Durability Will Play a Major Role in Packers Final Roster Decisions


DuJuan Harris. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Three days of camp have passed and the Green Bay Packers are already dealing with a number of injuries. Entering camp, their PUP list was longer then they would have liked.

Mike Neal (abdomen) was a surprise player, and Casey Hayward, although not officially on the PUP list, is also out with a hamstring injury. Mike McCarthy said that both players could miss the next couple weeks of camp.

DuJuan Harris is also sitting out of camp, but this injury is not related to a cyst removal as reported earlier but a knee injury he suffered before camp. It is still yet to be determined how serious Harris’s knee injury is, but based on the comments by Coach McCarthy, Harris should be back in a couple of weeks.

Rookie wide receivers Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey also both went down on the second day of practice with what appears to be minor injuries. Johnson planted on his knee awkwardly attempting to catch a pass that was thrown behind him during a team drill, and Dorsey pulled his hamstring running a route over the middle of the field. Both rookies sat out Sunday’s padded practice and may miss time this week, but their injuries don’t appear to be too serious and they should return soon.

Charles Johnson. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Undrafted rookie Sederrik Cunningham has suffered the most serious injury so far in camp. He is reported to have fractured his wrist on Saturday during practice and has already had surgery to repair it. He should miss a significant amount of time. Maybe even the rest of camp. This doesn’t bode well for his chances of earning a final roster spot on the team.

One positive note is the Packers didn’t suffer any major injuries during their first padded practice of training camp on Sunday. That is a good sign, especially considering how physical it was reported to be.

Cornerback Tramon Williams did leave practice early with a minor knee injury, but there hasn’t been any details released about his condition yet. Early indications show that it’s not too serious and he should return soon. However, Williams’s injury leaves a cornerback position thin at this point in camp. Hayward is already sitting out with a pulled hamstring and Davon House hasn’t suited up yet because of illness he’s dealing with caused by food poisoning.

Having said all this, let’s look at what these injuries mean to the Packers roster so far.

Before we throw our arms up in the air and say, “Oh boy, here we go again with injuries,” let’s find the silver lining here. With injuries at certain positions comes opportunities for young players.

We have already seen this so far in camp. With Hayward and House out, rookie cornerback Micah Hyde has found a lot of playing time and is putting together a pretty nice camp so far. He was the standout player on the first day, and if Williams or House don’t return soon, he may even get reps with the first team alongside Sam Shields this week. This would go a long way not only for Hyde’s campaign for a roster spot, but also to push for playing time during the season at the deep cornerback position.

James Nixon. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Young undrafted cornerbacks James Nixon and Brandon Smith are also getting more opportunities because of injuries at the position. They each have come up with key interceptions during practice. Smith picked off a pass on the first day of camp, and Nixon stole one from Aaron Rodgers with what would have been a return for a touchdown during the team’s padded practice.

Considering how deep cornerback is this year, it will be tough for these players to crack the final roster, but they may just land themselves on the Packers practice squad with strong performances in camp.

As has been the case with the defensive backs, wide receiver is a position that has seen some injuries, but also has seen some young players step up and make plays. We have already written about how undrafted rookie Tyrone Walker is putting together a nice camp and how Myles White and Alex Gillett are showing they can compete at the position.

Heading into camp, wide receiver was a position filled with young and unproven talent. With roster spots open beyond the big three (Nelson, Cobb, and Jones), there is plenty of competition among the wide receivers to make the team. Seventh round picks, Johnson and Dorsey, have been non-factors at the position so far because of injuries. Among the group of rookies, they were the clear favorites to make the roster heading into this offseason because they were drafted by the team, but who’s to say one of the undrafted rookies won’t push ahead of them on the depth chart during camp.

The Packers have several positions on the roster this year where there is a logjam of young and unproven talent. Cornerback and wide receiver are examples of this, but also the tight end and running back positions. For the team, these are good problems to have. It creates excellent competition at these positions and allows the Packers to keep the best players on the roster heading into the season.

Green Bay will have some tough decisions to make on cut day. The Packers will have get down to their 53-man roster on Aug. 31, just two days after their final preseason game. Considering they have 89 players currently on their roster, 36 jobs will be lost in the next month. However, after Sept. 1, the Packers can bring back eight players to their practice squad.

Jarrett Boykin. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports photograph

This week of training camp will be a grind and may separate the men from the boys. The Packers get back to it on Tuesday with a full-padded practice. They will then practice in full pads the next four days, including the Family Night Scrimmage on Saturday night.

Odds are the Packers may suffer some roster casualties this week. The players that will separate themselves on the roster will be the ones that can stay healthy and remain on the field. With running back being a very competitive position this camp, look for the players that withstand all the hits this week and stay off the injury list. Also look for the players taking advantage of more playing time due to injuries at their position. This is the best chance for “long shots” on the roster to make their mark.

Just consider last year during camp when Jarrett Boykin rose from the bottom of the depth chart and surpassed favorites, Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel for the final wide receiver roster spot. Gurley and Borel both dealt with injuries and had disappointing camps  and Boykin took advantage of the extra playing time and excelled in the preseason.

This week will be a very important week of practice. The durable players will be the ones who withstand the attrition of camp and remain on the field to showcase their talent and fight for roster spots.