Tough cuts needed to finalize roster

Packer Report's Bill Huber, who has watched every practice this summer, takes his best guess at the final 53-man roster.

The Packers will have to cut their roster from 75 players to 53 by 5 p.m. Saturday.

Difficult decisions loom at almost every position, adding to the agony awaiting coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson.

"It's clearly one of the worst days of the year for me, personally," McCarthy said on Tuesday. "It's something I don't look forward to, especially the players that have been here for quite some time, especially for the players you may have lined up and competed with. I don't look forward to it."

Thompson lent some insight into the thought process he and the coaches will be going through as they sort through their roster.

"Obviously the practice stuff is sort of the meat and potatoes of the evaluation process," Thompson said on Monday, "because you get to kind of lay your hands on them and really look at it and kind of test them against other people, especially the young guys vs. the guys that have proven they can play in the league.

"But some guys are gamers. Some guys don't perform very well in practice, and you put them in a game and they do great. Other times it works the other way. All that is sort of added up, and you try to make the best decisions you can coming up. These are tough days. I've always said these are the toughest days of our jobs, is to go through these releases."

With the talent on the roster, Thompson and Co. face a challenge to get down to 53. In doing this, I got stuck at 55 players, so tough calls were made at fullback and linebacker.

Quarterbacks (3)

Aaron Rodgers, Brian Brohm, Matt Flynn.

The question is, do the Packers sign a veteran backup after Saturday's cuts? Paired with that question is, how much do the Packers like Flynn? If they are afraid another team will grab Flynn from their practice squad, then Thompson might gamble that Rodgers can stay healthy and keep the rookies on the roster, regardless of their ability to win games now.

Running backs (5)

Ryan Grant, Brandon Jackson, Vernand Morency, Kregg Lumpkin at halfback; Korey Hall at fullback.

The Packers really like Lumpkin's long-term upside, and probably will keep him for fear he won't make it to the practice squad. Because neither Jackson or Lumpkin can be trusted to pick up blitzes, Morency sticks as the third-down back because of his superior blocking and receiving skills. Releasing Noah Herron is tough because he's produced here and he's a great locker room guy. Backup fullback John Kuhn is a tough cut — going with one fullback is a gamble, and Kuhn is a key player on special teams — but injury issues elsewhere mean tough decisions.

Wide receivers (5)

Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, James Jones, Ruvell Martin and Jordy Nelson.

No surprises here — even if Jones does miss a few games with his injured knee — with fast-improving seventh-round pick Brett Swain and perhaps undrafted Taj Smith going to the practice squad.

Tight ends (3)

Donald Lee, Tory Humphrey and Jermichael Finley.

Believe it or not, the Packers probably miss Bubba Franks. Humphrey is the No. 2 tight end by default because the talented and athletic Finley is just so raw. Humphrey hasn't been bad, but he's been injured so often and dropped too many passes in camp. If the Packers were a team with no expecations, they might keep undrafted Joey Haynos ahead of Humphrey. At 6-foot-8, he's been practically unstoppable, even for the No. 1 defense. As it is, he'll go to the practice squad, and fingers will be crossed some other team doesn't snatch him.

Offensive line (9)

Scott Wells, Jason Spitz, Daryn Colledge, Mark Tauscher, Chad Clifton, Josh Sitton, Tony Moll, Allen Barbre and Junius Coston.

Coston would be the odd man out if not for the injuries to center Wells and guard Sitton, or Coston could be released if Thompson finds better interior-line talent on waivers. Moll went from on the bubble to the starting right guard with Sitton out, but if Wells is ready for the Vikings and Moll performs poorly tonight, Moll could go from starter to unemployed. Fifth-rounder Breno Giacomini could make it if the Packers feel his upside is too great to lose him from the practice squad. The hunch, though, is Giacomini and undrafted Brennen Carvalho will be added to the eight-man practice squad.

Defensive line (10)

Ryan Pickett, Johnny Jolly, Colin Cole, Daniel Muir, Aaron Kampman, Cullen Jenkins, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, Jason Hunter, Jeremy Thompson and a player to be signed later.

KGB, even with a knee injury that seems to be lingering forever, will make it; the Packers simply are too desperate for a pass-rusher to not wait (and wait some more). End Michael Montgomery is out of a job because the Packers are desperate for help at defensive tackle, with Pickett missing all of training camp, Jolly's legal questions and Justin Harrell on PUP. So, this could be a place to scour for waiver-wire talent or the Packers could trade one of their backup middle linebackers for a tackle. Thompson makes it on potential. Tackle Rodney Allen and Alfred Malone/Conrad Bolston are practice squad candidates.

Linebackers (6)

Nick Barnett, A.J. Hawk, Brady Poppinga, Brandon Chillar, Desmond Bishop and Tracy White.

The odd man out is Abdul Hodge, who has some trade value and might be used to land a defensive tackle but isn't as versatile as Bishop. Hodge, however, is on all of the special teams. White is a special-teams star, too. If not for the injuries to the offensive and defensive lines, the Packers probably would rather keep all seven. Danny Lansanah could warrant a spot on the practice squad.

Defensive backs (9)

Al Harris, Charles Woodson, Nick Collins, Atari Bigby, Aaron Rouse, Tramon Williams, Will Blackmon, Patrick Lee and Jarrett Bush.

This is a deep group. Bush makes it over Charlie Peprah because Bush can play corner and safety, while Peprah is a safety only and has missed so much of training camp with a hamstring injury.

Specialists (3)

Kicker Mason Crosby, punter Jon Ryan, snapper J.J. Jansen.

No surprises here.

Practice squad (8)

Swain, Smith, Haynos, Giacomini, Carvalho, Allen and Malone, plus someone from waivers.

Bill Huber is editor of Packer Report and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com


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