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WHO SHOULD MAKE THE FINAL 42 FOR THE GREEN BAY PACKERS?

by Jerry Gilbert
The Green Bay Packers will open the regular season against the Chicago Bears with their regular season roster of 53 players. Unfortunately for the team and the affected players, the current roster of 75 plus does not contain 53 players worthy of inclusion on the opening day roster. If the Packers are to have any chance to be competitive, there will be up to 11 new faces added to the locker room.

Whether offense defense or special teams, the back up players in training camp have, in the preseason games, proven themselves not ready to compete in the NFL. Nearly every position on the roster, with the possible exception of defensive line and linebackers, is in desperate need of new talent.

It starts at quarterback. Brett Favre is drawing ever nearer to the end of his career, and Aaron Rodgers has shown nothing in the games to date to show he is ready to take over this season if needed. He has potential and should retained to carry a clipboard, but a veteran reserve should be signed. Kerry Collins, recently signed by the Titans, looked better Friday afternoon than either Rodgers or Ingle Martin, and Collins had only had a few days practice with his new team. There are 2 survivors at this position.

Running Back is another area of need. Subject to the huge "if" that he stays healthy, Ahman Green will be the primary running back. Behind him, only Noah Herron has shown any ability working with the new offensive linemen and their new blocking scheme. Last year's hero, Samkon Gado looks lost in the new system while Najeh Davenport seems lost in any system, while he waits for another season ending injury. Once again, only two players deserve to stay with the team.

At fullback, Vonta Leach adds enough as a blocker and special team performer that he will probably join the temporarily injured William Henderson on the final roster. However, if a decent blocker who can also catch the ball becomes available in free agency, Leach could be history. Add one sure player at fullback.

The three tight ends on the opening day roster will probably be chosen from among Bubba Franks and David Martin who have earned their spots and Donald Lee and Tory Humphrey, one of whom will stick as long as a better player is not located. There should be such a player available. Count a weak 3 at tight end.

Of the five or six wide receivers on the final 53, only Donald Driver and Greg Jennings have truly earned a spot. A case can be made for Ruvell Martin and the recently acquired Carlton Brewster. However, because of their inexperience in the National football League, probably only one of them should be in the final 53. Brewster actually supports the argument being advanced here. A player with little chance to make the roster in Cleveland seems to be a better prospect than draft choice Corey Rodgers and veterans Rod Gardner and Robert Ferguson. Probably because of his special team contributions and salary cap issues Ferguson is likely to survive the final cuts, but it will not happen because he has earned the position. The existing wide receivers total 4.

Offensive line is one of the sore points on the roster. The oh so young starters are a disaster waiting to happen, and the Cincinnati and Tennessee games proved that there is no depth behind them. Figure to keep the five starters and Daryn Colledge, and the total here is 6.

On special teams, the long snapper and the place kicker appear to be set. Punter Jon Ryan has a big leg, but it has too often failed him in the preseason. Count 2 more in this group. Adding up the offe nse and special teams, we have identified a total of 20 players who deserve to be on the final roster.

Things are a bit more hopeful on defense. Finding 10 defensive linemen and 5 or 6 linebackers should not be difficult. In point of fact, these positions could provide bait to attract a trade for a veteran player at a position of need. Linebacker, with A.J. Hawk, Nick Barnett, Brady Poppinga, Ben Taylor, Abdul Hodge, Tracy White and Roy Manning competing for 5 or 6 spots should by mid season be on of the best units on the team. Count 6 at linebacker and 10 for the defensive line.

The situation is much less settled in the defensive backfield. Only Al Harris had been consistent. Charles Woodson and the starting safeties are locks. Tyrone Culver will make the team at safety. Mike Hawkins should be kept as a prospect. Every other player at the position could be replaced. Add 6 positions at defensive back.

Arriving at a total, there are 20 players on offense and special teams and 22 on defense, for a grand total of 42 players. Some of the leftovers are certainly worth a spot on the practice squad, but from a standpoint of having shown enough in the preseason to play for the Green Bay Packers, only the 42 should make the cut.

This will not come to pass. Ahmad Carroll will be given another chance at nickel back. A couple more offensive linemen are likely to be retained, and Najeh Davenport, and a few others will likely be on the roster, but these players will continue to be Packers only because no clearly better player will present himself in the next few days. Moreover, it would be difficult, particularly on special teams to add so many new players at this point.

What this says about the prospects for the team this season does not provide much room for optimism. However, having watched most of the Green Bay Packers appear to be over matched against San Diego, Cincinnati, and Tennessee, it is hard to come to any other conclusion. Veterans released by other teams have to be better than some of the crew we watched play against Tennessee and the Bengals. Too much of the 2006 version of the Green Bay Packers is not ready for prime time.

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