josh Boyd, Mike Daniels, Bruce Gaston, Letroy Guion, Datone Jones and Mike Pennel to form a deep nine-man group.

Outside linebacker: Not only has the entire group returned from last year’s playoff roster, but Mulumba and Palmer are back, Adrian Hubbard got a year of seasoning on the practice squad and Jermauria Rasco and James Vaughters were signed as college free agents. Considering the undrafted talent the team has found in past seasons, chances are Rasco and/or Vaughters will make a push this summer.

“Opportunity,” McCarthy said, “is throughout our depth chart.”

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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