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Packers like ex-Badgers receiver; Look for Green Bay to go with Hundley (third QB) on final roster
By CHRIS HAVEL
The Packers must reach the league-mandated 53-man roster limit on Saturday. Here is my position-by-position roster breakdown:
Aaron Rodgers looks like he’s in peak condition mentally and physically. Scott Tolzien has shown steady progress in the No. 2 role. UCLA rookie Brett Hundley has been the top rookie throughout the preseason. Hundley played his way on the 53-man roster by completing 45 of 65 passes for seven touchdowns and one interception. Hundley’s passer rating was an eye-popping 129.7.
Running backs (3):
Eddie Lacy’s potential for a monster season is considerable. The Packers are going to have to spread the ball around, and expect Lacy to get his in healthy doses. James Starks is an effective counterpart, while Rajion Neal provides a much-needed burst and special teams competence.
Head coach Mike McCarthy’s big-picture approach to his job enables him to see the value of keeping John Kuhn and Aaron Ripkowski on the roster. Kuhn is too important to the special teams and as a situational No. 3 back, while Ripkowski is a big, strong young man who can help immediately on special teams while he learns at fullback.
Tight ends (3):
Richard Rodgers, Andrew Quarless and Mitchell Henry. Rodgers has an opportunity to become a key weapon in the Packers’ attack. My hunch is that Rodgers answers the call in a big way. Henry wins out over rookie Kennard Backman because of special teams play.
The loss of Jordy Nelson makes it incumbent on each receiver to elevate his game. Randall Cobb (bruised shoulder) may have averted disaster in the Eagles’ preseason game by avoiding a major injury. The Packers should beat the Bears in the Sept. 13 opener with or without Cobb, but it would be a lot easier with him. Ty Montgomery (hamstring) also is dealing with an injury. A healthy Montgomery is an exciting option, while Davante Adams is going to be a strong No. 2.
The Nos. 4 and 5 are going to be Jeff Janis and Jared Abbrederis. Janis has a chance to be pretty good, while the Packers seem to really trust Abbrederis despite scant playing time.
Offensive line (9):
The starters are (left to right) – David Bakhtiari, Josh Sitton, Corey Linsley, T.J. Lang and Bryan Bulaga. The backups will be Don Barclay, J.C. Tretter, Lane Taylor and Josh Walker. Barclay has been shaky while coming off an ACL injury. Walker probably makes the 53-man because of his potential (he’s a powerful 6-4, 330) and his attitude (he’s got a little nasty in him.)
Defensive line (5):
Datone Jones (one game) and Letroy Guion (three games) don’t count against the opening-day roster. So that leaves Mike Daniels, B.J. Raji and Josh Boyd as the starting trio in the 3-4 base alignment. Mike Pennel has shown promise during camp, and Bruce Gaston is a brawler. This could be the end of the line for second-year pro Khyri Thornton, who has shown next to nothing in two pre-seasons. Expect rookie sixth-round pick Christian Ringo to make the practice squad.
Nick Perry, Julius Peppers, Clay Matthews and Sam Barrington likely will open in the 3-4 base defensive alignment. That leaves Mike Neal, Jay Elliott and Andy Mulumba as the top outside-linebacker reserves. At inside linebacker, rookie Jake Ryan, Carl Bradford and Joe Thomas are the top backups.
Defensive backs (10):
The starters are solid with Sam Shields, Casey Hayward, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett. It appears rookies Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins and Ladarius Gunter will play in the nickel (Rollins/Randall) and dime. Backup safeties Micah Hyde, Sean Richardson and Chris Banjo will be key members on special teams.
Mason Crosby continues to rank among the league’s top place-kickers. The Packers are fortunate to have stayed with him when he struggled a couple seasons ago. Now, I suspect the Packers will give Tim Masthay every chance to work through his recent struggles at punter. Masthay rebounded from a weak camp to punt well against the Saints. I suspect Masthay will be OK going forward. The long snapper remains Brett Goode.
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com). Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games.