The backup quarterback circus in Green Bay has stolen the media’s attention just days before the regular season kicks off. In all likelihood, this conversation won’t be nearly as relevant during the season as some of the decisions made at linebacker and wide receiver. The Packers have left themselves particularly thin at offensive line and safety but are padded with depth on the defensive front seven, where a number of unlikely names stuck.
Defensive linemen Johnny Jolly and Josh Boyd faced uphill battles in cracking the final 53-man roster but ultimately prevailed, thanks to strong training camps and promising showings during the preseason. Likewise, James Starks beat the odds in the backfield, where the Packers were loaded with talent in July but only ended up retaining three halfbacks. Camp Cindellera Tyrone Walker fell shy of a roster spot, disappointing some that favored the rookie receiver over return specialist Jeremy Ross.
What should we make of the cuts on the offensive side of the ball? Ted Thompson has a long-standing tradition of retaining only the best 53 players, regardless of a position’s depth. The Packers clearly didn’t consider recent draftees Alex Green or D.J. Williams one of those 53 players, after repeated efforts to get them involved in the offense. Starks and tight end Andrew Quarless will be first on the offseason chopping block if they fail to produce this season.
On the other side of the ball, Green Bay saw value in each and every one of the seven down linemen (plus Mike Neal) that they retained. This is somewhat confounding as Dom Capers’ defense plays 60-plus percent of snaps out of the nickel formation and could also see the return of second-year end Jerel Worthy by early October. Less puzzling is the decision to keep ten linebackers (including Neal), nearly all of which can contribute on special teams.
Even with the additional heads on the defensive front seven, the Packers ended their experiments with linebackers Dezman Moses and Terrell Manning. The positional group has seen heavy turnover between these releases and the departures of Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith in the offseason. The roster as a whole has experienced a general change in face, clouding experts’ forecasts of how this Packers team will fare in 2013.