The Green Bay Packers trimmed their roster to the NFL-mandated 53 players last weekend. Coach Mike McCarthy said that this time of the year is the worst part of his job. The Packers must move on now, concentrating on the business of winning football games when the season opens next Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.
There were no major surprises amongst Ted Thompsonís player reductions with the possible exception of tight end Spencer Havner. All of the drafted rookies made the team and three undrafted free agents made it as well. Thompson chose Tim Masthay as the teamís new punter. Masthay won a spirited kicking battle in the preseason where he turned in nice performances not only punting but also kicking-off. For some reason Ted Thompson has had a terrible time finding a competent punter in the past; letís hope he has it right this time.
The offense looks talented and deep. Thompson chose to keep only two halfbacks and three fullbacks. Keeping three fullbacks is a little odd as many teams only keep one. Thompson also elected to keep four tight ends as he likes the deep talent there as well. The offensive line has been beefed-up although I still have reservations about left guard Daryn Colledge. If Colledge stumbles, he could get the hook and be replaced by Bryan Bulaga or T. J. Lang.
The defensive roster isnít nearly as impressive as the offense. The starters on the defensive line should be fine but the rotation guys have little experience. Interestingly, Justin Harrell made the team and should see a fair amount of playing time if his ailing back allows. Cheeseheads will recall that injury-prone Harrell was a # 1 draft pick three years ago, who has contributed next to nothing thus far. The inside linebackers are very solid but that is not the case with the outside guys. Clay Matthews III is a stud linebacker on one side but on the other side someone is going to have to step it up. I like what Frank Zombo brings to that position, but perhaps it will be Brad Jones or even Brady Poppinga who gets the snaps. Someone on defense must generate a pass rush besides Matthews.
Concerns abound in the defensive backfield. Cornerback Charles Woodson and safety Nick Collins are both super-talented pro-bowlers. The other safety will be rookie Morgan Burnett and the other cornerback will be Tramon Williams. Burnett looks like he will become a very good player but no doubt will make some rookie mistakes. Williams is an ďOKĒ starting caliber player. The problem is the lack of quality depth. In the pass-happy NFL, talented depth in the defensive backfield is a good thing. Unfortunately, I donít see a lot of talent there. Undrafted rookie free agent Sam Shields likely will be the nickel back, which says a lot about the others.
Packer Special Teams have been bad to horrible in recent seasons. The signing of Masthay should help and so should the athleticism of the extra tight ends and fullbacks to contribute on coverage teams. The cuts left the Pack without a game-breaking kick returner. This could bite the team down the road, but maybe Jordy Nelson will break one loose Sunday.
All in all, Cheeseheads should look forward to a very productive season with lots of points scored and perhaps some revenge inflicted on Benedict Favre.