Numbers Will Make For Tough Roster Decisions

Eighty-seven players. Fifty-three spots. That’s the basic math facing the Green Bay Packers as they begin their 2007 training camp. General Manager Ted Thompson and Head Coach Mike McCarthy have preached competition at every position, and they’ve established that to an even greater extent than last year. - More Plenty of "Other" Things To Watch In Camp


Eighty-seven players. Fifty-three spots.

That's the basic math facing the Green Bay Packers as they begin their 2007 training camp. General Manager Ted Thompson and Head Coach Mike McCarthy have preached competition at every position, and they've established that to an even greater extent than last year.

It's a given that several players who made the final roster, or were on it at some point, last year won't make it this year, and unforeseen injuries will always be part of the final analysis. But the return of players from injury and the addition of free agents and draft picks have the Packers in position to improve their depth in 2007, but it will come at the expense of some difficult cuts at the end of camp.

The first NFL-mandated roster reduction, to 75 players, comes on Aug. 28, two days before the Packers' final preseason game at Tennessee. The final roster reduction, to 53 players, is due two days after that game, on Sept. 1.

Here's a position-by-position look at the roster breakdown, and where some of those difficulties lie. The first number indicates the number of players at that position entering camp, while the number in parentheses represents how many players from that position made the opening-day roster in 2006.

Quarterback - 4 (3)

Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers form the clear 1-2 punch here. The battle for the No. 3 spot will be between second-year pro Ingle Martin and rookie Paul Thompson.

The experience factor, and the fact that he got a full dose of McCarthy's quarterback school in the offseason, gives Martin the edge, but Thompson's athletic ability was promising enough to warrant an extended look.

Running back - 9 (5)

All indications are third-year pro Vernand Morency and second-round draft pick Brandon Jackson are the top two backs and will share the load, but it's always possible one will emerge as the mainstay. Noah Herron is the most experienced in the third-down role, while rookie seventh-round pick DeShawn Wynn is expected to make an impact in camp after recovering from spring injuries and finally putting the pads on, and second-year holdover P.J. Pope is back from his 2006 injuries.

How many fullbacks make the team could depend on how many of the above halfbacks warrant a spot, as well as how many tight ends the coaching staff decides to keep. Returning starter Brandon Miree has in the inside track on the No. 1 job, but a trio of rookies in Ryan Powdrell, Korey Hall and Corey White will look to push Miree and/or land a roster spot of their own.

Tight end - 5 (4)

Keeping four tight ends last year was a bit of a surprise, and it's difficult to say whether the Packers will do that again or revert to keeping the more traditional three at this position.

This may be as wide open as any position on the roster, not only in terms of who will make the team, but who will earn the starting job. Veterans Donald Lee and Bubba Franks will be pushed by second-year pros Zac Alcorn, who often flashes great hands in practice, and Tory Humphrey, noted for his blocking and work on special teams. Rookie seventh-round draft pick Clark Harris will look to make his mark as well.

Wide receiver - 11 (4)

With the depth and competition here, it's difficult to imagine only four players making the opening day roster. Five, or perhaps even six, is more likely, and that numbers decision will have an impact on how many running backs and tight ends are kept as well.

After starters Donald Driver and Greg Jennings, nothing is set in stone as far as the receivers. Carlyle Holiday and Ruvell Martin were strong contributors at the end of last season, rookie draft picks James Jones and David Clowney will be seen in pads for the first time, veteran Robert Ferguson looks to be healthy again, Shaun Bodiford is an intriguing prospect because of his punt and kick return abilities, and Carlton Brewster is coming off a banner spring in NFL Europa.

There simply isn't room for everyone, which may present the coaching staff with some of its more difficult decisions as camp concludes.

Offensive line - 14 (9)

Barring an injury, there's perhaps the least drama here, with the starting five of Mark Tauscher, Jason Spitz, Scott Wells, Daryn Colledge and Chad Clifton returning and looking to maximize on the chemistry developed throughout 2006. Tony Moll is a versatile backup who gained starting experience as a rookie as well.

After that, it's simply a matter of vying for backup spots. Junius Coston and Tyson Walter can play multiple positions, which could help their chances. Former defensive tackle Orrin Thompson progressed well during the offseason, and the coaches are eager to put the pads on rookie fourth-round draft pick Allen Barbre, who showed a lot of fire during mini-camps and OTAs.

{sportsad300}Defensive line - 13 (10)

The experience and depth here are perhaps as strong as anywhere on the roster. Aaron Kampman, Cullen Jenkins and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila are the top three defensive ends, but amongst returnees Michael Montgomery and Jason Hunter, and rookies DeVon Hicks and Larry Birdine, there's no telling the pecking order or how many ends will be kept.

On the inside at tackle, the veteran group of Ryan Pickett, Corey Williams, Colin Cole and Johnny Jolly is joined by rookie first-round pick Justin Harrell. Whether or not there's room for five defensive tackles remains to be seen, and Williams' ability to move outside if needed, as well as Jenkins' ability to move inside, could factor into the final roster decisions.

Linebacker - 10 (6)

Barring injury, it's hard to imagine Nick Barnett, A.J. Hawk or Brady Poppinga losing his starting job, but the backup spots are far from determined and most likely will come down to special teams contributions.

Second-year pro Abdul Hodge hopes to be healthy again and make the impact he did in his rookie training camp, while rookie sixth-rounder Desmond Bishop will look to be the tackling machine he was in college at Cal. Tracy White is a special teams veteran, Tim Goodwell is coming off a solid season in NFL Europa, and youngsters Spencer Havner, Juwan Simpson and Rory Johnson all have shown enough promise to deserve a chance.

Defensive back - 16 (9)

The nine on last year's opening day roster consisted of five cornerbacks and four safeties. If that holds true again, then the three cornerbacks fighting for the nickel job - Will Blackmon, Frank Walker and Patrick Dendy - could all make the team behind starters Al Harris and Charles Woodson. It will just be a question of what role each will play.

The safety spot isn't nearly so clear-cut, however. Third-year pro Nick Collins is the only one whose job isn't on the line, and who earns the starting spot opposite him will be one of the most-watched camp battles. With last year's starter Marquand Manuel looking to get off to a better start, third-year pro Marviel Underwood returning from a knee injury, and rookie third-round draft pick Aaron Rouse able to hit for real, the competition could last well into the preseason.

Add 2006 reserves like Atari Bigby, Charlie Peprah and Tyrone Culver to the mix, and there are numerous bodies for only a handful of spots. Much like the linebacker position, special teams roles could factor into these final decisions.

Specialists - 5 (3)

Long snapper Rob Davis will keep his job for an 11th season, but competition was brought in for second-year pros Jon Ryan at punter and Dave Rayner at kicker. They both earned their jobs with strong training camp performances a year ago, and now they'll have to fend off challenges from Australian punter David Lonie and Colorado kicker Mason Crosby.

Last summer, both competitions were essentially declared over after the second preseason game. But if the battles are close, the winners aren't likely to be declared so soon this time around.

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