And You Thought 3 FBs Was Strange

Expect the unexpected at four position groups when the Packers unveil their 53-man roster on Saturday. Publisher Bill Huber examines who might win and who might lose at halfback/fullback, tight end, cornerback and safety.

The first roster cuts shouldn't cost general manager Ted Thompson too much sleep. With 79 players on the roster, the Packers must trim only four players to get to 75. The heavy lifting can wait until Saturday afternoon, when the Packers have to get down to 53.

"We do have this body of work with some of these guys from previous years and certainly the bulk of them since April and May," Thompson said on Monday. "So, something is not going to be decided just based probably off of one play and one game, but it's the whole body of work. You have to put yourself in a position to win a spot by now."

Based on the depth at some positions and the surprising play of a handful of players, the final roster will reveal some surprises. Some of which could be:

The backfield

Generally, the Packers keep three halfbacks and two fullbacks, though they broke from that norm last year with three of each. They'll turn the expected 3-2 format on its ear by keeping only two halfbacks (Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson) and all three fullbacks (John Kuhn, Korey Hall and Quinn Johnson). Kuhn is the emergency halfback, a role he's shown he can handle, Kuhn and Hall are core special teams players and Johnson has value as a third-and-short hammer and when the Packers run their clock-killing four-minute offense.

Tight ends

It's been a foregone conclusion for a couple weeks that the Packers would keep four tight ends instead of the usual three. They have five worthy of a roster spot. Who will be behind Jermichael Finley? Donald Lee is the veteran of a really young group and is on all four of the major special teams. Spencer Havner is a versatile playmaker who's a No. 1 on the punt and kickoff returns. Tom Crabtree is the unit's best blocker and is on the No. 1 kickoff return, punt return and punt teams. Fifth-rounder Andrew Quarless has come on strong but isn't a No. 1 on any of the special teams. I've had Quarless the odd man out all along but his recent improvement and long-term potential have me leaning toward a trade of Lee or Havner. However it turns out, a valuable player will be lost.


The Packers have a major problem, and that's pass defense ... again. Assuming Al Harris is ready to practice sooner rather than later, can they afford to put him on PUP, meaning he can't even practice for the first six games of the season? I don't think so. That makes the top six cornerbacks Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Harris, Sam Shields, Brandon Underwood, Pat Lee and Jarrett Bush. Oops, that's seven. Who will turn in his playbook? Popular sentiment would be Bush but I'm leaning toward Lee, the 2008 second-round disappointment who has fallen behind Underwood and Shields at cornerback and isn't a player on any of the special teams.


Will Blackmon is a gifted kick returner but he just can't get healthy or stay healthy. He was moved from cornerback to safety during the offseason but has barely practiced at his new position as his surgically repaired knee continues to bother him. Whether it's injured reserve or his release, the Packers can't afford to burn a roster spot. So, they go with Derrick Martin and Charlie Peprah as the backups at safety, with Jordy Nelson returning kickoffs and lord knows who fielding the punts.

Not really surprises but ...

Who's the fifth receiver? Brett Swain, unless Jason Chery is the subject of a made-for-TV movie. Who's the backup interior lineman? Evan Dietrich-Smith, with Jason Spitz dangled as trade bait to get an outside linebacker or future draft pick. Who's the fifth and sixth defensive linemen? Justin Harrell and Anthony Toribio (mild surprise, but they could use a backup at nose tackle with all the nickel reps going to B.J. Raji). Who's the punter? Tim Masthay, as I've said all along.

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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. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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