Tangled Web of Cutting to 53

Setting the final roster isn't as easy as simply picking the best players. One position is related to another and another as the Packers figure out how to get from 75 to 53 by Saturday afternoon.

Picking a final roster isn't as easy as picking the best 53 players. Nor is it as easy as having a checklist of three quarterbacks, three halfbacks, two fullbacks, etc., and picking the best from each position group.

"It's all tied up," general manager Ted Thompson said this week. "It depends on whether is this a better prospect or is this a better prospect? It's not just you have to have X number at each position on your 53. The 53, we go through a lot of angst getting to it but then after that, as you know, once you get through the season, you have some imbalances from a perfect roster from time to time."

"It's something that you talk about all of the time," coach Mike McCarthy said. "You evaluate every practice. You spend a lot more time on the game evaluations with the coaches and Ted sits in on those meetings. It's particularly a daily conversation that you are always working through numbers and who is competing against who, and really your competition is really players from other positions competing with other players. Are you going to keep this many guys or that many guys?"

How connected is the process? Here are the positions in which there's going to be a great deal of debate between Thompson, who has the final call, and the position coaches, who will be fighting for their guys.

Quarterback

After Thursday's game, coach Mike McCarthy signaled that Brian Brohm was safely on the roster, which means ...

Running back

... where does the extra roster spot come from if the Packers feel the need to keep four halfbacks because of Tyrell Sutton's potential and Brandon Jackson's ankle injury? The Packers could have released Brohm and gone with just Aaron Rodgers and Matt Flynn. If the Packers want to keep four, where do they save a roster spot?

Tight end

Maybe at tight end, where the team could get by with Donald Lee and Jermichael Finley. But Spencer Havner has been so good on special teams and can play defense, too.

Defensive line

Adding to the numbers crunch is defensive end Justin Harrell. The assumption all along has been that the Packers would keep six defensive linemen. If they put the former first-round pick on injured reserve or release him, then there's no real issue. But there's a decent chance that Harrell will make the cut again. The Packers can't keep only six with the oft-injured Harrell in that group, right?

Linebacker

One place the Packers could save a spot is by keeping only eight linebackers. But doing so would mean releasing promising seventh-round prospect Brad Jones, and the Packers really like him.

Secondary

Unfortunately, they'll get no help from an injury-riddled secondary. Will fourth corner Will Blackmon be ready for the season opener? Will second-year corner Pat Lee be ready to contribute at some point early in the season after injuring his left knee on Thursday? Who will be the fourth safety with Aaron Rouse (hamstring) and Charlie Peprah (knee) out as well? Jarrett Bush is a key special-teams player, but do they trust him enough on defense that he could fill one of those spots?

Put together, this gives you a taste of what Thompson and the coaches need to figure out by 3 p.m. Saturday. Complicating matters are trade possibilities and trying to project whether they can sneak a younger player like Sutton or Jones or rookie left tackle Jamon Meredith through waivers and onto the practice squad.

"You are going to have to do some speculating and projecting because everybody is not going to have the exact same number of reps or be put in the exact same situations to make a play or not make a play," Thompson said. "At the end of the day, you try to keep the 53 players that are going to give you the best chance to win both now, but you have to look at this as a season-long decision. It can't be just who is going to line up against Chicago. It's got to be what is best for the Packers this season and you try the best you can, but you guess in some respects."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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