Today is final cutdown day — the end of the toughest time for talent evaluators in the NFL. Here’s what I think Ted Thompson will decide for the Green Bay Packers’ 2014 week one roster:
Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn, Scott Tolzien
Partly because both backups have earned the right to be on the team due to recent history (Flynn) and talent/potential (Tolzien), and also because of how the quarterback position was decimated last season, the Packers keep three quarterbacks this year — first time since 2008.
Running backs (4)
Eddie Lacy, James Starks, DuJuan Harris, John Kuhn
Undrafted rookies LaDarius Perkins and Rajion Neal had outside shots, but the backfield is too crowded. Perkins may be a candidate for the practice squad and Neal a candidate for injured reserve.
Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Jarrett Boykin, Davante Adams, Jeff Janis
No surprises here. The “they have to keep at least six” thinkers are proven wrong again. Nobody stepped up to be a necessary sixth receiver. The Packers should do just fine with these five.
Tight ends (4)
Richard Rodgers, Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick, Ryan Taylor
Veteran Andrew Quarless, who used to pride himself on his blocking (back when he competed with Tom Crabtree for the title of team’s best blocking tight end), seems disinterested in blocking of late. It could cost him a roster spot. For now, I say he sticks to provide backup to new rookie starter Richard Rodgers, who won’t be backed up by the injured Brandon Bostick. Taylor has improved as a receiver and remains a key special teamer.
Offensive linemen (8)
David Bakhtiari, Josh Sitton, J.C. Tretter, T.J. Lang, Bryan Bulaga, Derek Sherrod, Corey Linsley, Lane Taylor
This is a position group that determined itself through injuries. Don Barclay was a sure thing, but is out for the year with a knee injury. Aaron Adams was a strong candidate but is also out for the year with a knee injury. Lane Taylor sticks for now but may be replaced by someone Ted Thompson finds after cuts.
Defensive line (5)
Mike Daniels, Datone Jones, Josh Boyd, Letroy Guion, Mike Pennel / player to be named later
There are tougher decisions to make on the defensive side. Disappointing rookie third-round pick Khyri Thornton may have saved himself via injury. The hamstring injury he sustained against the Chiefs may have bought him a year on injured reserve. B.J. Raji is already out for the season, opening a slot for Mike Pennel, an undrafted rookie. Pennel should not get too used to NFL paychecks, however. He may only be a short-term solution if/when Thompson brings in a more highly regarded lineman. Pennel would move to the practice squad. This line is nothing like the linemen of a year ago — major wholesale changes.
Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones, Mike Neal, Nick Perry, Jamari Lattimore, Sam Barrington, Andy Mulumba, Jayrone Elliott
There is no way the Packers can cut the NFL’s preseason sack leader, undrafted rookie linebacker Jayrone Elliott. His berth comes at the cost of fourth-round draft pick Carl Bradford, who just hasn’t developed as yet. Bradford, due to his draft status (and little else), is a strong candidate for the practice squad. Nate Palmer’s knee injury sustained against the Chiefs may have ruined his chances to remain a Packer.
Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Casey Hayward, Davon House, Jarrett Bush, Jumal Rolle
The only surprise here is Rolle over rookie Demetri Goodson. Goodson could land on injured reserve with a concussion or be slotted for the practice squad. Safety and former cornerback / slot defender Micah Hyde will augment this group in dime coverage.
Morgan Burnett, Micah Hyde, Ha’SeanClinton-Dix, Sean Richardson, Chris Banjo
This group sorted itself out. It may have gone from the most obvious weak spot on the team to a solid core of talent. Richardson has really grown his game and playmaking prowess.
Mason Crosby, Tim Masthay, Brett Goode
No surprises here. It would be foolish to mess with success with this solid group.
Julian Rogers is a freelance writer, communications consultant and owner of Juju Eye Communications. Follow him on Twitter (@mrturophile), or connect with him on LinkedIn and Google+.