With training camp just a couple of weeks away, there will always be people making projections as to who will be on the Opening Day roster. The Packers are an interesting case, as they have well over 53 players who are deserving of a roster spot, so we will here project the 53-man roster as well as a 10-man practice squad. Going position by position, we will see how accurate we are once the season starts.
Quarterbacks (3) – Aaron Rodgers, Scott Tolzien, Brett Hundley ( R )
This one is easy. Rodgers is the MVP. Tolzien was kept over Matt Flynn to back him up, and Hundley is the developmental piece. There is no way that Hundley would clear waivers so he is locked in.
Running Backs (3) – Eddie Lacy, James Starks John Crockett ( R )
Lacy is a future All-Pro, while Starks is a perfect complement with great quickness for a bigger back. Crockett is the dark horse. Productive in college and with all the tools to succeed in a McCarthy offense, look for him to beat out Rajion Neal for the final spot. But look even for only two traditional running backs to make the team depending how they use Ty Montgomery.
Fullback (2) – John Kuhn, Aaron Ripkowski ( R )
This year is the final for John Kuhn in Green Bay, and Ripkowski will be a special teams guy as a rookie with the plan to take over in 2016.
Wide Receiver (6) – Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, Jared Abbrederis, Jeff Janis, Ty Montgomery ( R )
This may seem like much, but Montgomery may see a position change, becoming a hybrid RB/WR. Nelson, Cobb, and Adams will all have big years. Abbrederis is the prototypical fourth guy, a slot receiver who runs great routes. Janis is too talented to let go of yet. He developed well last year and can be the explosive guy in spread formations, much like Jordy Nelson. Montgomery and Abbrederis can both return kicks and punts.
Tight End (3) – Richard Rodgers, Andrew Quarless, Kennard Backman ( R )
Richard Rodgers looks like the answer at tight end for the immediate future as a solid all-around TE. Quarless, despite his legal troubles has the ability on the field, and with the Packers sticking behind him, he can be a great #2 TE. Backman makes the team because it takes a special level of struggling to get cut as a draft pick.
Offensive Line (8) – David Bakhtiari, Josh Sitton, Corey Linsley, TJ Lang, Bryan Bulaga, Don Barclay, JC Tretter, Matt Rotheram ( R )
The starting offensive line is set, as is Barclay as the swing man, but Tretter gets at least one more year to develop after injuries sapped his first two seasons. Rotheram is a highly regarded Undrafted free agent and should take the final spot over incumbent Lane Taylor, who was a major liability last season.
Defensive Line (7) – Mike Daniels, BJ Raji, Datone Jones, Josh Boyd, Letroy Guion, Mike Pennel, Christian Ringo ( R )
7 may seem like much, but with Jones suspended for the first game, and depth huge in the trenches, the Packers can keep one of them inactive over the season. Daniels is a beast is should get a contract extension soon. Raji looks for a bounceback year after his best training camp of his career ended early due to injury. Jones still has potential and needs to stay healthy. Boyd is a very good run defender. Guion was a great signing last season, but is also facing disciplinary action and his season start in in jeopardy. Pennel is too talented to give up on and could be the nose tackle of the future. He plays a lot like Raji. Ringo is a Mike Daniels-like player who is undersized, but dominated in college.
Linebackers (9) – Julius Peppers, Mike Neal, Clay Matthews, Sam Barrington, Nick Perry, Jayrone Elliott, Carl Bradford, Adrian Hubbard, Jake Ryan ( R )
One major surprise here in Hubbard, but he has drawn raves from the coaching staff in minicamp and OTAs and should be the last guy to make the team. He probably won’t clear waivers again. He has best size of any linebacker not named Peppers and the talent to be very good. Peppers is a stud and Neal should bookend him nicely. Elliott and Perry are two good backups to have. Elliott is an explosive pass rusher and Perry was a great run stopper last season. Clay Matthews will man the middle in the base while switching outside during passing downs. Barrington will hold down the other middle spot while Bradford and Ryan will be groomed for the future. Ryan in particular looks like a more athletic AJ Hawk.
Cornerbacks (5) – Sam Shields, Casey Hayward, LaDarius Gunter ( R ), Damarious Randall ( R ), Quinten Rollins ( R )
Only five corners seems low, but when you think of Micah Hyde having the ability to play corner, as well as Ha Ha in a pinch, only five are needed. Shields and Hayward are top corners who can shut down the passing game well. Hayward in particular is a turnover machine. Randall and Rollins are two developmental prospects with exceptional talent. Gunter is the surprise here as he was seen as a 5th round pick but went undrafted. He has the size (6’2”) and ball skills to make this team.
Safety (4) – Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Morgan Burnett, Micah Hyde, Sean Richardson
All four safeties can make an impact on defense, but don’t expect Richardson to get as much time. He is way too valuable on special teams, the next great on that side of the ball. Ha Ha and Burnett are a good duo, with Clinton-Dix on the verge of being a Pro Bowl player in year 2. Hyde is versatile and sure handed with the heart to continue a high level of play.
Specialists (3) – Mason Crosby ( K ), Tim Masthay ( P ), Brett Goode ( LS )
Same three as last year. Masthay will improve his game with competition in camp, much like Crosby last season.
Practice Squad – Justin Perillo (TE), Demetri Goodson (CB), Lavon Hooks (DL), Tavarus Dantzler (LB), Rajion Neal (RB), Joe Thomas (LB), Fabbians Ebbele (OL), Ricky Collins (WR), Matt Blanchard (QB), Kyle Sebetic (S)
Perillo and Goodson each have one more year of practice squad eligibility with the new rules, while Hooks, Dantzler, Thomas, and Collins have opened eyes but are caught in a numbers game. Sebetic is a smart, heady player, while Neal was on the squad last season after opening eyes during the preseason. Blanchard is another developmental guy that McCarthy would love to keep, while Ebbele is a massive (6’8” 315) and you need to keep another offensive lineman on the practice squad.
There you have it. Now a lot can happen, but this could very well be the roster in September. Keep an eye on this site as well as the team to see what happened during camp.——————
Mike Wendlandt is originally from Iola, Wisconsin and graduated from Drake University in 2015 with a degree in History. With a significant journalism background both in writing and broadcasting, Mike can be heard as the play-by-play voice of Central Wisconsin High School sports on WDUX FM 92.7 and on Twitter @MikeWendlandt.
Mike Wendlandt is a writer covering the Green Bay Packers for PackersTalk.com.