Aaron Rodgers. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports photograph
On Saturday, the Green Bay Packers cut their roster down to the mandatory 53 players for the regular season. After a five weeks of player evaluation, the Packers have officially shaped their team for 2013.
With the regular season kicking off next week in San Francisco, let’s take a close look at a position-by-position analysis of the 2013 Packers.
(Click here for a list of the Packers roster cuts.)
Rodgers will continue being one of the elite players in the league this year, but the Packers have to be concerned with the situation behind the former MVP. Green Bay let both Graham Harrell and Vince Young walk, and it appeared at first they were going to go with practice squad-holdover B.J. Coleman. However, the Packers announced Monday that they released Coleman and signed veteran quarterback Seneca Wallace.
Wallace is a good signing for Green Bay. He brings experience to the position and has a strong arm. He spent a majority of his career with the Seattle Seahawks and a few seasons with the Cleveland Browns. He was recently released by the San Francisco Forty-Niners after spending the preseason with them, and now, the Packers have a backup quarterback who doesn’t have any experience in the Green Bay offense and will need to be brought up to speed rather quickly.
The Packers also signed former Forty-Niner and Wisconsin Badger Scott Tolzien to their practice squad. The picture at quarterback behind Rodgers now looks quite a bit different than it did in training camp.
Running back (4)
Eddie Lacy. Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports photograph
Surprisingly, the Packers released former third-round pick Alex Green on Saturday, going with Starks as the top-backup behind Lacy instead. Starks is a more physical runner than Green and stayed healthy throughout the preseason, which helped his cause.
Franklin was a bit disappointing in camp, but he flashed some potential against Kansas City and has made some plays on special teams. Kuhn will stick around another year as he’s still the Packers most reliable back in pass protection and should continue his role in the backfield on third down.
With Harris on injured reserve, Lacy is the clear favorite for the starting running back role and should handle a majority of the carries this season. The Packers just have to be careful not to overuse the rookie back and wear him down before the end of the season.
Tight End (4)
Andrew Quarless. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports photograph
The Packers tight end depth chart was one of the hardest to predict going into the final roster cuts. Finley had a great camp and could finally have a breakout season this year. Establishing an effective running game will help open up things for Finley down the middle of the field, which could help his big play ability.
The Packers are confident Quarless can return to his old self, but the preseason didn’t offer much of a glimpse of this. The Packers let Matthew Mulligan walk in hopes Quarless can become their blocking tight end this year.
Taylor continues to make the team as a special teams contributor, but maybe he’ll step up this year and offer something as a run blocker or pass catcher. Bostick has a ton of potential and is an athletic tight end. He flashed some receiving skills in the preseason, but he’ll need to improve leaps and bounds as a run blocker to see playing time on the field this season.
Wide Receiver (5)
James Jones. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports photograph
Nelson, Cobb, and Jones make a good trio at receiver heading into the season, but because Nelson and Cobb missed most of the preseason with injuries, it may take the Packers a few weeks to find the right chemistry in the passing game.
Boykin really stepped up in training camp and secured his spot on the roster as the team’s fourth receiver. He’s a big pass catcher with the strength to catch balls over the middle of the field. Ross beat out the rookie receivers for the last roster spot, but this is primarily because of his ability as a kick returner. Although he did show an ability to make tough catches against Kansas City, Ross was inconsistent as a pass catcher throughout camp.
Offensive Line (8)
David Bakhtiari, T, 6-4 300 pounds; Josh Sitton, G, 6-3, 318 pounds; Evan Dietrich-Smith, C, 6-2, 308 pounds; T.J. Lang, G, 6-4, 318 pounds; Don Barclay, T/G, 6-4, 305 pounds; Marshall Newhouse, T, 6-4, 319 pounds; Greg Van Roten, G/C, 6-3, 303 pounds; Lane Taylor, G, 6-3, 324 pounds
David Bakhtiari. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports photograph
The Packers are solid at guard and center with Sitton, Lang, and Dietrich-Smith, but Bryan Bulaga’s season-ending injury really threatens the depth of the offensive line.
The picture at tackle still looks a bit shaky going into the season. Bakhtiari is very gifted, but he’s still a rookie and playing the most important position on the offensive line. Barclay is a first-year starter at right tackle and brings a much-needed punch as a run blocker, but he’s a bit inconsistent in pass protection.
Newhouse received a lot of criticism last year, but with his experience at both tackle positions, he proves to be a valuable reserve offensive lineman. Van Roten and Taylor had their ups and downs in the preseason but were clearly the best linemen from the rest of the reserves in camp.
Stepfan Taylor stopped by C.J. Wilson and Rob Francois. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports photograph
Defensive Line (7)
B.J. Raji, 6-2, 337 pounds; Ryan Pickett, 6-2, 338 pounds; Datone Jones, 6-4, 290 pounds; C.J. Wilson, 6-3, 305 pounds; Mike Daniels, 6-0, 294 pounds; Johnny Jolly, 6-3, 325 pounds; Josh Boyd, 6-3, 310 pounds
It comes as a bit of a surprise that the Packers kept this many defensive linemen, especially when you consider Green Bay plays the two-defensive linemen nickel packages a majority of the time on defense. If you include swingman Mike Neal in this group that makes eight defensive linemen on the roster this year. The most since the Packers switched to Caper’s 3-4 defense in 2009.
Johnny Jolly. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports photograph
Despite their depth, each defensive lineman on the roster brings something different to the table. Pickett and Wilson are both effective run stoppers in the base defense. Raji and Jolly are big players who can both hold up well against the run and bring some pressure on passing downs.
Daniels has really improved this season and brings a fire and energy to the group, as well as some burst off the line as a pass rusher. First-round pick Jones had a quiet preseason as he was dealing with an ankle injury and still remains a mystery after a strong start to camp. However, Jones has something to offer as an athletic pass rusher and will most likely rotate with Daniels, Neal, and Raji as the down linemen in the Packers’ nickel defense.
Boyd will be kept on the roster for his potential down the road. He could eventually replace Pickett as the team’s nose tackle and run stopper in base defense.
Outside Linebacker (5)
Clay Matthews. Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports photograph
It will be interesting to see how Perry’s presence on the field will open up things for Matthews this season. Perry may not get a lot of sacks this year, but he gets good push at the line and can collapse the pocket from the left side, which should help push the passer Matthews’ way.
Neal got a lot of looks at outside linebacker during the preseason. He’s still just as much of a defensive end as a linebacker, but he’ll probably come on the field frequently as a pass rusher. In the very least, Neal gives the Packers some versatility on defense.
Both Mulumba and Palmer possess a lot of raw talent as pass rushers from the outside, but the team likes their potential so much they released second-year man Dezman Moses in a surprise move. Moses had a disappointing preseason, and the rookie linebackers simply made more plays during the exhibition games.
Inside Linebacker (5)
A.J. Hawk. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports photograph
Even with the release of veteran Desmond Bishop in the offseason, this position group appears to be one of the deepest on the roster. Hawk and Jones are solid starters. Francois really jumped out on the field during the preseason and made a handful of plays each game. He is definitely the team’s top reserve at the position and will continue to be a key contributor on special teams this year.
Lattimore and Barrington are young players that pack a punch on the field and should factor in on special teams, as well. Barrington made such an impression during the preseason, the team waived 2012 fifth-round pick Terrell Manning, who they were high on going into training camp.
Cornerback is arguably the deepest position group on the team. However, because of injuries to Williams, Hayward, and Bush in training camp, we never got a sense of how saturated this position is with talent.
Micah Hyde. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports photograph
As of now, the starters appear to be Williams and Shields, but what will be interesting to see is which cornerback holds down the slot position in the nickel defense. This was Hayward’s role last year as a rookie, but fifth-round pick Hyde was really effective during the preseason playing out of the slot.
Hyde may have been the most impressive young player on the Packers team this preseason. He made splash plays each week. With Hayward out with a hamstring injury for an undetermined amount of time, Hyde could prove to be valuable as his replacement in the slot.
House had a rough start to camp, but really improved as the preseason progressed. The third-year corner brings some depth to the position and is the top backup behind Williams and Shields as an outside corner.
Bush will continue being one of the team’s best special teams players, and he can serve as a stopgap at both corner and safety in case injuries strike those positions.
Tyler Bray sacked by Chris Banjo. John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports`photograph
Not many surprises at safety this year except for undrafted rookie Chris Banjo out of SMU. Banjo joined the roster a week into camp as a long shot to make the roster, but when the young safety made a splash in the team’s preseason opener, he slowly worked his way up the depth chart and earned the fourth safety spot on the team with his outstanding play throughout the preseason.
The real story at safety, however, is who will start alongside Burnett. Neither Jennings nor McMillian did much in camp or the preseason to win the starting job, so at this point it appears Jennings will begin the season as the other starting safety. Jennings is the more reliable choice at this point, but McMillian still may make a push for more playing time as the season progresses.
Crosby beat out both Giorgio Tavecchio and Zach Ramirez to keep his job as the team’s placekicker. Crosby hit a few rough patches in practice and during the team’s Family Night Scrimmage, but the veteran kicker fought back and performed well during the preseason and the last couple of weeks of camp to win his coaches’ confidence.
Masthay had an excellent preseason and appears to be kicking the ball better than ever. It’s still not completely clear who the team’s kick returner will be to start the season, but it appears Ross will reprise this role. This will allow Cobb to expand his role on offense. Rookies Franklin and Hyde could also get looks as returners during the season.
Injured Reserve: OT Bryan Bulaga, RB DuJuan Harris