Predicting the final roster

Those who will make Packers, those who won't

The Green Bay Packers must reduce their roster to the mandated limit of 53 players, plus an eight-man practice squad by 5 p.m. (CT) on Saturday.

Some players may have made the team based on their performance against the Tennessee Titans Thursday night. And some may have cut themselves because of their play against the Titans. Here's my prediction on who the Packers will keep and who will be released, along with a comment, by the deadline tomorrow:

Quarterbacks (3)
Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers, Craig Nall
Comment: Rodgers played his way into the backup role with his performance against the Titans. He literally showed that he can manage the offense if Brett Favre goes down, like he did in the second quarter. Nall is a keeper over J.T. O'Sullivan because of his experience in the offense.

Running backs/fullbacks (5):
Ahman Green, Najeh Davenport, Tony Fisher, William Henderson, Vonta Leach
Comment: Pretty much the same as last year in the backfield. Leach played well enough before his knee injury in camp to beat out Luchey. Walt Williams had a chance to beat out either Davenport or Fisher, but didn't make the most of it against the Titans.

Wide receivers (5)
Javon Walker, Donald Driver, Robert Ferguson, Andrae Thurman, Antonio Chatman
Comment: What about Terrence Murphy? He will be placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list to start the season, meaning he will miss the first six games. Thurman and Chatman are much more seasoned, and are proven punt and kickoff returners. Murphy has missed most of training camp with injuries and hasn't played in one preseason game.

Tight ends (3)
Bubba Franks, Ben Steele, Sean McHugh
Comment: The Packers will have to swallow the $250,000 signing bonus they gave to the oft-injured David Martin this spring. Martin is not reliable, and never has been. Steele has been working hard all preseason and showed against the Titans that he can get the ball into the end zone. McHugh is solid and can contribute on special teams.

Offensive line (10)
Chad Clifton, Mark Tauscher, Mike Flanagan, Kevin Barry, Scott Wells, Adrian Klemm, Will Whitticker, Grey Ruegamer, Brad Bedell, Junius Coston
Comment: The offensive line will struggle to find its identity early, and possible throughout, this season. The guard positions are still up in the air. No one has stood out. The Packers probably will start Klemm and Whitticker at guard, like they have the last three preseason games, but that will change if Green Bay can't establish a running game against the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns.

Defensive line (10)
Ends: Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, Aaron Kampman, Mike Montgomery, Cullen Jenkins
Tackles: Grady Jackson, Cletidus Hunt, Corey Williams, Colin Cole, Kenny Peterson, Donnell Washington
Comment: This line is about the same as last year, meaning it probably will struggle to get to the quarterback this year. Hunt makes the team because of his salary and potential. But if he doesn't produce early in the season, he'll be released. Sherman seems fed up with him, but probably not enough to release him because the Packers don't have anyone else capable of starting.

Montgomery was hustling against the Titans. He gets the nod over R-Kal Truluck who didn't do enough this preseason to justify his sub-average 2004 season.

Linebackers (6)
Nick Barnett, Na'il Diggs, Ray Thompson, Roy Manning, Corey Jenkins, Brady Poppinga
Comment: Jenkins joined the team on Wednesday, and made the roster on Thursday by getting an interception that led to the game-winning touchdown. He knows Jim Bates' system. Though he is a year older than Paris Lenon, he proved that he can make plays, which Lenon hasn't done in three-plus seasons with the Packers.

Cornerbacks (4)
Al Harris, Joey Thomas, Ahmad Carroll, Mike Hawkins Comment: Hawkins has been practicing with the first- and second-team defenses throughout the preseason. His game-saving interception against the Titans showed that he is capable of making plays. Thomas is getting back into form and probably will be moved ahead of Carroll into the starting lineup, either for the opener against Detroit, or the following game.

Chris Johnson has all the intangibles, but injuries the last two seasons stunted his progress. His bonehead penalty late in the Tennessee game didn't help. Johnson was flagged for running into the Titans punt returner after a fair catch was signaled.

Safeties (4)
Mark Roman, Nick Collins, Earl Little, Marviel Underwood
Comment: Collins had an impressive preseason and earned a starting spot. Little sealed the deal with an interception against Tennessee, but also showed in camp that he is capable of filling in as a starter. Underwood has all kinds of potential. Roman has a chip on his shoulder and wants to prove that his mediocre 2004 season was due to injury and not desire. During training camp, he showed all signs of being much improved this year.

Specialists (3)
K Ryan Longwell, P B.J. Sander, LS Rob Davis
Comment: For all the heat that Sander took from the media and fans last year, he stayed composed and gradually improved in the off-season. Sander was excellent this preseason and showed why Sherman selected him in the third round of the 2004 NFL Draft. He definitely earned a roster spot and is the most improved player on the Packers' roster.


Todd Korth

Note: Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at packrepted@aol.com with your thoughts and comments.


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