In the past, Packers fans either picked up a newspaper or went to CheeseheadTV.com to see who made the 53-man roster of the Green Bay Packers. General manager Ted Thompson would go to a quiet place (loosely inspired by the blockbuster film, see it if you haven’t yet) and make one or two moves. His biggest move in 2017 at this point was signing former 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks. Packers fans went crazy for the move, but it also showed that’s how starved fans were for roster moves.
2018 is a new year. New general manager Brian Gutekunst shocked the fanbase by bringing in a couple of players off the waiver wire and keeping a certain player to the four most alarmingly thin positions of offensive line, linebackers, running backs and the secondary. The national media doesn’t care, it’s not a big story, but in Green Bay.
Before cut day, Gutekunst made an interesting move by sending embattled corner Lenzy Pipkins to the Colts for linebacker Antonio Morrison. A few days before, rookie linebacker Oren Burks hurt his shoulder during pregame warmups in Week 3 of the preseason. Morrison’s time was limited because the Colts were switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3, what a coincidence that the Packers run a 3-4 under new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.
This was my favorite under-the-radar move as Toomer was shockingly still available after being cut by the 49ers. Toomer is capable of playing the 3-4 defense, thanks to his time with the Chargers where he banked 100 tackles. However, keep expectations low because he’s still learning the playbook. According to Packers.com, when asked about learning Pettine’s playbook.
“It takes a while. I missed training camp here,” he said. “That’s hard to do, especially when you come into a 3-4 scheme, it’s just going to be piece by piece, day by day. I just have to grind at this point. I’m behind.”
This could shore up the skinny depth of the inside linebacker position especially with rookie Oren Burks’ shoulder injury and undrafted James Crawford who is also injured right now.
One of the prime positions that the Packers had an issue with was the cornerback position. Gutekunst used a few draft picks to grab man to man specialist Jaire Alexander out of Louisville and ballhawker Josh Jackson out of Iowa. However, they need some help on the practice squad and they bring in Brown who was known as a speedy slot corner for the University of Alabama. Also known for excellent tackling skills and a strong football IQ. Injuries happen (especially in Green Bay), don’t be surprised if you see Brown sometime during the season.
Fans were confused, like deciding if the top was spinning or not spinning in the film Inception (Ok, I’m a film fan). to why the Packers kept only Aaron Jones (out for first two games), Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery. First reported by Clarence Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that the Packers signed former Cowboys running back Darius Jackson to set the 53-man roster as cornerback Herb Waters was waived to make room for this young man who has a little afterburner effect to his running style. A 4.4 speed at the 40 could mix in Jackson into some screen passes.
Everyone can agree the offensive line was hard to watch throughout the preseason. Offensive tackle Kyle Murphy to the injured reserve and they kept a 22-year-old undrafted free agent named Alex Light. Even though he signed on May 4th of this year, this was still a surprise. On the surface, it looks enticing with a 6-5 frame and weighed at a beefy 309 pounds. There was no way he was going to make the team and then the former Spider showed off his talent was worth keeping on the roster. He’s no stranger to starting experience with 38 consecutive starts at the University of Richmond and he has a chip on his shoulder as well. According to John O’Connor of the Richmond-Times Dispatch when Light was asked about when Virginia Tech was evaluating him.
“Basically, I wasn’t big enough, wasn’t fast enough, wasn’t strong enough, wasn’t athletic enough,” he said.
Yeah, these moves aren’t sexy. They aren’t going to “change the tide” of the NFC North. What Gutekunst has done is give Packers fans a reason for hope and the ability to actually live by the “next man up” approach to help the Packers in 2018.
The season starts with the Packers ready to welcome the Chicago Bears on Sunday night.
Jake Turner is the host of the passionate Turning Points podcast on iTunes and co-host with Mark Eckel on the Pack a Day podcast. Follow him on twitter at @JakeTurnerSport Instagram: jaketurner61.