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By CHRIS HAVEL
Each draft pick plus six undrafted players make the 53-man roster; Nelson should be “full go” Sunday
The reasons why training camp and the preseason are necessary evils are numerous and varied.
It is an opportunity for unheralded, undrafted players such as Wesley College’s Joe Callahan and Marwin Evans, the pride of Oak Creek High School, to make a name and a roster.
It is a chance for veteran receiver Jordy Nelson to work his way back from last year’s season-ending knee injury into being his old Pro Bowl self again. It is a time for players to emerge, coaches to evaluate and fans to daydream about the Packers’ tremendous potential.
The journey begins in Jacksonville with old and new faces alike.
Word has it Nelson will be “full go” come Sunday. I don’t doubt it. This has less to do with strategy and more to do with Nelson. Whatever’s best for him is what the team’s medical staff will do. If they believe he can play 50-plus snaps who am I to doubt it?
Now just because he could play that many snaps doesn’t mean he will.
At any rate, GM Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy made sure the 53-man roster won’t fall short of available targets for Aaron Rodgers.
The Packers kept seven receivers.
Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, Jeff Janis, Ty Montgomery, Jared Abbrederis and Trevor Davis all are on the 53. Furthermore, camp surprises Geronimo Allison and Herb Waters were signed to the teams’ 10-man practice squad.
The Packers maintained the status but hopefully not to quo with Eddie Lacy and James Starks at running back. Both need to play better than they did a year ago. Aaron Ripkowski is the fullback. Expect him to have a strong season.
Green Bay added undrafted running back Jhurell Pressley to the roster. Pressley has kick return skills as well as the type of burst the Packers have been looking for out of the backfield.
Josh Sitton’s unexpected release put the offensive line on its heels. Speculation has surrounded Sitton’s departure. Some sources allege a back issue, although the Chicago Bears wasted no time signing Sitton to a new contract.
I suspect Lane Taylor’s game had improved to the point where the Packers felt he was at least in the same conversation as Sitton. Furthermore, Sitton’s obvious dissatisfaction with the team’s preference to pass rather than throw at times – he did nothing to hide his discontent – may not have sat well.
What matters now is how well they protect and run block.
Jared Cook and the tight ends should be a 100-percent upgrade from a year ago. Cook looks terrific and Richard Rodgers is a sleeker, more focused player. Justin Perillo is reliable.
Defensively, the Packers are lean on the line.
Mike Daniels, Letroy Guion, Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry and Christian Ringo are the five up front.
The fact that three-fifths of them have no NFL experience is rather disconcerting. Datone Jones’ switch to the “elephant” position gives defensive coordinator Dom Capers some flexibility if he has to play him at end.
Clark and Lowry are rookies. Ringo was on the team’s practice squad a year ago. Much is expected of all three.
The linebackers and secondary appears locked and loaded.
Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, Nick Perry and Jones are expected to bring the pass rush. The rotation among them will be interesting.
Blake Martinez, Jake Ryan and Joe Thomas are the inside linebackers. It seems awful thin. It also suggests another season – or at least some cameos – of “Matthews in the Middle.” Capers will do what he has to do.
Sam Shields, Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins, Larius Gunter, Josh Hawkins and Makinton Dorleant all made the roster.
So did safeties Morgan Burnett, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Micah Hyde, Chris Banjo, Kentrell Brice and Marwin Evans.
The Packers’ secondary appears to be loaded. Now they must get ready for the Jaguars.
Journey to Jacksonville
Quarterback Blake Bortles has Jacksonville fans believing. He completed nearly 60 percent of his passes the past two seasons. A year ago, he threw for 35 touchdowns and 4,428 yards.
Bortles’ favorite target is Allen Robinson, a 6-3 athlete who can win the 50-50 battles against most defenders. He had 14 touchdown receptions for 1,400 yards last season.
Defensively, the Jaguars are young and aggressive. I suspect Rodgers will use some of that friskiness against the Jags.
Prediction: Packers 31, Jaguars 23
Reason: The Packers’ defense and special teams are going to come up big early in this one. Special teams play is especially important early in the season when coverage units aren’t clicking yet.
If Green Bay gets an early lead, look for Shields and Co. to go ball-hawking in search of pick-six material.
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. Also check out our new Podcast: Between the Lines for more Packers insights. New episodes every Wednesday.