Skip to main content

Depth Of Roster Will Present Difficult Choices


The better the team, the tougher the decisions.

That's how the Green Bay Packers' roster has evolved over the past couple of seasons. As the team has gone from 4-12 to 8-8 to 13-3, the roster has gotten stronger and deeper at almost every position.

This year, without NFL Europe exemptions, the Packers must enter training camp with 80 players on the roster, and like everyone else, they'll have to reduce that to 53 by Saturday, Aug. 30. Coming off an appearance in the NFC Championship Game, the Packers appear to have fewer roster spots "up for grabs" in this training camp than in Head Coach Mike McCarthy's previous two.

Here's a position-by-position look at the roster breakdown, and where some of the tough decisions will be made. The first number indicates the number of players at that position at the moment (the total number is higher than 80 because not all the draft picks have been officially signed), while the number in parentheses represents how many players from that position made the opening-day roster in 2007.

Quarterback - 3 (2)

With Brett Favre still retired and so much inexperience at the position, it's almost a given the Packers will keep three quarterbacks this year rather than two. Heading into camp, they line up in order as Aaron Rodgers, Brian Brohm and Matt Flynn, and barring injury or a major surprise, that should be how they'll stay.

Running back - 10 (6)

What a difference a year makes. In 2007, this was perhaps the most uncertain position on the roster heading into training camp, and now the team has more depth than it can keep. If the 53-man roster is to include four tailbacks and two fullbacks like last year, it's shaping up as a battle between Noah Herron, DeShawn Wynn, Vernand Morency and rookie free agent Kregg Lumpkin for two backup spots behind Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson, while fullbacks Korey Hall and John Kuhn face challenges from Corey White and Ryan Powdrell.

Herron, Wynn and Powdrell are all back from season-ending injuries, while Jackson and Hall are both second-year players who have improved on offense as well as solidified key roles on special teams. The experience and productivity of the entire group is vastly elevated from a year ago.

Wide receiver - 12 (5)

As draft picks sign, the number of receivers in camp may dwindle, and with the veteran core of Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, James Jones and Ruvell Martin, plus top draft pick Jordy Nelson, there's just not a lot of room for others. It's possible the team could keep six receivers instead of five like last year, but there are numerous young candidates for a possible sixth spot, and anyone making a strong impression will certainly be in the running for the practice squad.

Tight end - 6 (2)

Depending on how the running back situation sorts out, there's a good chance three tight ends will be kept rather than two like last year. The givens are starter Donald Lee and third-round draft pick Jermichael Finley, though it's uncertain whether Finley would be the No. 2 or 3 guy. Tory Humphrey is back from a season-ending injury, while rookies Evan Moore, Mike Peterson and Joey Haynos all showed promise during OTAs and mini-camp as legitimate challengers for a roster spot.

Offensive line - 15 (9)

Here's another spot that may see some cuts just to get down to the 80-man training camp limit. But again, there's not a lot of roster space available. Take the four basically set starters - Chad Clifton, Mark Tauscher, Scott Wells and Jason Spitz - add in guards Daryn Colledge and Allen Barbre competing for the fifth starting spot, plus experienced veterans Junius Coston and Tony Moll, and draft picks Josh Sitton and Breno Giacomini, and that's already 10 players, more than were among the 53 last year.

In addition to the battle between Colledge and Barbre, competition will be fierce for the backup roles between Moll, Giacomini and Orrin Thompson at tackle, and Coston and Sitton at guard.

{sportsad300}Defensive line - 13 (11)

With the team likely to keep three quarterbacks and possibly an extra tight end or receiver, there won't be the luxury of keeping 11 defensive linemen like last year. All of the key veterans - Aaron Kampman, Cullen Jenkins, Ryan Pickett and pass-rush specialist Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila - should be healthy and ready to go. Last year's first-round draft pick, Justin Harrell, is coming off a back injury and he'll be competing with Johnny Jolly, who has been dealing with some legal issues, for a starting job.

With fourth-round pick Jeremy Thompson added to the mix at defensive end, there may not be room on the roster for both Michael Montgomery and Jason Hunter, while the final spot(s) at defensive tackle will be between veteran Colin Cole, who is coming off a broken forearm, and youngsters Daniel Muir, Conrad Bolston and Alfred Malone.

Linebacker - 10 (5)

Assuming last year's starters - Nick Barnett, A.J. Hawk and Brady Poppinga - along with free-agent signee Brandon Chillar (who's Poppinga's competition for a starting role) all stay healthy, the battle for the final one or two linebacker spots will be intense.

Third-year pro Abdul Hodge has returned from his knee problems, while second-year middleman Desmond Bishop improved dramatically as a rookie. Throw in special teams ace Tracy White, and even if the team keeps an extra linebacker this year, not everyone can make it. Spencer Havner has been on the practice squad for two years and his versatility at all three linebacker spots makes him a dark-horse contender for a spot as well.

Defensive back - 14 (10)

If the Packers do what they did last year, which was to keep six cornerbacks and four safeties, it will be tough for any corners to crack the group of Al Harris, Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Will Blackmon, Jarrett Bush, and second-round draft pick Pat Lee. Blackmon's problematic foot seems to be the only real question mark there.

At safety, starters Nick Collins and Atari Bigby will be pushed by second-year pro Aaron Rouse, while the fourth spot is between veterans Charlie Peprah and Tyrone Culver.

Specialists - 5 (3)

Mason Crosby is the sole kicker, while punter Ken DeBauche will have a tough time unseating Jon Ryan, who is entering his third year. The least amount of certainty lies at long snapper, where Thomas Gafford and J.J. Jansen will vie for the job probably throughout the entire preseason.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.