Packers Roster Begins To Take Shape
by Mike Conklin
August 31, 2013
Ted Thompson, International Man of Mystery.
The Packers pulled a few surprises on cutdown day, most notably when they cut the apparent shoo-in for the backup quarterback job, Vince Young.
Young may not have been overly impressive during his crash course of the complex Packers offense, but with his pedigree and winning record as a starter it seemed likely he would be the choice as this year's understudy to Aaron Rodgers.
That turned out not to be the case.
Thompson liked Vince Young as far back as his college days, but that didn't stop the Packers general manager from cutting the former Texas Longhorns, Tennessee Titans, and Philadelphia Eagles signal caller.
Other cuts of note were two players from the 2011 draft, Alex Green and D.J. Williams. Both players showed occasional flashes, but never seemed to be able to put it all together for the Packers.
As training camp began, most observers believed that James Starks would be the odd man out when the Packers made their final cuts. Alex Green hadn't done much to inspire confidence, but the fact that he was a fairly high draft pick (late third round) only entering his third season led many to believe that the Packers would give him another chance. It was reasonable to think that the best of Alex Green had not been seen yet, due to the lingering effects of a major knee injury in 2011.
When DuJuan Harris suffered a season-ending knee injury of his own, it seemed even more likely that Green would be in the mix at running back.
As it turned out, Thompson and the Packers were ready to turn the page on the former Hawaii Rainbow Warrior.
For D.J. Williams, the promise that led him to be named the Mackey Award winner in college (for the nation's best tight end) was never really fulfilled with the Packers. Williams would occasionally make a nice play, but suffered through periods of inconsistency that seemed to leave the Packers wanting more. They chose to go with a player with a lesser pedigree but seemingly a higher upside, Brandon Bostick.
One of the stars of training camp a year ago was Dezman Moses, an undrafted free agent who went on to notch four sacks as a rookie outside linebacker. The Packers consistently talk about how important it is for a player to make a big jump between their first and second seasons, and Moses failed to make that jump. He looked awkward in coverage at times this summer, and both sixth-round pick Nate Palmer and undrafted free agent Andy Mulumba were able to show flashes of being disruptive pass rushers as camp went on. Moses was deemed expendable.
The feel-good story of the day was Johnny Jolly, who completed his unlikely return to football after three years. Perhaps more surprising was the fact that the Packers also chose to keep fifth-round pick Josh Boyd as well.
As it stands now, the Packers have eight defensive linemen on the roster (provided Mike Neal is included with that group). Considering the Packers play well over half of their defensive plays in the nickel, it seems an unnecessarily high number.
The question remains whether or not the Packers are still looking to deal one of those players, as it is a position of strength.
If the situation remains as it is now, it seems that Josh Boyd may have benefited from the fact that B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett, C.J. Wilson, Johnny Jolly, and Mike Neal are all entering the final year of their respective contracts.
If the Packers had not kept Boyd and there ends up being a mass exodus of defensive linemen at the end of the season, the team would be in desperate shape with only Datone Jones and Mike Daniels on the roster. Although completely unproven, Boyd would at least offer some level of insurance.
Another mild surprise was that the Packers chose to part ways with Terrell Manning, a fifth-round draft pick last year. Manning essentially redshirted his rookie season due to an illness that went undiagnosed through training camp, and the Packers hoped he would take a step forward this offseason. Given the fact that the Packers traded three draft picks to move up to draft Manning, it must be a disappointment that he could not beat out this year's seventh-round pick, Sam Barrington.
It is not often that an undrafted player that was out of football for a year latches on to a team, but it is even less often when that player doesn't even join a team until training camp was well underway. Chris Banjo overcame the odds, and on the strength of a strong camp from start to finish, he claimed the fourth and final safety spot. It completes a long journey that we highlighted last week.
And on a final note, it would not come as a surprise if B.J. Coleman were no longer the backup quarterback within the next couple of weeks.
The Packers will be monitoring the waiver wire, but the other factor that comes into play is that the way the NFL rules are designed all vested veterans have their contracts fully guaranteed if they are on a roster during Week 1. As a result, it is fairly common to see veterans added to rosters after the first week's games are over.
It is not out of the realm of possibility that the Packers would pursue that course, although they seem to prefer to groom young talent.
Speaking of young talent, no fewer than 26 players on the Packers roster are age 24 or younger. That is nearly half of the roster.
True to form, it appears that Ted Thompson is once again compiling one of the youngest teams in the league.
Photo Credit: Associated Press