Survivor: The preseason edition

With so little time between the final preseason game and the final cuts, PackerReport.com's Steve Lawrence says Packers general manager Ted Thompson will have to make many decisions based on tonight's game at Cincinnati.

The clock is tick-tick-ticking away. For players trying to earn starting jobs, as well as for players trying to win a spot on the 53-man roster.

While there are two preseason games remaining before the Sept. 2 cutdown to 53 players, the reality is the Packers will make a number of those decisions after tonight's game at Cincinnati. That's because the last game is Sept. 1, so the Packers will have only about 24 hours between the end of the preseason finale and when 22 players must turn in their playbooks.

So, who needs to impress tonight, not only to avoid Tuesday's cut to 75 but next week's reduction to 53?

Quarterback Ingle Martin: With the starters playing into the third quarter, the rookie might not get many snaps, but every one will be precious if he wants to avoid a season on the practice squad.

Running back Najeh Davenport: Plenty has been written on this site about Davenport in the last week, so there's no sense rehashing old news. Suffice it to say, another lackluster performance could be his last one with the Packers. The only question: Will the Packers simply cut him - and if they do, you'd think it would be during Tuesday's first wave of cuts, for the courtesy of helping him latch on with another team - or will they try to make a deal to get something, whether it's a pass-catching running back or a bag of used socks?

Running back Arliss Beach: The undrafted rookie's surprising play is one reason why Davenport is on the bubble. He rushed for 50 yards last week, which is more than Davenport in the first two games combined. He'll get a chance at returning kickoffs tonight, a sign of how much the coaches like him. "I'm in favor of tough guys," coach Mike McCarthy said. "I think he's a young man that has a bright future."

Wide receiver Robert Ferguson: A month ago, many of us so-called experts thought Ferguson might not even make the team. Now, the only question is whether he'll start ahead of impressive rookie Greg Jennings. Ferguson has had a solid camp and preseason, and his size gives the Packers a needed physical dimension as McCarthy's offensive scheme calls for more inside routes and slants. Another good game, and he'll likely win the starting job.

Wide receivers Carlton Brewster, Rod Gardner, Ruvell Martin and Cory Rodgers: With Donald Driver, Ferguson and Jennings assured of roster spots, only two or three of these four will stay on the team. The undrafted Brewster, acquired from Cleveland in what looked like a throwaway trade last week, has come out of nowhere. That he's a return prospect, too, makes him a decent bet to land a spot. Rodgers has been a disaster, so the bet here is it's Gardner vs. Martin for one spot and the Packers scan the waiver wire for someone else if they want six receivers.

Tight end Donald Lee: With good downfield speed, Lee was one of the few bright spots offensively last season, but he hasn't shown much in camp. He has more upside than the smallish Tory Humphrey, though, so a positive performance probably will be enough.

Defensive end Jason Hunter: The Packers likely will keep four defensive ends, and three players - Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, Aaron Kampman and Michael Montgomery - are locks. Hunter has looked especially impressive of late as a speed-rushing prospect - a position the Packers have been trying to fill for the past few years - but injured veteran Kenny Peterson is big enough to play tackle, which may give him the inside track despite a lackluster camp and mediocre career resume.

Defensive tackles Kenderick Allen and Johnny Jolly: Allen and Jolly are vying for the fifth and final spot at defensive tackle. Jolly, a rookie sixth-round pick, might have the edge based on his upside and the fact Allen hasn't fulfilled the ability that made him a prep all-American. A big play either way could sway things greatly.

Cornerbacks Mike Hawkins and Jason Horton: Chances are both will be among the Packers' five cornerbacks, but a solid showing might make Thompson think twice about scanning the waiver wire for some exerienced help. As for Ahmad Carroll, Thompson no doubt has made up his mind already.

Safety Tra Boger: In the battle to be the No. 4 safety, it's the rookie Boger against someone from the waiver wire. If a veteran is cut loose, Thompson might have to pounce, just because he'll be starting second-year Nick Collins and rookie Tyrone Culver will be the primary backup. Does Thompson want two rookies - an undrafted rookie and a sixth-rounder, at that - as his backups?

Kicker Dave Rayner and punter Jon Ryan: Thompson has to be uneasy about both of his inconsistent kicking specialists. There will be more than 20 kickers and punters released in the coming week, and in Rayner's case, Paul Edinger and Martin Gramatica already are available.

Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. Send comments to steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com.


Packer Report Top Stories