Hello Packer Nation!

The Packers ended the preseason on a high note with a 27-20 victory against Kansas City. While the game was meaningless in terms of the broad picture, it helped solidify the roster on the back end. Let's go through each position and provide the players who will best help this team win in 2019.

Quarterback: 2

1. Aaron Rodgers

2. *FA pickup

Here is why: The backup position is an absolute mess, there is no way around it. Incumbent De'Shone Kizer has regressed so badly he is likely not in the running to recoup his valued backup title. He has all the physical skills but his understanding of the game and ability to read the defense in the pocket is abysmal. Tim Boyle shows good arm strength, pocket awareness and mobility but lacks ability to be more than a practice squad arm with his wild inconsistency. Neither QB can win games in a regular season setting and that should really concern Gutekunst. Maybe this is just wishful thinking...bringing in free agent Brock Osweiler to back up Rodgers would be the best choice. He has started 30 NFL games and was a big reason the 2015 Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl. He filled in for an injured Peyton Manning and looked real good. It is likely Boyle makes the team in the short term until they can scour the waiver wire after Saturday's cuts for a suitable backup.

 

Running Back: 5

1. Aaron Jones

2. Jamaal Williams

3. Tra Carson

4. Danny Vitale (he will be the fullback)

5. Dexter Williams

Here is why: I do not think going into the season with four RB's is a wise move, especially three tailbacks. Jones has super star talent but has been injury prone and the team will likely need to harness his workload to no more than 275 total touches to keep him healthy. He has worked hard this off season to prepare for an increased workload and his body composition is better suited to handle the load. If he came make it through all 16 games it would be a huge boost. Jamaal Williams, who was drafted higher than Jones (Williams was drafted in 4th round in 2017, Jones in 5th round) is an all around back that is average at everything but a master of nothing. There is nothing wrong with that because dependability is a huge asset. I have 6th round pick Dexter Williams as a higher ceiling talent but less dependable than Tra Carson. It would seem the Packers value dependability over ability at #3 and keep Carson. I am going against my better judgement in thinking the Packers might release Williams in hopes he clears waivers for practice squad placement. He is just too unpredictable at this juncture. In the end, without any waiver pickups Williams makes the team. Danny Vitale will be the "do it all" fullback and likely had the best training camp of any player. They will scour the waiver wire and could add an backup tailback via trade. The Packers have been rumored exploring trades for a RB so a trade is in their wheelhouse. I do not think their #3 spot is settled. Also, let's consider LaFleur's level of commitment to run the ball more. If LaFleur is going to implement a more balanced offensive attack he needs more than four to make it through a full season.

 

Wide Receiver: 6

1. Davante Adams

2. Geronimo Allison

3. Marquez Valdez-Scantling

4. Trevor Davis

5. Jake Kumerow

6. Equanimeous St. Brown (IR designation to return) Replaced by Darrius Shepherd.

Here is why: Adams is one of the best in the league. #1 isn't a concern. After Adams, the depth is unproven but has potential to be good. Geronimo Allison will likely start out as a starter who was on pace for 1,000 yards receiving last year until injury derailed his availability. Marquez-Valdez-Scantling brings tremendous upside and should only improve after racking up just under 600 receiving yards in his rookie season. Beyond those three, it is anyone's guess who makes the roster. Veteran Trevor Davis had a great preseason and likely cemented his status in the Oakland game. He can return kicks and punts and fills that role. Jake Kumerow has shown intriguing value as a possession receiver and special teams contributor. St. Brown, who is going to be out for an extended period of time due to a high ankle sprain, will likely be placed on IR with a designation to return to the active roster after Week 8. In order for St. Brown to be eligible for that designation, he will need to be on the 53 man roster when the team hands in their roster at the 3pm deadline this Saturday. That means they will likely have to cut promising preseason talents Darrius Shepherd and Allen Lazard or find other players to cut at another position. My hunch is they keep Shepherd instead of Lazard and hope Lazard can make it through waivers to be placed on practice squad. Shepherd offers better value right now.

 

Tight End: 4

1. Jimmy Graham

2. Marcedes Lewis

3. Robert Tonyan

4. Jace Sternberger

Here is why: Graham hopes to rebound from sub par seasons in 2017 and 2018. He doesn't look as nimble as he once was when he was the best TE in league not that long ago. Lewis, who didn't practice much during training camp provides value as a blocker and short line receiver in short yardage situations. Tonyan is a young talent who caught the bomb in Seattle last season when Rodgers escaped the pocket and threw a perfect pass to keep the Packers in that game. If potential didn't mean anything, I would predict rookie Sternberger would be released and placed on the practice squad to hone his skills. He was a one year starter at Texas A&M but has football speed and the ability to split zones. I had high hopes for Sternberger when they drafted him but it looks like his progress will be delayed to nothing more than a fringe player who likely won't be active on game day unless injuries derail depth. 

 

Offensive Line: 9

David Bakhtiari (LT)

Lane Taylor (LG)

Corey Linsley (C)

Billy Turner (RG)

Bryan Bulaga (RT)

Elgton Jenkins (G/C)

Justin McCray (G/C)

Lucas Patrick (G)

Alex Light (T)

Here is why: Their starters should be very good. Bakhtiari is the best left tackle in the game. Rookie Elgton Jenkins seems to have won over the coaching staff and will likely be a starter at some point during the season, but not right away. He will push for time in the interior of the line. Corey Linsley is a Pro Bowl caliber center and has played every snap in the past two seasons. Free agent Billy Turner was given a rather large contract and the Packers hope he can solidify the right side of the line. He will start out at right guard and could move to right tackle if/when Bulaga is injured. Bulaga is a steady veteran who has provided dependable blocking when healthy. He is in the last year of his contract. The issue is he has not played a full season in his career, minus 2016 season. McCray provides versatility to play all positions on the line, yet won't excel anywhere. Patrick is a brawler who is a solid run blocker. The Packers will go into the season very light at tackle depth with only one true tackle behind starters Bakhtiari and Bulaga. That spot goes to Alex Light. 

A touchy subject with me is the status of Lane Taylor. Many pundits are predicting he will not make the 53 man roster after having a lackluster 2018 season dealing with injuries. He played through a high ankle sprain and struggled to duplicate past success. That much is certain. In the grand scheme of things, it would be asinine dumping a quality player who could provide good depth if he isn't the starter. The Packers have not had all five starting OL play a full season in years. Taylor could also play tackle in a pinch if needed. While Taylor isn't an ideal fit in LaFleur's new zone scheme he is more nimble than Patrick and McCray. Let me also add they made Aaron Rodgers the highest paid QB in the league last year and their success hinges on Rodgers staying healthy. That cannot be overlooked. My hunch is he is the starting left guard against Chicago in the season opener with Jenkins eagerly awaiting a chance. Either way, it would be a huge mistake to dump Taylor. Do not listen to the media pundits. They are completely wrong for thinking he is expendable.

 

Defensive Line: 5

Dean Lowry (DE)

Kenny Clark (NT)

Montravius Adams (DE)

Tyler Lancaster (DT)

Kinsley Keke (DE)

Here is why: DC Mike Pettine's scheme favors speed over girth and that is where numbers will limit the defensive line. They will likely only play two DL the majority of the time. Pettine likes to play dime and nickel defenses to counter the pass happy nature the league has become. Dean Lowry signed a new contract as training camp began and is a smart and consistent player. Kenny Clark is a budding star and very underrated in the league ranks. He is a monster to block and requires consistent double teams in order to contain. Mike Daniels no longer dons the Green and Gold and was released. This was the chance Montravius Adams is looking for and he will get every chance to parlay off a good second half in 2018 season. He played a ton of snaps in the preseason and looked hard to contain if he didn't command double team blocks. Tyler Lancaster is a rock and is a solid run defender but that is it. The most promising player on the DL (outside of Clark) is rookie Kinsley Keke. He flashes great hands, non stop motor and second gear to be a disruptive pass rusher. It would not surprise me if Keke is one of the team leaders in sacks. He is dedicated and has all the tools to be a future star. 

 

Outside Linebacker: 4

Za'Darius Smith

Preston Smith

Kyler Fackrell

Rashan Gary

Here is why: The Packers splurged in free agency with the additions of the Smith brothers (not related). Za'Darius Smith can slip inside and rush from all areas which helps his chances of becoming a top sack producer. He has great pursuit skills and when he beats you with his first step, he is very good. He gave David Bakhtiari fits in "1 on 1's" during training camp. Preston Smith doesn't come as highly publicized as Za'Darius but has always been around the QB. He just needs to finish off plays instead of leaving them on the field. Both will set the edge in the run game. They should be upgrades over departed Packers Clay Matthews and Nick Perry.

Kyler Fackrell lead the team with 10.5 sacks last season. He looked unbeatable in games against Buffalo and Seattle where he produced 6 sacks in those two games combined. Rookie Rashan Gary is a project at OLB. I firmly believe he will not be a big contributor this season because his skills do not translate on the outside. He would be much more productive inside where his quick first step can penetrate caps and make plays in the backfield. He was the #12 pick in this years draft and those players need to produce when picked that high. There is a lot of pressure to become more than a player with high potential to be great. He needs to be great soon!

 

Inside Linebacker: 4

1. Blake Martinez

2. Oren Burks

3. Curtis Bolton (IR designation to return) Replaced by James Crawford

4. Ty Summers

Here is why: Blake Martinez would benefit from having a decent running mate at the other ILB spot. This is why Oren Burks will get every chance to prove he is that guy. A pectoral injury suffered in first preseason game against Houston looked to be a season ending injury but luck was on his side and he could start against Chicago in week 1. Behind those two, depth is a huge concern. UDFA Curtis Bolton only started one year at Oklahoma before being picked up after the draft. He flashed great instincts and speed during his chances in the preseason against quality NFL players who will start or contribute. He suffered a knee injury in third preseason game against Oakland and his timetable to return is unknown. It is likely he will be headed to IR (designation to return) but would need to be on the 53 man roster to get there. Rookie Ty Summers flashed run stopping ability but is a liability in the open field where his tackling was anything but stellar. This is another position where the Packers should scour the waiver wire or look to trade for a dependable player. If and when Bolton is placed on IR, it is likely James Crawford would take his place. He is a special teams demon and lead them in snaps and tackles in 2018. He will be less likely to be picked up if waived. As well as running back, this is a position the Packers would be wise to improve when cuts are made on Saturday. If they want a two down backer, FA Mason Foster is still available for the taking. 

 

Cornerback: 6

Jaire Alexander

Kevin King

Tramon Williams

Tony Brown

Josh Jackson

Chandon Sullivan

Here is why: The Packers should be set with starters Alexander and King. They need to pray King can stay healthy as his availability in his first two seasons was abysmal. Veteran Tramon Williams will be the nickel DB who should play a significant amount of snaps at 36 years old. Tony Brown and Josh Jackson will battle for game day active status and if the preseason showed anything, Brown would be the guy. He plays a physical game and is a cover corner Pettine covets. Josh Jackson came into his rookie season with much promise but did not produce in extended opportunities. He had a penchant for holding receivers and needs to become more confident in his ability. He also was injury riddled this preseason and will head into the regular season less than 100%. Rookie 6th round draft pick Ka'Dar Hollman showed he can play at the NFL level but his last game against Kansas City exposed his ability to recover after being beat on initial move. Pettine wants his CB's to keep the receivers in front and he doesn't have the make up speed to be dependable. He will likely be a practice squad candidate and UDFA and former Eagle Chandon Sullivan showed enough ball skills to make the roster. I could see either player making the roster but will go with Sullivan for the reasons mentioned. 

 

Safety: 5

Adrian Amos (SS)

Darnell Savage (FS)

Raven Greene

Tray Matthews

Will Redmond (Eventually replaced by Ibraheim Campbell when healthy)

Here is why: The Packers invested heavily to fortify a position that was the defenses biggest liability in 2018. Amos should solidify the position and provide solid tackling, ability to cover receivers and be the safety valve HaHa Clinton-Dix wasn't. I will not say he is the best safety we have had in recent memory but he is sure better than Dix, Brice and Burnett. Rookie Darnell Savage will start from day 1 and the Packers are very high on his ability to change games. He is always around the ball and is a solid tackler. He is really fast which will allow him to cover slot receivers and cover the whole field in a blink of an eye. Raven Greene really excelled during training camp and will be a big contributor in the nickel and dime defenses Pettine plays the majority of the time. The last safety spots might surprise some but UDFA Tray Matthews showed instincts and solid tackling skills to earn a spot. I think he could also play nickel LB like Morgan Burnett and Josh Jones attempted in the past. He is more of a box safety which would go against Pettine's stance that his DB's and safeties need to play every position in the secondary. Until Ibraheim Campbell is healthy, Matthews and Redmond make the team.

Campbell will likely start the season on the PUP list. He is rehabbing from an ACL injury suffered last December. The Packers think highly of him and he is likely in their plans. 

 

Special Team: 3

Kicker: Mason Crosby

Punter: JP Scott

Long Snapper: Hunter Bradley

Here is why: Crosby is a veteran who rarely folds under pressure. He has been a steady and consistent kicker in his career, minus the debacle in Detroit last season. While his cap hit is heavy, Sam Ficken did nothing to overtake him. If fans think Crosby needs to go, watch the evolving kicker door in Chicago. They lost multiple games and their Wild Card playoff game last season with sub par kicker play. He has been clutch throughout his career. Scott boomed punts all preseason and seems ready to take the next step and become a top punter in the league. Bradley is the long snapper who they invested a 7th draft pick in last years draft. He is solid and should improve. 

We are 6 days before the regular season begins. Before then, I will write a blog predicting how the Packers will perform in all 16 regular season games. Will the Packers get back to the playoffs? Also, I have promised a research piece on how the top paid QB's and their respective teams have performed under their high salaries. The top 10 highest paid QB's from 2011 to 2018 have not brought their respective teams much success, or have they? Stay tuned!

Go Pack Go!

Jeremy