Packers' Depth: Diving Into Wrong End of Pool

The tale of the tape of the last three preseason games shows that while the starters are potentially dominant, the backups may not be as good as advertised. Unfortunately, maybe all of that depth is at the wrong positions.

So, what did we learn as the NFL took its version of "Grand Theft Football Fan" on the road to Nashville, Tenn.?

For starters, for all of the talk about this being the deepest team that general manager Ted Thompson had assembled, the depth doesn't seem all that great. In Thursday night's 27-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans, the Packers' backups were outscored 17-0 in the second quarter. Last week, the Packers' backups were outscored 27-6 in the second half at Arizona, with the only points coming on an onside kickoff that was returned for a touchdown. Two weeks ago, the Bills won the second-half battle of the backups 21-7.

The glaring problems against the Titans came at two critical areas: offensive line and defensive backfield.

Clearly, the Packers' coaches made the right decision by picking Allen Barbre over Breno Giacomini at right tackle, because Giacomini had a horrendous night. If Barbre wasn't such a giant unknown as a first-year starter, Giacomini might be out of work by Saturday night. And to point out that the Packers don't have a backup left tackle is like pointing out that the tundra freezes around these parts in January. Maybe someday, rookie fifth-round pick Jamon Meredith will be worthy, but that day isn't on this calendar.

In the defensive backfield, the battle to be the fifth cornerback is as clear as mud. With starters Charles Woodson and Al Harris getting the night off, nickel corner Tramon Williams making only a cameo appearance and fourth corner Will Blackmon out with a bruised thigh that doesn't seem to be healing, 2008 second-round pick Pat Lee and 2009 sixth-round pick Brandon Underwood were given most of the night to clinch a roster spot.

Instead, they spent the night playing roster hot potato. There's Lee missing the tackle on a punt. There's Underwood missing a tackle on a run play. There's Underwood getting torched in coverage. There's Lee getting beat in coverage. There's Underwood getting beat again. There's Lee failing to down a punt inside the 5-yard line. There's Underwood getting run over and suffering a stinger. There's Lee making a nice kickoff return but getting hurt … again.

As the saying goes, you can't make the club in the tub, but that's where you'll find most of the backups in the secondary. Injuries are part of the game, but Lee and safeties Aaron Rouse and Charlie Peprah know every nook and cranny of the trainer's room.

Player for player, the Packers' starting 25 (if you include kicker, punter and snapper) is the cream of the crop of the NFC North. The Vikings might have superstar running back Adrian Peterson and three difference-makers along the defensive line, and the Bears might have Jay Cutler and Brian Urlacher. But the Packers have the best quarterback (Aaron Rodgers) throwing to the best receivers, and they have the one difference-making coach (defensive coordinator Dom Capers) who has enough toys to play all of his games. Outside of Barbre -- and only because he's such an unknown -- there's not one starter who really should be a backup.

Brian Brohm tries to escape the pressure. (Getty Images)

But, as fans of the 2008 Packers will recall, you need more than starters to get through the long, physical 16-game grind of the regular season. What are the five-most important positions on the football field? Quarterback, left tackle, running back, cornerback and defensive line. The depth? Well, you'd be advised to not go in head-first.

Quarterback: Who could be comfortable with Matt Flynn and Brian Brohm? While the days of having Steve Young backing up Joe Montana are long gone, it would be nice to have a veteran to turn to should Rodgers go down. Quarterbacks get injured and miss games in the NFL. Green Bay can't be immune to that fact forever.

Left tackle: What happens if Chad Clifton goes down? Daryn Colledge goes from left guard to left tackle, Jason Spitz goes from center to left guard and Scott Wells comes in at center. Voila! One injury means new faces at three positions. So much for that offensive line continuity.

Running back: Thompson faces a tough decision, where Brandon Jackson, DeShawn Wynn and Tyrell Sutton might be vying for two spots. But let's be honest. It's a long, long, long step down from Ryan Grant to Jackson.

Cornerback: The Packers probably have the best trio of corners in the league, so asking for solid fourth and fifth corners is like Warren Buffett asking for some spare change. But Woodson and Harris are two of the oldest players on the team, and the Packers need to cultivate some young talent behind them. A month ago, they appeared to have two promising prospects in Lee and Underwood. Now?

Defensive line: The D-line was horrendous last season, which was why moving to the 3-4 was such a good idea. But with Justin Harrell's presence only creating more laundry for the Lambeau Field staff, the Packers are one injury away from having nothing behind the starters.

Unfortunately, the Packers' depth is in the wrong places. They have three quality fullbacks at a position that sees 15 or 20 snaps in a typical game. They're bursting at the seams at linebacker, but unless Capers can make the 1-6 a staple, that depth is probably overkill. Having five legit receivers is great, but the Big Five formation was the Big Fizzle last year, once coordinators figured out that a blitz defused that grouping of its firepower.

The NFL should be ashamed for charging full price for these final preseason games. But they're of vital importance in the evaluation of talent. The evaluation from Thursday is the Packers' end-of-roster talent isn't as strong as advertised.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and 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. Bill also is giving Facebook and Twitter a try. Find him on Twitter at and Facebook.

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