Last Chance To Make Roster-Saving Impression

Who might have saved his bacon and earned a spot on the 53 and who might have punched his ticket out of Green Bay? We run through the roster bubble battles in light of what happened at a mostly empty Arrowhead Stadium on Thursday night.

Somewhere, commissioner Roger Goodell was cringing.

This was exactly the type of nonsense he'd like to eradicate from the NFL, with the visiting team not caring and the home fans not caring enough to show up.

After Thursday night's preseason finale at Kansas City, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy said the goal was to win the game. Of course it was, if you ignore the fact that the coach held out perfectly healthy Aaron Rodgers, Ryan Grant and Charles Woodson and played his starters merely one series.

McCarthy was only doing his job, of course. That the on-the-field action was boring enough to turn a birthday party full of sugar-fueled 8-year-olds into a slumber party isn't his problem. This game was all about evaluation. Jobs were available to be won and lost in this final action before Saturday's cut. With the Packers losing 17-13, though, it's hard to say how many jobs were actually won.

Quarterback: Graham Harrell will be kept for the practice squad because he knows the offense, which is what the Packers would need if something were to happen to Rodgers or Matt Flynn. Harrell's got a tremendous feel for the game. Somewhere, however, there must be an unemployed quarterback with more arm talent.

Running backs/fullbacks: Kregg Lumpkin produced for the second consecutive week, with 11 carries for 36 yards and a touchdown and a 16-yard gain on a screen. Fullback Quinn Johnson had another solid performance, too, though it was mostly backup linebackers who were feeling his lead-blocking wrath. Chances are, one or the other makes it. My guess is it's Johnson, because fullback John Kuhn again showed can can fill in at halfback in a pinch.

Wide receivers: I hope Jason Chery enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame because he's not the answer as a kick returner. Not that he got any help from his blockers. If the Packers keep five receivers — and there's no guarantee they will — that job will go to Brett Swain. His true value is on special teams, but he made some plays with six catches for 130 yards. Charles Dillon and Patrick Williams made a push but both had costly drops.

Tight ends: Fifth-round rookie Andrew Quarless, who caught two passes for 20 yards, has played his way onto the team over the last eight days. Assuming they keep four, it comes down to veteran Donald Lee and Tom Crabtree. There's something intriguing about the prospect of the Packers trying to run out the final 4 minutes so they put Johnson at fullback and Crabtree at tight end and pound away.

Offensive line: Jason Spitz is a solid veteran but Evan Dietrich-Smith has had a tremendous training camp — that bogus holding call notwithstanding. If they decide they really only need one backup on the interior, due to left tackle Bryan Bulaga's ability to play left guard and versatile T.J. Lang's ability to play right guard, Dietrich-Smith deserves a roster spot. The battle to be the final tackle isn't quite as strong. Rookie Marshall Newhouse let Flynn get hammered once and was flagged for holding and a false start. He also drew McCarthy's ire at practice this week. Breno Giacomini wound up finishing the game at right guard, a position I'd seen him play just one snap in all of camp. General manager Ted Thompson has consistently turned over the roster, figuring a rookie with potential is better than a veteran who hasn't panned out, so maybe Newhouse has the edge.

Defensive line: Justin Harrell, Jarius Wynn, Anthony Toribio, C.J. Wilson and Ronald Talley all played a ton of snaps, which is what defensive line coach Mike Trgovac wanted after spending all of last week in nickel, which cost his group about 60 plays. Statistically, Wilson (four tackles, one tackle for loss) and Wynn (two tackles, one tackle for loss) were the winners, but it's not good when the opponent rushes for 145 yards. Watch out for Toribio, who would provide a true backup to nose tackle B.J. Raji rather than forcing Ryan Pickett to have to move inside from left end. Trgovac sang his praises on Tuesday.

Linebackers: There's only one position open, and only outside linebacker Cyril Obiozor is in the running. He had no tackles but a quarterback hit. The Packers probably will shop Spitz or a tight end in hopes of finding an outside linebacker. Undrafted inside linebacker Alex Joseph, who started camp strong until being sidelined for a few weeks with a bruised quad, deserves a spot on the practice squad.

Secondary: Jarrett Bush looks like a big-time player at practice most of the time, and for a change, he looked like a player on the field, too, with an interception, a pass breakup and two tackles for losses. Considering Pat Lee's picture is turning up on milk cartons, Bush might wind up being the final cornerback and Lee might wind up being a huge second-round blunder. At safety, Charlie Peprah had the big hit and strip (though just after the runner's knee was down) but also got sucked in on play action and beaten for a touchdown. But that's better than Will Blackmon, who can't get healthy.

Special teams: This was just an unfair way to end a hotly contested battle between two worthy punters. Tim Masthay's first punt was a 51-yard beauty but the coverage unit let him down — and long snapper Brett Goode got drilled and knocked out of the game. With Dietrich-Smith struggling as the the backup long snapper, Masthay and Chris Bryan were content to simply unload the ball to avoid the block. Bryan averaged 36.0 yards on his two punts and Masthay averaged 35.5 yards on his final two punts. If Chery's not the returner and Blackmon isn't ready, Jordy Nelson would probably do double duty.


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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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