The Green Bay Packers are now halfway through the preseason and now is as good a time as any to take a look at the 53-man roster as a whole and try to predict what it will look like come September 1st. Now that we’re well into training camp, there’s a better gauge than earlier in the summer as to who is performing well and playing their way onto the roster as opposed to off of it (as is the case for some). This team has the makings to be a special team, and will certainly be under the national microscope as the franchise prepares to celebrate its 100th season. Let’s dive right in and take a stab at trying to predict who will be a member of the 100th rendition of the Green Bay Packers.
Making the cut: Aaron Rodgers, DeShone Kizer
Released: Brett Hundley, Tim Boyle
Rodgers is set to return for his 14th season donning the Green and Gold, and expectations are high for the two-time NFL MVP in 2018. Hundley vs. Kizer has been an interesting camp battle to watch during the preseason, with both playing rather well. Kizer is a virtual lock considering that Green Bay sent their best cornerback during the 2017 season in Damarious Randall to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for the former 52nd overall pick. Hundley has shown improvement since his disappointing stint last season playing in Rodger’s place, but I ultimately don’t see the Packers using up a roster spot on a third quarterback. Depending on how Hundley plays in the final two weeks of the preseason, Green Bay could ideally (although unlikely) deal him for a conditional 6th or 7th round pick in next year’s draft to a quarterback-needy team. Boyle, a raw but talented undrafted rookie free agent has flashed big-play ability and is a lock to come back to the practice squad assuming he clears waivers.
Running Backs (3)
Making the cut: Jamaal Williams, Ty Montgomery, Aaron Ripkowski, Aaron Jones (Suspended)
Released: Devante Mays, Joel Bouagnon, Bronson Hill, Leshun Daniels, Joe Kerridge
Jones’s two-game suspension places a bit of a damper on the start of the 2018 season, and, combined with a hamstring injury that’s kept him out of both preseason games, has lead to Williams entrenching himself as the lead back in this offense. Montgomery returns for his fourth NFL season and figures to see looks as both a third-down back and slot receiver gadget player. Mays initially had a shot at the 53-man roster due to the aforementioned suspension, but has yet to take the field in the preseason due to his own hamstring injury. None of the other running backs have shown much in the preseason, and fullback Aaron Ripkowski proved in 2016 that he can be a bruising running back in a pinch to serve as the third string until Jones returns from suspension.
Wide Receivers (7)
Making the cut: Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, Geronimo Allison, J’Mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown, Jake Kumerow
Released: Trevor Davis, DeAngelo Yancey, Kyle Lewis, Adonis Jennings
Adams, Cobb, and Allison have the top three spots on the depth chart on lockdown, and after that is where it starts to get interesting. Davis looked ready to break out as a playmaker at receiver early on in camp until the pads came on and has since disappeared. 2017 5th-rounder DeAngelo Yancey has taken first-team reps on occasion when the veterans sit out, but has shown little big-play ability to separate himself from other receivers around him. On the other hand, all three rookie receivers have had big moments in both practice and the preseason (Moore has had his fair share of drops, but his draft status and athletic traits make him a near certainty to earn a spot), and all three are deserving of roster spots. While keeping seven receivers is a bit of a higher number than average, UW-Whitewater alum Jake Kumerow has played lights-out early in camp. His 52- and 82-yard touchdown receptions in back-to-back preseason games and No. 12’s trust in him will prove to be a very difficult roster decision for GM Brian Gutekunst.
Tight Ends (3)
Making the cut: Jimmy Graham, Marcedes Lewis, Lance Kendricks
Released: Emanuel Byrd, Robert Tonyan, Kevin Rader, Ryan Smith
Graham and Lewis are locks to make the 53-man roster as arguably the best red zone and blocking tight ends in the NFL, respectively. Kendricks will likely latch on as the third tight end as a reliable veteran who does everything okay but nothing exceptionally well. With two weeks left in the preseason to prove themselves, second-year guys Byrd and Tonyan could still push Kendricks off the roster, but they would need to improve quickly from relatively slow starts to the preseason.
Offensive Linemen (10)
Making the cut: David Bakhtiari, Lane Taylor, Corey Linsley, Justin McCray, Bryan Bulaga, Jason Spriggs, Kyle Murphy, Lucas Patrick, Byron Bell, Dillon Day
Released: Kofi Amichia, Adam Pankey, Alex Light, Austin Davis
Bakhtiari, Taylor, and Linsley return in 2018 to fortify the left side of the offensive line, an exceptional group that, when healthy, does a great job of keeping Rodgers upright. Bulaga was surprisingly activated off the PUP list prior to the first preseason game, not even nine months after tearing his ACL in Week 9 of last season, and will pair with Bakhtiari yet again to form one of the best tackle duos in the NFL. McCray was a bit of a breakout candidate last season as a depth player along the offensive line and has been the frontrunner to man the starting right guard spot for the duration of camp. While the starting five on paper look like a top-10 unit, depth is a bit of a concern. Patrick makes for a solid backup along the interior of the line, but Spriggs and Murphy have shown little to no development at the tackle positions over two seasons, and if Bakhtiari and/or Bulaga go down for an extended period of time, the Packers may be in trouble. I predict Bell will make the roster as a versatile guard who can play right tackle in a pinch, but he’s played poorly in the preseason and makes it primarily because Green Bay would incur $500,000 in dead money if he’s cut. Finally, Day has been quietly playing his way onto the roster all camp as the primary backup to Linsley and could likely play guard in an emergency. Last year’s 6th round pick, Kofi Amichia, and former undrafted free agent Adam Pankey could play their way onto the roster in the final two weeks of the preseason, but up to this point they’ve both had rather quiet camps.
Defensive Lineman (5)
Making the cut: Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark, Muhammad Wilkerson, Dean Lowry, Montravius Adams
Released: James Looney, Joey Mbu, Conor Sheehy, Tyler Lancaster
Moving onto the defense, this unit projects to be the biggest strength of the team apart from the quarterback and is likely also the easiest positional group to project. Daniels, Clark, and Wilkerson are locks and have the potential to form the scariest defensive front in football this season. Lowry has been a steady yet unspectacular defensive end over three seasons who is well-suited for a rotational pass rush role behind the starters. Adams, a second year player drafted in the third round last year, is sort of a forgotten man to Packers’ fans after spending most of last year on the sideline due to a foot injury, but has been a dominant force most of camp. Green Bay could potentially decide to keep a sixth defensive lineman instead of an extra guy at a position like wideout or safety, and if that is the case I expect 2018 seventh-rounder James Looney to round out the squad.
Outside Linebackers (6)
Making the cut: Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Reggie Gilbert, Kyler Fackrell, Vince Biegel, Kendall Donnerson
Released: Chris Odom, Naashon Hughes, James Hearns
To some Packers’ fans disdain, Matthews and Perry will be on the roster as the primary edge rushers in 2018 despite high cap numbers for two guys who struggle to stay on the field. Gilbert is an up-and-coming linebacker who will finally have his chance on the 53-man roster after showing promising potential all the way back to the 2016 season. Beigel has had a bit of an unproductive camp up to this point, but it’s still a big improvement from his rookie season when he spent all summer on the sideline due to a foot injury. He will return as a rotational pass rusher who will hopefully prove why the Packers justified taking him in the fourth round last season. Despite being Packer Nation’s perennial punching bag, Fackrell still has a role on this team as a key special teams contributor and offers depth as a pass rusher, even if he doesn’t excel at it. Lastly, I predict Donnerson will make the squad based purely on athleticism and potential for splash plays, like we saw with his strip sack against Tennessee in the first week of the preseason. None of the other outside linebackers have shown much to warrant consideration for a roster spot.
Inside Linebackers (3)
Making the cut: Blake Martinez, Oren Burks, Ahmad Thomas
Released: Greer Martini, Marcus Porter, James Crawford
After tying for the league lead in tackles last season, Martinez returns as the leader in the middle of the Packers defense and expectations are high as the young linebacker continues to mature and improve. Burks, this year’s third-round pick, will have a role on this defense as a coverage linebacker early due to Jake Ryan’s torn ACL. Burks has flashed a lot of promise this preseason and could make for a potentially dynamite pairing with Martinez. Ahmad Thomas has had a quietly impressive camp, stepping up in the wake of the Ryan injury. The former undrafted free agent is a solid coverage linebacker similar to ex-Packer linebacker Joe Thomas (now with the Cowboys) who spent portions of the last two seasons as the primary dime linebacker and special teams contributor. Martini was a hard cut for me, partially due to the name but mainly because he’s played exceptionally well for an undrafted free agent, making an impact on the starting special teams units and showing flashes from scrimmage.
Making the cut: Tramon Williams, Kevin King, Jaire Alexander, Josh Jackson, Davon House, Lenzy Pipkins
Released: Quinten Rollins, Demetri Goodson, Josh Hawkins, Herb Waters, Donatello Brown
Williams, King, and Alexander are the likely Week 1 starters and as such are locks to make the final roster. Jackson is another lock as this season’s second-round draft selection, and has played very well in coverage up to this point in the preseason, even tallying a pick-six in last week’s game against the Steelers. If any of the young corners on the roster bubble start to play like they belong on a 53-man roster, House could be in danger of losing his roster spot, but that hasn’t really happened up to this point. While not exactly a fan favorite, the eight-year pro will likely make the team as a veteran leader to pair with Williams in an otherwise very inexperienced secondary. Pipkins showed a lot of confidence and promise both in pass coverage as well as run support late in the season, and has a pretty strong chance at sticking on the edge of the roster as a development project. Of course, this doesn’t leave much room for a guy like Quentin Rollins, Green Bay’s second-round pick in 2015. Rollins sustained an Achilles injury early last season, robbing him of what little athleticism he possessed prior to the injury, and has played rather poorly in camp to go with it. There is also the possibility that one of the other young corners like Hawkins or Waters plays his way onto the roster over House or Pipkins with two weeks left of preseason football.
Making the Cut: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Kentrell Brice, Josh Jones, Jermaine Whitehead, Marwin Evans
Released: Raven Greene
As it stands right now, safety is probably the weakest positional unit on the roster with Clinton-Dix coming off a down year, Brice returning from an injury-riddled 2017 campaign, and second-year man Josh Jones struggling to grasp Mike Pettine’s scheme. While these three appear to be locks for the 53, all three have had their fair share of struggles in the preseason. I would not be surprised to see Green Bay sign a veteran like Eric Reid or George Iloka prior to Week 1 to act as a veteran stopgap throughout the season. Assuming Green Bay doesn’t go this route, I predict they keep both Whitehead and Evans around as depth both at the backend of the defense but also for special teams. Greene was a bit of a hot name during minicamp, but he has shown very little since the pads came on in training camp.
Making the cut: Mason Crosby, JK Scott, Hunter Bradley
Released: Zach Triner
Crosby and Scott are locks at the kicker and punter positions due to them being the only such guys in camp. While the long snapper battle between Bradley and Triner has been rather quiet, that’s actually a good thing at their positions as that generally correlates to no bad snaps. I have Bradley winning simply because he was drafted in the seventh round this season, whereas Triner was undrafted coming out of Assumption College in 2017. If the Packers do decide neither Bradley or Triner are adequate, longtime Packers’ snapper Brett Goode is still available and certainly still on the personnel department’s speed dial after being a last-minute, end-of-camp signing the past two seasons.
Practice Squad: QB Tim Boyle, RB Devante Mays, FB Joe Kerridge, WR DeAngelo Yancey, TE Robert Tonyan, OL Adam Pankey, DL James Looney, OLB Naashon Hughes, ILB Greer Martini, CB Herb Waters
Assuming they clear waivers and want to return, Boyle, Yancey, Looney, and Martini are definite priorities to make the practice squad. Mays, Tonyan, and Pankey all have a history with the club and offer depth at positions I left a little thin on my prediction. Waters and Kerridge are favorites of the coaching staff and are likely to return yet again to the practice squad. Finally, Hughes hasn’t been a big name in the preseason but is a versatile undrafted linebacker capable of playing outside or inside, and my projected practice squad had 6 offensive players compared to only three defenders. I see his spot as the most likely to be filled by someone released from one of the other 31 NFL teams during final cuts whom Green Bay had their eye on all offseason and training camp.