Sunday, September 1, 2013

Analyzing the Final 53

So the final cuts are in and at least for the moment the roster is set.  If history is a lesson, however, the roster is hardly set.  A lot of movement will continue throughout the regular season, so no one's job is exactly safe whether it be from injury, trade, or free agent signing to fill a hole.

Let's analyze each position and review how the camp battles went.

Quarterback (2)
Aaron Rodgers
BJ Coleman
Tolzien - Practice Squad (PS)

I had written earlier about the uphill climb Vince Young had to endure to make the final 53 and that turned out to be too much of a hill to climb.  The big surprise, of course, was the cutting of Graham Harrell in favor of BJ Coleman.  Many media-types are reporting that the Packers may not be done quite yet, but I believe they are set.  Signing Tolzien to the practice squad does a few things:  First, it gives them a guy that knows the 49ers checks and calls at the line of scrimmage.  This is important because it forces the 49ers to change them, which means less practice time on other things.  Second, it gives them a third arm to try out to see if he could develop into something further.  I was never sold on him at Wisconsin nor for the 49ers, but if he can provide some advice for Rodgers on the sideline (as Graham Harrell did quite well, and Coleman not so well), then he could be ok.  Obviously he won't be in uniform, given his practice squad designation however.

Running Backs (4)

With Harris on IR, it opened the door for the Packers to keep 4 instead of 5 running backs.  I always thought Starks would beat out Green, not so much because he was a better back but because he was a different back.  Green and Franklin were roughly the same guy, and if they kept Green over Starks, they'd have no large back if Lacy faltered or got hurt.  With Starks they have that.  At least one other team liked Green enough to claim him (the Jets) after he was cut.  Green just never regained the burst he showed his rookie year.  Some reported that Kuhn's spot was in jeopardy, but I never bought into that.  He is steady and does everything they ask.

Wide Receivers (5)

I really thought the Packers would keep 6 here, especially with their depth at the position, injuries, and lack of depth at the tight end position.  Ross made it for special teams over receiving ability, especially with the lingering nature of Cobb's injury.  Walker and Johnson will likely be added to the practice squad by the end of the labor day weekend, so at least they have insurance.  It helped that both Nelson and Cobb were okay to go in the last preseason game, meaning the Packers felt they could go into this year with 5 at the position.

Tight Ends (4)
R. Taylor

I expected the Packers to keep Williams and thought it was going to come down to Quarless and Mulligan for the final spot.  I did not expect the Packers to keep more than 4 tight ends this year (one year they kept 6!).  Bostick showed enough to be the developing guy and if he can play some special teams, he can contribute in some fashion.  He's a disaster blocking however, but he's the only guy that can match Finley's athleticism at the position on the roster.  Taylor's spot was never in doubt given the team's emphasis on special teams.  Quarless needs to restart his career after the devastating leg injury ended his season over a year ago.  Stoneburner, a tight end out of Ohio State, was signed to the practice squad.  I think next year he makes the roster without a problem as the number 2 tight end (assuming Finley resigns).  He showed a little Mark Chmura in him.

Offensive Linemen (8)
Van Roten
L. Taylor

I thought they'd keep 9 here, but Datko played his way out of a position.  Taylor and Lewis were both raw and the Packers kept Taylor due to his versatility of being able to play more than one spot.  Sure enough, another team claimed Lewis (Browns) and they weren't able to stash him away on the practice squad.  Sherrod and Trettor are on the PUP list, so around week 6 or so, we might see some movement at this position.

Defensive Line (8)
D. Jones

Are they playing the 4-3 defense?  Seriously the Packers kept a LOT of defensive linemen and for good reason.  First, these bodies are hard to find.  Second, FIVE of them are free agents after this year.  Neal has been playing OLB in addition to DL, but I only expect to see that when the Packers play teams that play the spread or read option.  His job will be to hit the QB no matter what, which then makes the QB hand the ball off instead.  Jolly made the team flat out.  The guy that still doesn't fit at all is Daniels.  He has a 4-3 body for a 3-technique DT, but the Packers like him enough to try to make the square peg fit into the round hole.

Outside Linebackers (4)

With Neal playing a little bit of OLB as well, they have a little more depth than meets the eye, but still.  They jettisoned everyone in favor of the raw Mulumba and the guy in Palmer who really needs to be on a practice squad.  Moses had a bad camp, and it ultimately hurt him.

Inside Linebackers (5)
B. Jones

Barrington played his way onto the roster, which I predicted a couple of weeks ago.  Lattimore, who I had as a cut, managed to squeak onto the team through his special teams play.  Francois could be a starter in this league.  He's been really developing.

Cornerback (6)

No real surprises here.  It's the same six I predicted a couple of weeks ago.  Hopefully they can squeeze Nixon onto the practice squad.  Bush makes it for his toughness and special teams play.

Safety (4)

Exactly who I predicted would make the roster here.  Let's hope that Burnett's hamstring is fine and he doesn't miss any time because outside of him, these safeties are pretty raw.  Jennings appears to have won the battle for the starting spot opposite Burnett.  Banjo played his way onto the team the last couple of weeks, but he needs to continue to make strides in order to stay on the team long term.

Specialists (3)

Crosby won the kicking competition in the end and I would not expect to see the Packers cut him this year.  It's too expensive and after week one, his salary is guaranteed.  Masthay started slow and then really showed why they didn't bring in anyone to challenge him.  He ended up with a great preseason.  I particularly love how he hustles down on punts and is willing to stick his head in there for a tackle.  Goode's snaps graded at about an A-, so no trouble there.

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