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5 takeaways from Packers' roster decisions

Notes on numbers, youth, longshots, long snappers and punters

RB Emanuel Wilson
RB Emanuel Wilson

GREEN BAY – The Packers have reduced their roster to 53 players.

Here are five takeaways from the decisions made to this point:

1. The winner of the No. 3 running back derby was the longest of long shots.

The Packers began OTAs with Patrick Taylor and Tyler Goodson as holdovers from last year, plus seventh-round draft pick Lew Nichols and undrafted rookie Emanuel Wilson, competing for the third running back spot.

The most recent addition to the roster at that point was Wilson, who signed on May 22, nearly a month after the draft. He had initially signed with Denver on May 12, but was released three days later, so the Division II Fort Valley State product arrived in Green Bay having missed the rookie minicamp.

As injuries struck Goodson and Nichols during training camp, Wilson busted off an 80-yard TD run in the preseason opener at Cincinnati on the 14th anniversary of his father's death. Head Coach Matt LaFleur noted he needed to improve his pass protection and conditioning, and he went on to lead the NFL in preseason rushing yards with 223 on 38 carries. He ultimately beat out the more experienced Taylor to be the proverbial next man up behind Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon.

2. The long snapper situation is likely to be resolved Wednesday.

The Packers released Matt Orzech and waived injured Broughton Hatcher, leaving no long snapper on the initial 53. But the position won't be vacant long.

They might claim or sign a long snapper from elsewhere, or they could simply re-sign Orzech, and his release could've been just to open up a roster spot for a player who will be put on injured reserve Wednesday. The reason for the maneuvering would be to allow for the player going on IR to return during the season. Players placed on IR during the reduction to 53, rather than after, cannot return to the active roster.

3. There's no fear of going young, as youth is everywhere.

At four positions, at least half of the players on the roster have never played in an NFL game.

Sean Clifford is the only QB on the roster other than starter Jordan Love. Jayden Reed, Dontayvion Wicks and Malik Heath constitute half of the six receivers. Tucker Kraft and Luke Musgrave form two-thirds of the tight ends. And Colby Wooden, Karl Brooks and Jonathan Ford make up half of the defensive linemen.

All those players are rookies except Ford, a seventh-round draft pick last year who was a game-day inactive for every 2022 contest.

Combine that with both specialist spots – kicker Anders Carlson and punter Daniel Whelan – also featuring newcomers to the NFL, and 19 of the 53 players have never played in a regular-season game.

4. Change at punter is nothing new.

Whelan becomes the Packers' fourth punter in as many years, following JK Scott in 2020, Corey Bojorquez in '21 and Pat O'Donnell in '22.

It's actually the fourth time in just the last two decades the Packers will have four different primary punters over a four-year span. There was the quartet of Josh Bidwell, Bryan Barker, B.J. Sander and Jon Ryan from 2003-06, then Ryan, Derrick Frost, Jeremy Kapinos and Tim Masthay from 2007-10, and then Masthay, Jacob Schum, Justin Vogel and Scott from 2015-18.

See headshots and action shots of the complete Green Bay Packers 2023 roster.

5. The Packers often say they don't have numerical quotas for specific positions, and this roster is further evidence.

Green Bay chose to keep 11 offensive linemen and four cornerbacks, two unexpected numbers at those spots – one higher than usual, the other lower. To the extent he can, General Manager Brian Gutekunst likes to keep the best players, and how those positions shook out speaks to that approach.

To be fair, offensive tackle Luke Tenuta injured his ankle in the preseason opener at Cincinnati and hasn't returned to the practice field as of yet, so if he's subsequently placed on IR (see long snapper situation above), the offensive line will be down to 10 members.

Keeping only four cornerbacks is the more curious move because 2021 first-round draft pick Eric Stokes has been transferred to the regular season's physically unable to perform list, meaning he's out at least the first four weeks.

That's perhaps an indication the Packers are planning to bring back multiple cornerbacks on the practice squad as potential reinforcements.