Six undrafted rookie free agents have made the Green Bay Packers’ initial 53-man roster.
The Packers kept cornerbacks Josh Hawkins and Makinton Dorleant,, safeties Kentrell Brice and Marwin Evans, quarterback Joe Callahan and running back Brandon Burks. With seven draft picks, that's a whopping 13 rookies — almost one-fourth of the roster.
Brice was practically a lock to make the roster for the past couple of weeks. His athleticism is obvious and he plays more physical than his 5-foot-11, 200-pound frame would indicate. During the past couple of weeks, he had surged to a No. 1 on the four core special-teams units. He paced the special teams with four tackles in the preseason while adding 10 tackles, including two for losses, on defense.
Hawkins was in a battle with Robertson Daniel at cornerback, with Hawkins emerging victorious. The Packers prize playmakers at that position — their cornerback group leads the NFL in interceptions since 2009 — and Hawkins intercepted two passes during the preseason.
Callahan, who was the top player in Division III football as a senior at Wesley, was the surprise, though perhaps it shouldn’t be. Asked about Callahan late in training camp, coach Mike McCarthy called him a “hell of a player.” Those four words showed how highly he was valued — and the potential feared he wouldn't make it through waivers to the practice squad.
While he struggled a bit during the finale at Kansas City, he finished the preseason with 61.4 percent accuracy, with three touchdowns, no interceptions and a rating of 88.2. It’s possible Callahan will serve as insurance only until Brett Hundley is fully past a sprained ankle that sidelined him for all but one quarter of the preseason, though Callahan showed a good all-around skill-set.
“I think Joe Callahan’s a great example of it’s not really where you start, it’s where you finish,” McCarthy said. “I understand his background, but Joe’s a hell of a football player. He was extremely productive in his college career and he’s really, if you go back to the OTAs, he’s improved every step of the way. It’s just like anything, can guys absorb the information and apply it on the field? His application part of it really relates and definitely shows you what kind of football player he is. He’s a heck of a football player. He’s done a lot of good things.”
Evans is a tremendous story. Not only did he go undrafted out of Utah State, but he wasn't signed by Seattle after trying out at its postdraft rookie camp. The 5-foot-11, 211-pounder from Oak Creek, Wis., brings an excellent blend of size and athleticism. He tied for third on the team with 13 tackles and had one interception.
Burks made it by default after John Crockett sustained a shoulder injury in the third preseason game vs. San Francisco. In that game, Burks had an impressive 19-yard touchdown run. The 5-foot-9, 208-pounder, who caught 90 passes during his final three seasons at Troy, finished the preseason with 120 rushing yards and a 3.9 average.
Dorleant, a ballhawking cornerback from Northern Iowa, was a surprise. He twice was sidelined by a hamstring injury and played in only one preseason game.
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