Benny Sieu/USA TODAY

Getting Roster to 53 Doesn't Seem Hard

We went with 24 on offense, 26 on defense and three on special teams in our third 53-man roster projection.

The Green Bay Packers will practice for the one and only time on Tuesday and play the Saints on Thursday before having to cut down their roster to 53 by 3 p.m. Saturday.

With two or three suspensions providing some leeway, getting to 53 seemed easy. Almost too easy.

Quarterbacks: There’s no mystery here. The Packers wouldn’t have given three quarters to Brett Hundley and one quarter to Matt Blanchard if it were an actual competition for the No. 3 spot. You’d think the Packers would want to keep Blanchard on the practice squad in case Scott Tolzien departs for a starting opportunity in free agency after this season. Who makes it (3): Aaron Rodgers, Tolzien, Hundley.

Running backs: Will the Packers keep three running backs? Rajion Neal stated his case on Saturday with a 36-yard touchdown among three explosive plays, though Alonzo Harris has a shot if he can recover from a hand injury sustained at practice last week. It could be argued that neither Neal, Harris nor John Crockett are so good that the Packers couldn’t stash their No. 3 back on the practice squad, which would create an additional spot. At fullback, Aaron Ripkowski’s surge up the special teams depth charts likely signals he’ll join John Kuhn. Who makes it (5): Eddie Lacy, James Starks, Neal, Kuhn, Ripkowski.

Wide receivers: Jordy Nelson’s injury took the five-or-six mystery out of the equation — unless general manager Ted Thompson breaks from his usual no-veterans mold once his scouts determine who becomes available. Who makes it (5): Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, Ty Montgomery, Jeff Janis, Myles White.

Tight ends: Richard Rodgers is a lock and Andrew Quarless probably makes it, too, since there isn’t a legit No. 3. Justin Perillo missed a couple weeks with a concussion and Mitchell Henry has been playing through a broken hand. Sixth-round pick Kennard Backman has dropped far too many passes but made a tough catch while getting drilled from behind against the Eagles. As for Quarless, a source last week said the NFL has not rendered judgment on his July 4 arrest. Presumably, he’ll be suspended at some point. If he is suspended, he will not count against the roster during his time away. Who makes it (4 but maybe 3 officially): Rodgers, Quarless, Backman, Perillo.

Offensive line: The coaches have hyped the Packers’ depth all summer but it really hasn’t shown up. Don Barclay, however, played well at left tackle against the Eagles and Josh Walker has been one of the surprises of camp. For No. 8, will it be Lane Taylor or J.C. Tretter? While Taylor has taken first-team reps in place of Josh Sitton, it took four starters to go down before Tretter got his shot with the first unit. Still, it’s hard to believe the Packers would cut bait on Tretter, a fourth-round pick in 2013 who is more versatile than the guard-only Taylor. Who makes it (8): David Bakhtiari, Sitton, Corey Linsley, T.J. Lang, Bryan Bulaga, Barclay, Walker, Tretter.

Defensive line: The elephants in the room are the suspensions to Letroy Guion (three games) and Datone Jones (one game). Thus, the Packers will have to keep seven for the opener (though Guion and Jones won’t count against the roster while suspended). Josh Boyd, Khyri Thornton, Bruce Gaston and Christian Ringo are in the mix for a permanent spot as No. 6 and a one-week check as No. 7. The one player who really has stepped to the forefront is Mike Pennel, who has impressed in shifting from nose tackle to defensive end. He figures to replace Guion. Who makes it (7 but really 5): Mike Daniels, B.J. Raji, Pennel, Gaston, Boyd (plus Guion and Jones).

Linebackers: With Clay Matthews playing inside and outside, there really are five starters in the 3-4 alignment. That fifth player appears to be Nate Palmer, who hasn’t been great but has been getting by with only one hand due to a club cast protecting an injured hand. Nick Perry, Andy Mulumba (good camp), Jayrone Elliott (core special-teams player) and Jake Ryan (fourth round) appear to be, in no particular order, Nos. 6, 7 and 8 and 9. If the Packers keep 10, it could come down to Carl Bradford vs. Adrian Hubbard. The 53rd spot could be the 11th linebacker vs. the 11th defensive back.  Who makes it (10): Julius Peppers, Matthews, Sam Barrington, Mike Neal, Perry, Elliott, Mulumba, Palmer, Ryan, Bradford.

Defensive backs: There doesn’t seem to be any doubt on the first 10 players on the list. At cornerback, LaDarius Gunter’s speed hasn’t been an issue and he’s made too many plays to ignore. At safety, backups Sean Richardson and Chris Banjo are No. 1s on all the special teams. Speaking of special teams, it was interesting to see Goodson show up on the No. 1 kickoff and No. 1 punt return on Saturday after missing a week with an injured calf. Who makes it (11): Sam Shields, Casey Hayward, Micah Hyde, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Morgan Burnett, Richardson, Banjo, Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins, LaDarius Gunter, Demetri Goodson.

Special teams: Is Tim Masthay on the bubble after an up-and-down camp and so-so preseason? Or, like the Packers did with Mason Crosby, does his career track record earn him a bit more time to get things figured out? Who makes it (3): K Crosby, P Masthay, LS Brett Goode.

Bill Huber is publisher of 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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