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Three Positions Where Packers Might Go Shopping

The Green Bay Packers need to reduce their roster by 27 players by Tuesday, or even further if they're looking to bolster a couple positions.

GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers have to trim their roster to 53 players by 3 p.m. Tuesday. General manager Brian Gutekunst’s work might not be limited to reducing the roster by 27. In fact, he might be shopping to bolster a few positions.

Outside linebacker: The Packers have a big-time trio with Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith and Rashan Gary. That Za’Darius Smith has practiced only once due to a back issue is worrisome because the depth is nonexistent. Position coach Mike Smith has raved about the potential of 2020 seventh-round pick Jonathan Garvin and 2020 undrafted free agent Tipa Galeai. Neither of those players, however, has turned potential into production. In two games, only Garvin (one) has laid his fingers on a quarterback and Galeai (one) has the only tackle for loss.

With Za’Darius Smith’s availability for Week 1 in some doubt, the Packers might have to carry five outside linebackers on the 53-man roster. At this point, they really only have three, meaning they could be looking for a No. 4 outside linebacker. The best of their internal candidates could round out the depth chart and be used primarily on special teams.

Long snapper: The battle at long snapper lasted about a week. Once Joe Fortunato was released, incumbent Hunter Bradley was going solo. A seventh-round pick in 2018, Bradley has provided three seasons of inconsistent snapping. Nothing really has changed in training camp. It seems like every-other day, Bradley will misfire on one of his six or eight snaps. On Tuesday, for instance, Mason Crosby kicked six field goals. Punter/holder JK Scott had to reach forward to grab the ball from the top of the FieldTurf on three of those snaps. It was a miserable performance that has to give Gutekunst – who has shown uncommon patience with Bradley – a serious case of heartburn.

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Bradley hasn’t cost the Packers a game yet but, if he is the snapper to start the 2021 season, the Packers would be flirting with disaster. If he’s struggling to consistently hit the mark on 7-yard snaps during minimal-pressure training camp practices, there’s no reason to believe he’s going to be perfect when the games count.

Running back: The Packers can sign 16 players to their practice squad. The vast majority of those spots will go to players who they had in camp. One position that could be filled by someone from outside the organization is running back. While Aaron Jones, AJ Dillon and Kylin Hill will form a superb three-man depth chart, Patrick Taylor has faded into the background the past couple weeks and Dexter Williams is going to be a nonfactor exiting his third consecutive training camp.

Maybe the Packers will re-sign Taylor or Williams because they know the offense, the coaches and where the lunchroom is located. But perhaps there will be a chance to upgrade once the other 31 teams complete their roster cuts.

What about punter?: That's been a familiar response on Twitter. Scott's first three NFL seasons were underwhelming. Of 32 qualifying punters during his rookie season, Scott ranked 26th in net average. Of 31 qualifying punters in 2019, he ranked 24th. Of 30 qualifying punters in 2020, he ranked 28th.

But he's been a superb holder for Crosby, who has been the only reliable piece of the beleaguered special teams. Crosby is 38-of-40 on field goals the last two seasons, the best seasons of his career. Would the Packers want to mess with Crosby so late in training camp? For a team that scores so many points and punts so infrequently - he held on 79 kicks and had 46 punts - Scott's holding might be as important as his punting.