GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers picked their 53-man roster on Saturday but it’s guaranteed to look different by as soon as Sunday.
That’s because two players on the roster, rookie linebacker Kamal Martin and first-year cornerback Kabion Ento, will be placed on injured reserve. That will allow the team to bring them back when healthy at midseason. That also means Green Bay’s roster is really at only 51 players, meaning it can add two players.
Also of note:
– Of the nine draft picks, seven made the 53. The exceptions: sixth-round center Jake Hanson was released, and sixth-round guard Simon Stepaniak missed camp while recovering from a torn ACL sustained in December and was placed on the nonfootball injury list. For the first time since 2004, the Packers didn’t keep a single undrafted rookie. There’s a reason for that.
– For now, the offense/defense split is 25/25.
– Of the eight draft picks in 2019, seven remain on the roster following the release of running back Dexter Williams. In fact, of the 23 players who were released, only Hanson and Williams were Packers draft picks.
Here’s a position-by-position look at the initial 53-man roster.
QUARTERBACKS (3): Aaron Rodgers, Tim Boyle, Jordan Love.
Reaction: This was the expectation since Love was selected in the first round on April 23. Green Bay’s success will be hitched to whether Rodgers takes a big step forward in Year 2 of Matt LaFleur’s scheme. “I feel like I’ve had a pretty accurate training camp,” Rodgers said. “I’ve said it many times, accuracy comes from the timing and rhythm and balance, but it also comes from timing up your drops with the correct progressions, and now I feel really good about the progressions.”
RUNNING BACKS (4): Aaron Jones , Jamaal Williams , AJ Dillon , Tyler Ervin.
Reaction: Ervin, listed by the Packers as a running back, fills three roster spots at once with his ability as a returner, receiver and runner. Look for him to have a much bigger role on offense than he’s ever had in his professional career. If Dillon is legit, this could be the best backfield in the NFL. Of course, it all starts with Jones. “I’m seeing more explosion and burst. There were a couple big holes today where you could see him accelerate through the hole,” LaFleur said last week. “He’s such a great guy, he’s so conscientious, he’s very thoughtful in everything he does, and he’s deliberate when he goes out on the practice field. He attacks it with the right mind-set. Really excited about having him as our back.”
RECEIVERS (5): Davante Adams, Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown, Malik Taylor.
Reaction: Taylor essentially beat out Jake Kumerow for the final spot at receiver. From Green Bay’s perspective, it probably was a vote for upside. Kumerow, at age 28, is maxed out. Maybe Taylor, age 24, can be better. At the end of the depth chart, that’s probably the way to go. Lazard, St. Brown and Taylor have the size to block in a run-first offense. That mostly was Kumerow’s gig, anyway. As a group, there won’t be a lot of hype entering Week 1. “I’ve been doubted my whole life and I’m pretty sure everybody in this room has been doubted,” Valdes-Scantling said. “And we’ll go out and prove everyone wrong again.”
TIGHT ENDS (4): Marcedes Lewis, Robert Tonyan, Josiah Deguara, Jace Sternberger.
Reaction: Lewis will do the dirty work with a smile on his face, Tonyan will be counted on in the passing game and Deguara will do some of everything. At this point, who knows about Sternberger? He did next to nothing in his abbreviated training camp. “We have to make sure we do a good job of putting him in position,” LaFleur said on Wednesday. “But I still think he has a really big upside. I think as we transition more into the game-planning weeks, we have to try to incorporate his ability to stretch the field because that’s one thing he does extremely well and just implement him into the plan.”
OFFENSIVE LINE (9): David Bakhtiari, Corey Linsley, Lane Taylor, Billy Turner, Elgton Jenkins, Rick Wagner, Lucas Patrick, Yosh Nijman, Jon Runyan.
Reaction: Right tackle, for now, is a mess due to injuries and nobody seizing control of the position. Will Turner be healthy in time? Will Wagner rise to the occasion as a veteran? Will Jenkins have to move? As was the case with Turner vs. Kumerow at receiver, the Packers sided with Nijman over Alex Light as a backup offensive tackle based on upside. Light probably is the better player today but Nijman is where there’s upside. And Jared Veldheer remains available. There has been no contact but that could change if whoever lines up at right tackle against Minnesota can’t handle Danielle Hunter.
DEFENSIVE LINE (5): Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry, Kingsley Keke, Tyler Lancaster, Montravius Adams.
Reaction: Injuries to Adams and Treyvon Hester ended the battle before it began. “Those were guys we wanted to be able to get some quality practice reps and see them, and unfortunately that hasn’t happened,” defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said. Hester was cut and Adams’ toe injury has him iffy for Week 1, meaning the Packers could be quite thin against the run-first Vikings. With the personnel restrictions due to COVID, getting immediate help could be a challenge. An argument could be made that Keke is one of the five keys to success this season. In fact, we did argue that. He’s the one person on the depth chart where there’s room for growth.
INSIDE LINEBACKERS (4): Christian Kirksey, Kamal Martin, Oren Burks, Ty Summers.
Reaction: With Martin headed for injured reserve, this spot is only three deep. That might be OK given Pettine’s affinity for playing with six defensive backs. Burks has barely played due to injuries in his first two seasons and Summers played only special teams as a rookie. “We’ll certainly be confident if those guys have to go in there,” Pettine said. Green Bay made late additions at inside linebacker in 2018 with Antonio Morrison and 2019 with B.J. Goodson. It wouldn’t be a surprise if it happened again.
OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (5): Za'Darius Smith, Preston Smith, Rashan Gary, Randy Ramsey, Jonathan Garvin.
Reaction: Tim Williams was a surprising cut after pairing with Gary on the second unit throughout training camp. So, the depth behind the Smith Bros. and Gary is incredibly young with Ramsey, who spent last year on the practice squad, and Garvin, a seventh-round pick. “It’s a great problem to have. You can’t have enough pass rushers, and those guys have all shown the ability to be effective,” Pettine said of his pre-cuts depth chart.
CORNERBACKS (6): Jaire Alexander, Kevin King, Chandon Sullivan, Josh Jackson, Ka'dar Hollman, Kabion Ento.
Reaction: Alexander and King are a potential top tandem. “It’s just going to be like a, ‘What side are you going to throw it to?’ kind of thing,” Alexander said. Sullivan had a strong camp in place of Tramon Williams. The depth is a concern. Josh Jackson’s good is really good and his bad is really bad. “He’s had his moments in camp,” Pettine said. “He’s done some really good things, he’s put on display his length and his ball skills. But other times, he’s shown he’s got some things to clean up technique-wise, as well. We like the way he’s trending.” Hollman was a sixth-round pick last year with excellent athleticism. Ento will go on injured reserve, meaning Green Bay has five. It could bring back Stanford Samuels, who was released on Saturday.
SAFETIES (5): Adrian Amos, Darnell Savage, Raven Greene, Will Redmond, Vernon Scott.
Reaction: Amos and Savage have top-tandem potential but, again, the depth is a concern. Greene has spent most of his two seasons on injured reserve and missed last week, as well. There isn’t another player on the roster with his safety-linebacker skill-set. Redmond was a standout on special teams last year. Scott made some noise quickly as a seventh-round pick.
SPECIALISTS (3): Mason Crosby, JK Scott, Hunter Bradley
Reaction: With no challengers, this was a no-doubt-about-it final trio. On a team with perhaps little margin for error, it could use an encore by Crosby, who made 90 percent of his field goals for the first time in his career last year. Consistency will be the key for Scott and Bradley in their third seasons. Scott showed some signs of it during camp.