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The Final 53?

By Joseph B. Coaty 7/17/2005

As of July 17th, the Green Bay Packer's roster consisted of 94 players. But the roster must be trimmed to 53 players between now and the first regular season game of the 2005 season. During the later years of Ron Wolf's Green Bay Packer tenure there would generally only be about a half a dozen roster spots up for grabs in most seasons. But the situation in 2005 appears to be vastly different. While there is little doubt as to which running backs will make the 2005 roster, other positions like offensive line could realistically have as many as four roster spots up for grabs. The following is an assessment of the Packer's roster and which positions could see the greatest amount of competition during training camp in August.

Quarterback:

Lock to make team: Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers

Has the inside track: Craig Nall

50/50 chance to make team: J.T. O'Sullivan

Analysis: Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers are two obvious locks to make the Packer's roster in 2005. Brett Favre has proven to be one of the finest quarterbacks in NFL history and he is still playing the game at a Pro Bowl level. Aaron Rodgers will likely be the number three quarterback to begin the 2005 season, but his status as a round one draft pick guarantees his spot on the roster. Craig Nall has the inside track on the remaining roster spot based on his experience with the Packers and his performances during limited opportunities. J.T. O'Sullivan has a legitimate chance to beat Nall out for the final roster spot, but at this point in time one would have to project Nall as the favorite. It's conceivable that the Packers could keep all four quarterbacks, but it's unlikely given the fact that the team would probably prefer to keep extra bodies on the defensive side of the ball considering that unit's lack of effectiveness in 2004.

Running back:

Lock to make team: Ahman Green (RB), William Henderson (FB), Najeh Davenport (RB), Tony Fisher (RB), Nick Luchey (FB)

Long shot to make team: Vonta Leach (FB), Chris Robertson (RB), Chaz Williams (RB), Walt Williams (RB)

Analysis: There is probably less uncertainty regarding the running backs than any other position on the Packer's roster. In recent history the Packers have liked to keep three running backs and two fullbacks on the final roster, and the Packers have that number of proven NFL performers at each of those positions. Vonta Leach showed promise in 2004, but his chances of beating out Nick Luchey for the backup fullback job are very slim. The only chance that Chris Robertson, Chaz Williams or Walt Williams has of making the roster is if one of the experienced running backs suffers a serious injury.

Wide Receiver:

Lock to make team: Javon Walker, Donald Driver, Robert Ferguson, Terrence Murphy

50/50 chance to make team: Antonio Chatman, Craig Bragg

Long shot to make team: Sam Breeden, Vince Butler, Jamal Jones, Chad Lucas, Chris Samp, Andrae Thurman

Analysis: The Packer's have an established trio of wide receivers in Javon Walker, Donald Driver and Robert Ferguson. 2005 second round pick Terrence Murphy is a lock to make the roster because of his draft status. The Packers will likely keep a minimum of five wide receivers, unlike in 2004 when they opened the season with only four. That would leave an open competition for the final wide receiver spot, with Antonio Chatman and 2005 sixth round Craig Bragg being the most likely candidates to win the job. That competition would not only be a battle in terms of wide receiver skills, but also a battle of kick and punt return skills. If the Packer's keep six receivers, both Chatman and Bragg would have an inside track on a ros ter spot. The remaining receivers all are long shots to make the final roster, but don't be surprised to see them try to slide two of these players on the practice squad. In particular, Vince Butler and Andrae Thurman both have shown some promise and each of these players could have a future as NFL players.

Tight End:

Lock to make team: Bubba Franks, David Martin

50/50 chance to make team: Sean McHugh, Ben Steele

Long shot to make team: Garrett Cross, Steve Fleming

Analysis: Bubba Franks is a proven Pro Bowl player who, barring injury, will lock down the Packer's starting tight end position for the sixth consecutive season. David Martin will never be confused with a Pro Bowl level tight end, but a recent signing bonus awarded to him indicate the Packer's fully intend for Martin to be on the 2005 roster. If the Packer's keep three tight ends, and chances are better than even that they will, the competition could be open up to all of the remaining four tight ends on the roster. Sean McHugh and Ben Steele have NFL experience, so they would be the front-runners to battle it out for the final spot. Chances between those two players would appear to be just about even. Undrafted rookies Garrett Cross and Steve Fleming both appear to be long shots, but either has a chance to make the roster if they can impress the coaching staff enough between now and September.

Offensive Line:

Lock to make team: Chad Clifton (OT), Mike Flanagan (OC), Mark Tauscher (OT), Adrian Klemm (OG), Kevin Barry (OT)

Has the inside track: Matt O'Dwyer (OG)

50/50 chance to make team: Brad Bedall (OT/OG), Junius Coston (OC/OG), Brennan Curtin (OT), Grey Ruegamer (OC/OG), Scott Wells (OC), William Whitticker (OG)

Long shot to make team: Joe Hayes (OG), Atlas Herrion (OG), Steve Morley (OT/OG), Joe Quinn (OG/OC), Chris White (OC/OG)

Analysis: The offensive line situation could be the most interesting situation to watch in August. The departure of long time guards Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle have created holes along the line and a great uncertainty as to which players will eventually step up to fill those holes. The starting tackles spots are set with Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher, and Kevin Barry is also guaranteed a roster spot. While Adrian Klemm's NFL resume isn't exactly that of a top flight NFL performer (injuries playing a large part in that), the signing bonus awarded to him by Packer GM Ted Thompson indicates he will be on the roster in 2005. Matt O'Dwyer has had a good NFL career and is the best of the remaining players, but he is clearly on the downside of his career and has had some injury problems in the recent past. He is currently penciled in to be the starter at right guard, but it wouldn't be surprising to see the Packers go with a younger offensive lineman if O'Dwyer's injury problems resurface in training camp. After those players, there are six legitimate candidates to fill three or four remaining roster spots, and whoever impresses the most between now and September will likely earn their spot on the Packer's roster. Brad Bedall may have the best chance of these remaining players, simply because he might be the only player who can effectively backup at the critical left tackle position. Grey Ruegamer saw plenty of action for the Packers in 2004 and can play center or guard, but he is better suited as a backup and the Packers could opt for reserve offensive linemen who have youth and upside potential on their side. Many in the Packer's organization seem to like Scott Wells, but his size may limit him to the center position and that can be a disadvantage when competing for a reserve role on the offensive line. Time is running out on Brennan Curtin; the Packer's seem to like him but injuries have prevented Curtin from doing anything of note at the professional level. Rookie draft picks Junius Coston (fifth round) and William Whitticker (seventh round) will have to earn their spot if they are to make the 2005 squad. The Packers did make an investment in Coston and Whitticker in the 2005 NFL Draft, but neither of these players were high enough draft picks to guarantee them a spot on the roster. There are a few more offensive linemen on the Packer's roster, but none of them have a very good chance of making the roster. The most significant of these remaining players is Steve Morley, a once promising prospect who is coming off of a terrible showing in NFL Europe.

Defensive Line:

Lock to make team: Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (DE), Grady Jackson (DT), Cletidus Hunt (DT), Aaron Kampman (DE), Cullen Jenkins (DT), Corey Williams (DE/DT)

Has the inside track: R-Kal Truluck (DE), Donnell Washington (DT)

50/50 chance to make team: James Lee (DT), Michael Montgomery (DE), Kenny Peterson (DE/DT)

Long shot to make team: Colin Cole (DT), A.J. Lindsay (DT), Seante Williams (DE)

Analysis: Even though this group will probably return all four starters from last year's team, there should be some heated battles during training camp to earn what will likely be four or five backup positions. The same quartet from last year (Gbaja-Biamila, Jackson, Hunt and Kampman) figure to be the starters in 2005. Cullen Jenkins and Corey Williams appeared solid in backup roles last year, and their upside potential should make them locks for roster spots in 2005. If Donnell Washington wasn't injured in 2004 he would almost certainly have locked up a roster spot for the upcoming season, but some heavy competition from other young players could end up challenging him for a roster spot. R-Kal Truluck may also have an inside track on a roster spot, as his quickness and athletic ability may make him an ideal fit for new defensive coordinator Jim Bates' preferred defensive scheme. There promises to be a great deal of focus on James Lee, Kenny Peterson and rookie Mike Montgomery in training camp. Each of these players may be talented enough to be NFL players, but it's unlikely that more than two of these three will make the roster and any of them might have to force a player like Donnell Washington off the roster to earn their own way onto the roster. Even though each of them faces an uphill battle, all of them are have enough natural ability to play their way onto the roster. Colin Cole showed flashes late in the 2004 season, but I don't like his chances to make the team when stacking him up against some of the younger talent at the position.

Linebacker:

Lock to make team: Na'il Diggs, Nick Barnett, Brady Poppinga

Has the inside track: Hannibal Navies, Ray Thompson

50/50 chance to make team: Paris Lenon, Kurt Campbell

Long shot to make team: Roy Manning, Nick McNeil, Zac Woodfin

Analysis: This group is still far from an elite group, but off-season additions have improved the depth of this unit. Nick Barnett and Na'il Diggs are returning starters from last year, but the third starting position is currently up for grabs. Hannibal Navies would probably figure to be a lock to make the roster if he was fully healthy, but there may be some lingering questions following major shoulder surgery this off-season. Brady Poppinga was a fourth round pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, which almost guarantees him a roster spot. Ray Thompson has five years of NFL experience, which may give him an inside track to win a roster spot. However, if Navies shows he is fully healthy, it wouldn't be a complete surprise to see the Packers chose Navies over Thompson and elect to go with younger players to fill out the reserve roles. It also wouldn't be surprising to see Paris Lenon and Kurt Campbell battle it out for the sixth l inebacker spot through their special team's contributions. In summary, the Packers have seven candidates for what will likely be six roster spots, and outside of Diggs, Barnett and Poppinga, it wouldn't entirely surprising to see any of the other four candidates end up being the odd man out.

Defensive Back:

Lock to make team: Al Harris (CB), Ahmad Carroll (CB), Joey Thomas (CB), Nick Collins (S/CB), Marviel Underwood (S)

Has the inside track: Arturo Freeman (S), Mike Hawkins (CB), Jason Horton (CB), Earl Little (S), Mark Roman (S)

50/50 chance to make team: Todd Franz (S)

Long shot to make team: Julius Curry (S), Chris Day (CB), Patrick Dendy (CB), Chris Johnson (CB), Leigh Torrence (CB), Wendall Williams (S)

Analysis: As with the offensive line, there is a great deal of uncertainty involving the defensive backfield. Right now there are only three veteran players who appear to be certain to make the roster, and two of those three players are second year player who didn't do very much to impress during the 2004 season. Al Harris figures to be the rock of the defensive secondary, the only returning starter who is really guaranteed a starting position in 2005. Ahmad Carroll and Joey Thomas will both make the 2005 roster, and even though neither was impressive as a rookie they will likely battle it out for the starting position opposite Harris. The other two defensive backs who are locks to make the teams are Nick Collins and Marviel Underwood, and both of them will be on the roster because of where they were selected in the most recent draft (Collins in round two, Underwood in round four). If neither of the rookies can claim a starting spot, and chances are pretty good that both of them will be backups in 2005, it opens up a competition between veterans Mark Roman, Arturo Freeman and Earl Little. Roman may have an advantage because he played for the Packers in 2004, and Freeman may have an advantage because he has worked with Jim Bates in the past, but I don't think either of those experiences will automatically earn them a starting spot. If the Packers go with five safeties, it's likely that Roman, Freeman and Little will all make the roster. Normally I would consider Todd Franz a long-shot to make the roster, but he was given a $25,000 bonus to come to Green Bay which leads me to believe the Packers feel he has a decent chance of making the 2005 roster. After Harris, Carroll and Thomas, Mike Hawkins and Jason Horton are the two cornerbacks who have the best opportunity to make the roster. The remaining players figure to be long-shots. Included in this group is Chris Johnson, a legitimate size/speed prospect who to this point has never stayed healthy enough to make a contribution.

Special Teams:

Lock to make team: Ryan Longwell (K), Rob Davis (LS)

Has the inside track: B.J. Sander (P)

50/50 chance to make team: Brooks Barnard (P)

Long shot to make team: Bryce Benekos (P)

Analysis: Ryan Longwell and Rob Davis have been mainstays of the Packers organization for so long that it appears they will have no competition heading into the 2005 season. B.J. Sander's status as a third round pick in 2004 gives him the inside track to winning the punter job, and it appears that Brooks Barnard would be the first player to get a chance if Sanders stumbles in training camp.

Article by Joseph B. Coaty

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