With the third preseason game in the books, the Packers are now faced with the almost Herculean task of trimming down a relatively deep and talented roster to 75, and ultimately to just the final 53. While it is easy to predict where most players will fall, each year there are a handful who will make the decision difficult. Below are seven players who are likely making Ted Thompson’s job a little more strenuous this week. This does not mean that each of the players below is on the bubble, but that each poses a unique decision for the team in the face of cut downs and practice squad signings.
Neal has been the best player among the trio of young backs given a chance to play behind Eddie Lacy and James Starks. He has good acceleration and catches the ball out of the backfield very well. The issue at the position, however, is that the team will likely keep both rookie Aaron Ripkowski and veteran John Kuhn as backs. That means that Neal would find himself as the 5th back on the roster. While the team certainly does not want to find itself in a position where it must rely upon Kuhn or Ripkowski to run the ball, they could be used in such a capacity in a pinch. It might just not seem necessary to keep 5 backs on the roster when there are so many other difficult cuts to make. That being said, I wouldn’t expect Neal to get cut altogether. I see no reason why the team would not send him back to the practice squad (where he spent 8 games last year), calling on him if Lacy or Starks need to miss any time.
White has been perhaps the most consistent wide-out vying for a job this preseason. There’s nothing in White’s game that will wow NFL scouts, but he’s a reliable target who has some NFL experience in the Green Bay offense. Had Pro-Bowl receiver Jordy Nelson not gone down for the year, White would have been an unfortunate causality of a very deep competition. However, with Jordy out of the picture, White may have earned a roster spot. While he finds himself situated behind flashier, younger players Ty Montgomery and Jeff Janis, White provides a little more security, if not as much upside. Expect White to squeak onto the roster as the fifth receiver, a safety net or insurance policy in case either Montgomery or Janis are not quite ready to consistently contribute.
If White is the fifth and final receiver, that means, of course, that Abbrederis is not. A fan-favorite, Abbrederis just hasn’t been able to stay healthy enough even to participate in either of his two NFL offseasons. While he appears to be close to returning from a concussion suffered on the first day of training camp, he would have to look absolutely phenomenal to gain the coaching staff’s trust in such a short amount of time. Still, this may not be the end of the road for Abbrederis and the Packers. As a 5th round pick whose NFL ability is still essentially unknown, the Packers could probably go either way with him. On the one hand, they may feel that Abbrederis is injury prone and a risk given his history of concussions. However, it costs the team little to put Abbrederis on IR or the practice squad. This decision may be decided by the team physicians as much as anyone else.
While Barclay has never been an overly impressive tackle for the Packers, he has provided some depth at the position coming into his 4th year with the team. However, returning from a torn ACL suffered last August, Barclay looked like he had taken several steps backward, seemingly unable to stop anyone on passing downs. Barclay did look somewhat improved in the 3rd preseason game against the Eagles, but his performances in the first two preseason games have to be making the coaching staff quite worried. With no clear, younger players ascending behind him, the team is in a tough position. Do they hope that Barclay continues to shake off the rust and return to his old self, or do they risk losing a steady and versatile back-up by cutting him loose and going instead with one of the lesser experienced and more unproven linemen?
Banjo hasn’t often contributed at safety, but he is one of the more talented special teams players on the roster. If the team was not placing an emphasis on special teams this year (and failing at improvement thus far), Banjo might seem a bit more expendable, given Micah Hyde’s ability to play both corner and safety. While Hyde’s flexibility makes it possible that the team will keep only 3 true safeties (Burnett, Clinton-Dix, and Richardson), the question is whether the team wants to remove one of the lone bright spots on last year’s special teams.
Khyri Thornton and Christian Ringo
Ted Thompson likes to give his draft picks a chance. I’ve paired these two together because they’re both defensive linemen who Thompson spent his highly-valued draft picks to acquire, and both have shown little in their time with the team. Ringo has flashed a little in the preseason, but hasn’t established himself as a player that definitely deserves a coveted spot on the final 53 man roster. I suspect that Ringo may warrant a spot on the practice squad.
Thornton, on the other hand, has been a disappointment, especially for a third round pick. There may be some temptation to keep Thornton around in order to try to squeeze some return out of the investment, but it seems likelier that the team will cut its losses and move on to more promising talent. Neither Ringo nor Thornton have really played themselves onto the final roster, and it remains very unlikely that the team would place both on the practice squad. Ringo, while having the lower draft pedigree, is younger and will hopefully show some a jump in his play after a full season in the NFL, something that Thornton did not do.
Taylor O\'Neill is a Packer fan born and raised in Oshkosh, WI. He currently lives in Florida and is pursuing his PhD. Taylor is a writer with PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TaylorONeill87 for more Packer news.