By Dan Dahlke and Eric Balkman
With NFL teams required to cut down to 53 players on Saturday, Aug. 31, fellow LombardiAve.com staffers Dan Dahlke and Eric Balkman decided to make their final roster predictions based on what they’ve seen so far from the Green Bay Packers in camp.
Here’s how it went:
(Remember, this is a final roster prediction and not a team depth chart)
I think the Packers do something they haven’t done for some time now and keep three quarterbacks on their final roster. Harrell knows the offense and can serve as a stopgap if Rodgers goes down, but Young is the better quarterback and would give the team a better chance to win if No. 12 misses some time. Coleman will continue to be a practice squad project.
Packers general manager Ted Thompson will sign quarterback B.J. Coleman to the practice squad, but I am convinced I’ve seen what Harrell is, and that is not an NFL quarterback. And if Green Bay were to ever need another signal-caller, I’d be willing to wager dollars to donuts that Harrell would be available if needed.
Lacy and Harris are clearly the best backs on the roster. Franklin will be kept for his potential down the road and his ability as a third-down back. Green has the slight edge over Starks because he’s younger and more versatile. Kuhn gets one more year in Green Bay because he’s still the Packers best pass protecting back.
This backfield will be led by Lacy and Harris. And because of Lacy’s versatility, Thompson doesn’t have to be compelled to give Alex Green and James Starks another chance to see if they achieve their potential. Kuhn is making more money than he’s worth. Jeremy Ross and Matthew Mulligan are cheaper and can do what Kuhn does in special teams coverage and blocking. Lacy is capable of handling goal-line duties when head coach Mike McCarthy chooses the run over the pass.
The top four receiving positions seem like a lock at this point with Boykin having a good camp. The last spot really seems like a toss up between Tyrone Walker, Myles White, and Jeremy Ross. Although I think Walker and White are better receivers than Ross, Ross seems to be the only viable option on the roster as a returner beyond Randall Cobb. Ross has also played on the kick and punt coverage teams. His special teams contributions will get him on the roster, and I think the Packers only keep five this year and use that extra roster spot at a different position.
I may be going out on a limb here. The sixth receiver spot could just as easily go to Charles Johnson or Tyrone Walker, but I think White has made the most of his time in Green Bay so far. All of those extra preseason snaps White has had while Johnson missed time with an injury hasn’t hurt either.
The tight end position could play out any number of ways. Beyond Finley, Mulligan has a good shot because of his outstanding run blocking. Williams has struggled in camp, but just barely makes it because of his ability to play H-back and his contributions on special teams. Bostick is my surprise pick at the position. He offers a lot of potential as a receiver, and he gives the Packers another threat in the passing game.
I’m not ready to close the book on Quarless yet. He’s a good blocker and special teamer with offensive upside. Ryan Taylor has hit his ceiling and underwhelmed the coaching staff and front office. Bostick didn’t flash enough in preseason to warrant a spot on the 53.
The Packers seem a bit thin at tackle with injuries to Bulaga and Sherrod. It appears Bakhtiari and Barclay will be the starters with Newhouse as the top reserve at both tackle positions. I haven’t been too impressed with any of the other reserve tackles on the roster.
Datko makes the team as the fourth tackle thanks to Bulaga and Sherrod’s injuries. I am a big fan of Datko since watching him at Florida State. Had he not had that significant shoulder surgery, he could have been a first or second round pick. He’s a great bullet to have in the holster should the Packers need a tackle in a pinch. And if history is any guide, they will.
The starting interior offensive line is set with Dietrich-Smith, Sitton, and Lang. Van Roten has worth as a versatile lineman that can play both guard positions and center. Taylor hasn’t looked too bad at guard, and the Packers need more depth on the offensive line.
I was never a huge fan of Taylor’s talent, but I can’t deny it anymore. He has been performing above my expectations in camp. Given that he was a draft pick and not a free agent and is versatile enough to play along the line, he’s got a spot in Green Bay to open the year.
Finally, Dan and Eric agree! Neal is versatile enough to warrant seven players here. Pickett isn’t getting younger and Raji has been overworked, so rotating these guys will be the key. If only six are kept, Jolly or Wilson will be the guy to go.
Mulumba has really impressed in camp as an undrafted rookie, and he earns a roster spot with his preseason performance. Moses has had a rough camp, but he makes it based on his contributions last season. Palmer just barely misses the cut and may be a practice squad candidate. Neal brings added depth to the position as a swing player.
Palmer should be a pretty valuable asset on special teams, and given that Mulumba is a bit of an unknown quantity and Moses has not progressed as expected after his stellar 2012, Palmer should be the last guy here. Thompson thought enough of him to draft him in the sixth round which helps Palmer’s cause, too.
This may be the easiest position group to call. None of the guys who are not on this list have made much of an impression on us this preseason.
Sorry, Packers fans. We are fairly certain you’re going to have to put up with the Jarrett Bush roller coaster for another season.
This position was another tough call a month ago. But Sean Richardson’s neck injury basically eliminated him from contention. And the rest of the guys competing for another safety spot are fairly pedestrian.
Call it wishful thinking, but I think Crosby will redeem himself in the next two preseason games. It seems at kicker it could really go either way, but unfortunately, Tavecchio is at a disadvantage because he’ll have to far outperform Crosby to win the kicking job.
Mason Crosby is broken mentally. With as much talent as he has, he shouldn’t be struggling this much. Tavecchio has been more accurate, and with the NFL’s de-emphasis on kickoffs, Tavecchio’s less powerful leg can be hid. Here’s hoping to Crosby getting rid of the yips and catching on somewhere else.
Barrington and Boyd are two defensive rookies that have showed some potential but don’t make the roster because of depth at their positions. Johnson and Walker have potential at wide receiver but need to develop further, and Datko and Lewis provide some depth on the offensive line. Banjo is my surprise choice here. I just really like the way he plays. He could become a good player if he cleans up his game a bit and improves his coverage skills.
I’m high on Barrington, Bostick, Boyd and Johnson for the future. I’m sure that Johnson will get claimed by another team, but I believe he’s smart enough to want to stick around to catch passes from Rodgers next year. Stoneburner and Pena are raw, but there’s something there. Coleman is a year away and Pease could be interesting if he gets a shot down the road.
Worthy should hopefully be ready in October. With Sherrod, who really knows? Richardson’s neck injury is a little scary right now for us to even project when he’ll be football-ready. Tretter is probably going to miss the season.
Dan/Eric: Bryan Bulaga
Here’s hoping to Bulaga being back and better than ever in 2014.
There it is. What do you think Packers Nation?