Packers WR’s extremely deep: tough roster decisions ahead
By Thomas Silverstein, Journal-Sentinel
~Green Bay – For fledgling NFL players, trying to crack the Green Bay Packers’ 53-man roster is about as difficult as scoring a part in a Martin Scorsese film.
There’s too much A-list talent already signed up.
But the deliberations general manager Ted Thompson will have to make in casting the defending Super Bowl champions may be as challenging as any in his career because of potential talent hidden among the 86 players he has in training camp.
Take, for instance, the wide receiver position.
You can pencil in Greg Jennings, James Jones, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb to the 53-man roster. And you can pretty much assume Donald Driver will be there, too.
But what does he do with a guy like Chastin West, who spent the entire 2010 season on the practice squad and blasted into the forefront with five catches for 134 yards, including a 97-yard touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals Friday night?
It would be one thing if West were the only receiver causing Thompson a double-take, but rookies Diondre Borel and Tory Gurley have been pretty good, too. What in the name of roster limits is Thompson to do?
From West’s perspective, this is exactly the dilemma he wanted to create.
“You have really good receivers who just won the Super Bowl and played well in the Super Bowl,” he said after his big preseason performance against the Cardinals. “You have to change their mind and do what you can do to make the team.”
It might seem easy for Thompson to say he’ll go with six wide receivers on the roster – he usually goes with five – but that means taking from another position to pump up one that already is deep and talented.
He could carry one fewer running back, but he’s got a problem there, too.
In addition to James Starks and Ryan Grant, fourth-round pick Alex Green has shown considerable promise, John Kuhn is a lock as the top fullback and Dimitri Nance and Quinn Johnson are in the running for spots as well. The fewest running backs Thompson has kept is five in 2008 and six has been the norm.
If he keeps just five, that means there’s no chance to keep undrafted rookie Brandon Saine, who has looked surprisingly good, and might mean the release of Grant. If he keeps six at this spot, he then has to make up for the extra receiver somewhere else.
How about at tight end?
Forget about that. At this point, he could legitimately keep five of the six he has in camp. Jermichael Finley is the only lock, but Andrew Quarless, D.J. Williams, Ryan Taylor, Tom Crabtree and Spencer Havner are all options.
Cut Quarless and you’d be letting go of your second-best athlete at the position. Let Crabtree go and you lose your best blocker. Taylor has been too good to let go, and Williams has done enough to make you think he’s a prospect.
Say Thompson keeps five. He could count one as a fullback and keep just four backs, but there would be some risk involved in that since the tight ends really only serve as fullbacks on passing downs. If something happened to Kuhn, he’d be in trouble in short yardage situations.
There’s always the possibility Thompson could keep nine offensive linemen or defensive backs instead of the usual 10, but getting caught short in those positions can be deadly for a contender. He very well could want to keep an extra defensive back with youngsters like Brandian Ross and Josh Gordy pushing for a spot.
And so the deliberations continue.
“It’s like musical chairs,” West said of his chances. “Sometimes the chair is going to be there when the music stops.”
Quick to the line: In both preseason games, the Packers were slow out of the gate offensively.
Then they went to the no-huddle offense and marched down the field for touchdowns. It’s starting to look as if the no-huddle could be something the Packers use a lot more.
“We’ll see,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “It’s something that we can use. It’s been in the plan for a while. We worked on it last preseason a lot, never really ran it in a game and didn’t use it until the Atlanta game. I think it was Week 12. We’ll see what happens.”
From Rodgers’ standpoint, it’s a good tempo-setter, but running it won’t be as easy in the regular season because opponents will prepare for it and be ready to defend it.
“Defenses have really passed up offenses as far as schematically and doing things that will make it difficult for the offense to know who’s coming and what coverage to play behind it,” Rodgers said. “When you get in the no-huddle, it can vanilla that down a little.
“But some teams are going to game-plan for us and we’ll figure out what kind of role that no-huddle is going to play for us.”
Loud and clear: Chalk up one thumbs up for the Packers’ new sound system at Lambeau Field.
“That’s an improvement,” Rodgers said. “They’re still playing that ‘Roll Out the Barrel’ song. I don’t know if we can get that out of there. But it’s nice to be back in Lambeau.”
Practice schedule: The Packers do not practice Sunday. They will be off until Monday when they take the field at 11:15 a.m.
They have a short week with practices Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and then preseason game No. 3 Friday at Indianapolis.
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