Training camp is over. As of Friday night, Green Bay completed its final preseason game. As per NFL guidelines, the Packers have to cut their roster down to 53 players on August 30. In preparation for this, I’ll be putting on my GM hat in an attempt to predict what decisions the Packers will make as they work to meet this cutdown requirement. Keep in mind that the initial 53 is unlikely to be what the Packers enter the season with. In all probability, the team will make more additions and cuts as players from other teams become available.
QB (2): Aaron Rodgers, Jordan Love (Danny Etling cut)
The QBs kept need little elaboration. Any possible Love trade seems unlikely at this point, especially given the possibility that Rodgers retires at the end of the year. I don’t see a path for Etling to make the roster, unless he wants to switch to TE (for what it’s worth, he did spend time as a WR for the Patriots!).
RB (3): Aaron Jones, A.J. Dillon, Tyler Goodson (Patrick Taylor, Dexter Williams cut)
Like the top 2 QBs, Jones and Dillon need little justification. As for Goodson, I believe his unique speed and ability to operate as a pass-catcher earn him a spot. I do think, though, that there is a world where Taylor makes the 53 – either instead of Goodson – or even in addition to him. Gutekunst recently pointed out special teams ability and pass protection as two big factors that can be critical for a backup RB. As Matt Schneidman postulated, this could give Taylor an edge over Goodson. Whichever of Goodson or Taylor Gutekunst decides to cut would likely be a prime practice squad player. When Kylin Hill returns from PUP, he is likely to figure into the RB depth as well.
I don’t think that Williams will make the PS. He likely just provided a camp body, brought in because he knows the offense.
Tight End (3): Robert Tonyan, Mercedes Lewis, Josiah Deguara (Tyler Davis, Alize Mack, Sal Cannella, Nate Becker cut)
Tonyan, Lewis, and Deguara are your obvious top 3. I think that the Packers staff likes Davis a lot more than fan consensus, but his lackluster offseason will allow him to make it through waivers to the practice squad. They pulled a similar stunt with Krys Barnes in 2020.
Mack, Cannella, and Becker have each had decent moments in their preseason action, but likely not enough to warrant a roster spot. I could see all 3 earn a place on the PS. Becker, especially, could be potential emergency depth given his ability to play H-back/FB.
Wide Receiver (8): Allen Lazard, Sammy Watkins, Randall Cobb, Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, Amari Rodgers, Juwann Winfree, Samori Toure (Ishmael Hyman cut)
Lazard, Watkins, and Cobb have all sat out the preseason, indicating a sure place on the roster, and Watson and Doubs don’t even need to be discussed. Amari Rodgers won’t be cut – he’s a recent draft pick, and he’s looked faster, more explosive, and more confident compared to his rookie year. I think Winfree has the edge over Toure if GB decides to keep 7 WRs, though I have them keeping 8 here. From what we’ve seen of camp and preseason, Winfree has a greater ability to contribute this year. QB1’s stamp of approval shouldn’t hurt either.
Keeping 8 wide receivers and only 3 tight ends may surprise some. However, in my opinion, the Packers would be best suited to retain Toure while betting that Tyler Davis makes it to the PS. Davis stands a better chance of going unclaimed. Regardless of whether GB keeps 7 or 8 receivers, I don’t think Hyman has done enough to stick.
Interior OL (5): Jon Runyan, Josh Myers, Jake Hanson, Royce Newman, Sean Rhyan, (Michal Menet cut)
Runyan and Myers are presumed starters. Hanson has been inconsistent in the preseason, but has also had very nice moments at center and guard. I included Royce Newman in the interior OL section because that’s where I think he has played his best. Although he’s been rough at times, especially when asked to play tackle, he is still a young, talented player. The same goes for Sean Rhyan, who the team seems to view as a guard. Michal Menet hasn’t done much of note and seems destined for the PS, at best.
Tackle (4): David Bakhtiari, Elgton Jenkins, Zach Tom, Rasheed Walker (trade Yosh Njiman to Cowboys, Caleb Jones cut)
Ok, here’s where things get spicy. I understand how some might balk at the idea of trading a reliable swing tackle like Njiman. To be clear, if I were the Packers I wouldn’t make such a deal unless I felt very good about one of Elgton Jenkins or David Bakhtiari being back for Week 1. In a recent article discussing a possible Njiman trade, Acme Packing Company writer Justis Mosqueda laid out an argument that GB expects at least one of their star OL back for the beginning of the season. You can read his article here, but I’ll sum up Justis’ argument for you.
Given the current roster needs and construction, the Packers are likely to only keep 9 offensive lineman. Since both Bakhtiari and Jenkins were recently removed from PUP, they would count towards that number. If neither of them were able to go Week 1, then the Packers would be forced to play with only seven active lineman. This would leave them without sufficient depth.
Green Bay obviously expects both Bakhtiari and Jenkins back early in the season since both have been taken off PUP. Even if only one returns for Week 1, promising rookie Zach Tom should be able to fill in at the other tackle spot until both are back. Trading Njiman also leaves space to roster Rasheed Walker.
The Cowboys, meanwhile, are desperate for a capable left tackle. Star tackle Tyron Smith recently went down with an injury that will keep him sidelined for months, and Dallas had little tackle depth even before the injury. Although Green Bay would be assisting a potential NFC rival contender by trading Njiman, the Cowboys’ desperate straits would allow the Packers to acquire an excellent haul. Specifically, I have them receiving Dallas’ 4th round pick and promising young safety Israel Mukuamu in return for Njiman – the Cowboys are quite deep at safety. We’ll cover Mukuamu more in detail when we get to the secondary.
Rasheed Walker gets the nod after impressing in his preseason debut against the Chiefs. His status as a draft pick would likely give him priority over Caleb Jones in Green Bay’s eyes. Jones, meanwhile, is a likely practice squad candidate. The physically freakish rookie has been impressive in his own right.
DL (6): Kenny Clark, Jarran Reed, T.J. Slaton, Devonte Wyatt, Dean Lowry, Chris Slayton (Akial Byers, Jonathan Ford, Jack Heflin cut)
Kenny Clark is a star. Reed and Slaton have both been dominant at points this offseason. Wyatt is a first-round draft choice, and Lowry is coming off a career year and provides valuable depth at a highly-rotated position group. Chris Slayton makes the roster due to his superior pass-rush prowess. His work on stunts, in particular, give him an edge. I suspect DL games will be a big part of the 2022 defense. Ford and Heflin played quite well in the preseason, and should figure as priority targets for the practice squad. Byers has struggled with injuries and is probably gone.
OLB (4): Rashan Gary, Preston Smith, Kingsley Enagbare, Jonathan Garvin, (Kobe Jones, Tipa Galeai, LaDarius Hamilton cut)
Gary and Smith are locks, and Enagbare has been very good in the preseason – besides being a high day 3 pick. After that, the pecking order is harder to determine. Garvin has only played a few snaps in each preseason game, which would seem to indicate a high place on the depth chart. It is also worth noting that Galeai sat out the preseason finale against the Chiefs. It’s unclear if this was due to injury or if Galeai leapfrogged Enagbare and Garvin on the depth chart. Galeai has been heavily involved with special teams in the preseason, with Kobe Jones also being given increasing responsibilities.
I think that Garvin still has the edge as the fourth OLB. Jones, Galeai, and Hamilton have all flashed in the preseason, though Jones has arguably been the most impressive. Unfortunately, given the other choices made on this 53-man projection, there was only room for 4 OLBs on my initial roster. Jones, Galeai, and Hamilton are all possible 5th OLBs or PS candidates, though I think Galeai and Jones have a step up.
ILB (4): De’Vondre Campbell, Quay Walker, Krys Barnes, Isaiah McDuffie (Ty Summers, Ray Wilborn cut)
Campbell and Walker could be one of the best starting ILB duos in the NFL. Barnes and McDuffie splashed in the preseason and provide quality depth on defense and STs. At this point, I think Wilborn may have the edge over Summers for a PS spot.
CB (5): Jaire Alexander, Rasul Douglas, Eric Stokes, Shemar Jean-Charles, Keisean Nixon, (Kiondre Thomas, Rico Gafford, Kabion Ento cut)
Alexander, Douglas, and Stokes might be the best starting CB unit in the league. Jean-Charles balled out as both an outside and slot CB in the preseason. Nixon had some nice moments too and could be an important piece on Rich Bisaccia’s special teams units. Kiondre Thomas is likely the next CB up, and a probable PS candidate. Gafford and Ento could make it to the practice squad as well.
Safety (6): Adrian Amos, Darnell Savage, Shawn Davis, Micah Abernathy, Dallin Leavitt, Israel Mukuamu (Innis Gaines, De’Vante Cross, Tariq Carpenter cut)
Amos and Savage are the unquestioned starters. Davis consistently filled in as the primary backup at safety over the offseason. Abernathy impressed in the preseason, contributing on STs as well as defense. Leavitt fills some critical roles on STs; he will likely make the 53 then be placed on IR, freeing up a roster spot for someone like Tyler Davis, Kiondre Thomas, or Kobe Jones/Tipa Galeai.
Mukuamu, acquired in the proposed Yosh Njiman trade, is a high quality depth player at both S and CB. The young safety has impressed in Cowboys camp and preseason. With a CB background and a 6′ 4″ 205 frame, Mukuamu is a versatile chess piece who looks to have legit ability on both defense and STs – and is still on his rookie deal. With contract years for Amos and Savage coming up, the Packers could even view Mukuamu as a future starter. Unfortunately, with Mukuamu on the roster, little room for Gaines and Cross remains. Tariq Carpenter flashed on STs, but he doesn’t quite make the cut either. The practice squad is a likely destination for him.
Kicker (1): Mason Crosby (Ramiz Ahmed cut)
Though he’s still on the Physically Unable to Perform list, Crosby recently claimed to be on track for Week 1. If he’s still sidelined, then Ahmed could come in handy. The recent addition played well in camp and preseason.
Punter (1): Pat O’Donnell (no other punters on roster)
O’Donnell demonstrated consistency in the preseason. At this point, dependability is the main trait Packers fans want in their punter.
Long Snapper (1): Jack Coco (no other LS on roster)
Like punter, decent play on a consistent basis is all that most want out of the Packers long snapper. Coco played fine when he saw action in the preseason.
Despite the presumed contender status of the team, there are still quite a few questions about the 2022 Packers roster. Some positions, like wide receiver, could look quite different compared to years past. The defense appears set up for dominance, but certain position groups have unproven depth. The final cutdown day will provide some clarity to Green Bay’s roster makeup, though it could easily bring some shocking moves as well.
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