15

June

Two Ways to Fit Six Wide Receivers on the 2012 Packers Roster

Tori Gurley

Can the Packers make room for a sixth WR like Tori Gurley?

The recent contract restructuring that Donald Driver agreed to with the Green Bay Packers has stamped a gigantic question mark over the wide receiver position. Namely, will the Packers’ 53-man roster include six wide receivers now that a roster spot is virtually guaranteed for Driver? Second-year players Diondre Borel, Tori Gurley, and even Shaky Smithson will all be competing for a spot on the roster, but it might require an additional receiver spot to make it possible.

Instead of debating the validity of keeping six wide receivers, I’ve decided to consider how this could actually happen. What roster moves would have to happen, and which option is the most likely?

Before diving in, I decided to do a little preliminary work and see how Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson have built their opening day rosters in the past. I first charted how many players were kept at each position, then went through and looked at the minimum number of players McCarthy has kept throughout the years. I didn’t take an average, since I though it more important to see how low the Packers were willing to go at a given position and use that as kind of a breaking point.

(Note: I only went back to 2009 due to the defensive scheme shift. Defensive positions prior to that point, especially DL and LB, would carry significantly different numbers.)

POS 2011 2010 2009 MIN
QB 2 2 2 2
WR 5 5 5 5
TE 5 4 3 3*
RB 3 2 3 2*
FB 1 3 3 1*
OL 8 10 9 8
DL 6 6 6 6
ILB 4 4 4 4
OLB 6 4 5 4
CB 7 6 6 6
S 3 4 4 3**
SP 3 3 3 3
TOTAL: 53 53 53 47 (51)

* – The TE, RB, FB positions comprised a total of 9 players throughout each year. TEs and FBs as blockers could be considered as mostly interchangeable, while some years the FB position took on a bigger ball-carrying role along with the RBs.

** – The safety position could be said to have a minimum breaking point of 4 players with the consideration that Jarrett Bush and Charles Woodson both played safety roles in the 2011 season. But across all three years, the DBs as a whole have sat at 10 players total.

After taking a look at the chart, there are some positions that remain definitively consistent: QB (2), WR (5), DL (6), ILB (4), SP (3). You could also add the DBs (10) and TE/FB/RB combination (9) as fairly stable with the latter more open to change.

This presents me with two basic options for adding an extra wide receiver . . .

OPTION #1: Take from the OL & LB

These two positions are the only ones that have seen fluctuation over the years. Combined, they make up the remaining 14 players on the roster; however, these two positions have practically nothing to do with each other. Unlike, say, the TE/FB positions, there’s no real trade-off between the two. Outside of special teams, these players are on completely different sides of the ball.

The Packers could keep 8 offensive lineman and 5 outside linebackers and have the room for 6 wide receivers. Or they could go 9 offensive lineman and 4 outside linebackers. Considering that having extra OLBs on the roster didn’t really help the position at all – since they were all equally pedestrian – it may not be that far of a stretch to go back to keeping 4 like they did in 2010.

Either way, these positions seem to have offered the most flexibility in the past, suggesting that they could offer more in this coming season.

OPTION #2: Take from the TE/FB/RB combo

In my first footnote below the chart, I noted that the three positions of TE, RB, and FB carried a combined 9 players throughout the years. While that may be purely coincidental, I think it still lends some insight into the philosophy of McCarthy’s offense. As a pass-focused unit, the offense relies on its halfbacks and fullbacks to pass protect first and foremost. And outside of Jermichael Finley, the same could be said about the tight ends. Running the ball and using tight ends as receivers is still part of the game plan, but none of these players will be put into that role without first being able to block oncoming pass rushers.

That being said, the tight ends – Finley in particular – share a significant role in the passing game. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch for them to give up a slot for the sixth wide receiver. In effect, we could see 4 tight ends, 3 running backs, and a fullback with what would normally be their ninth slot going to a wide receiver.

One player that could really affect this is Andrew Quarless. His injury situation might actually allow this scenario, especially if placed on the PUP or IR. It could provide some added flexibility through at least the first six games of the season.

CONCLUSION

Outside of these two options, I don’t really see much else. The QB position can’t go any lower, along with the DL, ILB and SP groups. The only other possibility is the defensive backs, but I think the Packers neared panic mode last season when Collins was lost to injury, and their past record indicates they like to keep a full 10 DBs on the roster.

The other wild card is the defensive line. Last year’s insufficient play combined with the suspensions of Mike Neal and Tony Hargrove could force the front office into some creative roster management. Fortunately the suspended players don’t count against the 53-man total, but how it will affect the other positions if/when they return is unclear.

Mike McCarthy has said that he puts the 53 best players on the roster, though logic and past practice indicate that positions require at least a certain number of players to adequately deal with unforeseen injuries. If he is to keep six wide receivers, however, then that player would have to prove himself more valuable than options at other positions.

He would also have to be a significant contributor to the special teams units, which McCarthy has admitted as another factor in deciding who makes the cut. Wide receivers have regularly been involved in special teams units, and the punt-blocking prowess of Tori Gurley might actually give him an edge in that battle.

I don’t think keeping six wide receivers is a far stretch, though it would definitely be a deviation from the norm.  If it does happen, the two basic scenarios outlined above are how I would see it playing out. And really, this far ahead of training camp, playing this type of numbers game is about the best we can do to speculate for now.

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Chad Toporski, a Wisconsin native and current Pittsburgh resident, is a writer for AllGreenBayPackers.com. You can follow Chad on twitter at @ChadToporski

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48 Responses to “Two Ways to Fit Six Wide Receivers on the 2012 Packers Roster”

  1. PackEyedOptimist says:

    The Packers are actually somewhat “lucky” to have the Neal, Hargrove, Quarless situations. They will also be “lucky” if another injury or two occurs–provided they aren’t to stars and aren’t career-changing. I’m sure TT will be trying to make some trades, and might be more than willing to “sell cheap.” I long for the days of much larger rosters–TT has gleaned incredible depth.

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  2. JohnBlood27 says:

    Nice article, very thought provoking and nice research to base your thesis upon.

    I would like to add one more consideration, namely the makeup of the practice squad and what position group the eligible and most-likely PS players would come from.

    The PS can provide roster depth if management feels the players targeted to the PS are likely to remain unclaimed.

    This year I see Datko as a candidate meaning that an OL of 8 might work to free up a flex spot on the 53.

    Moses might allow keeping 4 OLB on the 53 if he could be stashed on the PS.

    Richardson at S is another possibility for depth although I agree with and anticipate 10 DB no matter what.

    I see the DL as another dilemma this year, I could see the Pack keeping 7, meaning that another flex spot would have to be gleaned from the 53.

    Maybe all this means that some sacred cows need to be slaughtered. Maybe some position player really, really needs to learn to long snap. With the new rules about not lining on the head of the center on long snaps this should be a possibility which would open up one flex spot on the 53.

    Any other creative ideas?

    With TT’s propensity of finding talented youngsters, the GBP need to use his talents to full capacity and finding ways to keep the talent he finds and the coaches bring out is essential for the Packers to remain at the top of the NFL.

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    • Oppy says:

      I don’t think Datko would be safe on PS. Remember how long Jamon Meredith lasted on PS? He was a third rounder, IIRC.

      Datko is a kid that wasn’t drafted because of his shoulder injury and lack of playing the game for a season, but if he would have declared for the draft after his junior year, he was projected as a legit late 1st/early 2nd round OT prospect.

      That’s enough talent that it’s a no-brainer for a team to take a chance on signing him to league minimum from another team’s practice squad.

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  3. Mark says:

    List Gurley as TE–problem solved. Keep him on the 53-man roster instead of Quarless (PUP), possibly even have room for Borel as a 6th WR. TEs would be Finley, Williams, Crabtree, Gurley.

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    • Oppy says:

      I think this is interesting, however, I agree with FireMMnow that Ryan Taylor is going to be a better option than Crabtree in the not-so-distant future, so I’d go that route.

      Gurley is definitely a large WR, but he’d still be an undersized TE of sorts, and there’s no word on if he has -any- ability to be a physical blocker. That said, his lack of burning speed and his length make it a tempting fantasy to indulge in, but I think we might be really hard pressed to go to such lengths to justify keeping two extra WR’s.. That’s what we’re really doing here, right?

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      • ThomasMagnumPI ThomasMagnumPI says:

        Yeah, it is really a way to keep more pass-catchers; nothing more.

        I would argue, however, that Finley is already just a pass-catcher. We really only need one “blocking” TE on the roster, as they seem to be pretty readily-available on the street, should our primary guy (Taylor or Crabtree) go down mid-season.

        If we know that there is zero chance that we would be able to sneak either one of these guys onto the practice squad, it just seems like a massive squandering of talent, and we should do everything that is remotely reasonable to keep as many playmakers as possible on the roster.

        I just hope that Gurley and Borel can cover kicks and punts . . .

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  4. Dan "FireMMNow" Blakley FireMMNow says:

    good article. i would like to see the 4TE, 3RB and 1 FB option.

    TE: Finley, DJ Williams, Taylor and Crabtree or Quarless. I could see only keeping 3 TEs. I think Ryan Taylor will be better than Crabtree and he is a phenomenal special teams guy. Williams could be on the bubble as well unless he has a good camp and pre season. If they only keep 3 TEs they could keep the 6th WR and an extra OLB or DL. If there is an injury at the TE position there are usually guys on the street that can play.

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    • Oppy says:

      I don’t think you are going to have to choose between Crabtree and Quarless. I’m pretty certain Quarless will go from PUP (based solely on wishful thinking and the fact that he could then, potentially by mid-season if his leg is at all in order, practice with the team from week 7-10 without taking up a roster spot so they can evaluate his progress if he’s even able) to eventually being placed on IR. I don’t think the Packers are going to ever have to use a roster spot on him in 2012.

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      • PackersRS says:

        This. Instead of 5 TEs, we’ll have 4 or 3.

        Taken that PUP is a given, Quarless will either be placed on IR or take away Crabtree’s spot on the roster. In fact, I’m not sure Crabtree will make it at all. His niche is as a blocker, if he’s not the best in the team, he doesn’t make it. If Quarless won’t take it, maybe Taylor will.

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  5. Dan "FireMMNow" Blakley FireMMNow says:

    also, with reports from camp it sounds like there is no way moses makes it through the PS. it can all change when the pads go on, but apparently he is looking really good, and he is running with the 1s while CM3 is out. unless he flops when the pads are on he is probably going to be the top backup at olb.

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  6. Tarynfor12 Tarynfor12 says:

    The Donald has infected a lot more than the WR position.Not only are we trying to find a way to keep another WR with a higher benefit to the team than DD whether they being Gurley/Borel,we are attempting to justify the contempt that Donald is more valuable than a TE,OL,LB or even worse,the trading of a WR named JJ.

    TE and LB are the likely spots of depth that can be re-filled if needed but likely with a lesser use of what was let go.
    Hopefully,by week 6-8 when Quarless can return,enough evidence/common sense would have surfaced to warrant offering DD to retire,be released or traded.

    IMO,I hope whatever decision made and whoever the players let go,the damage of the DD senario is far less than the locker room veteran presence and field production that too many are expecting and really won’t matter for a team with younger veteran leaders.

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    • Oppy says:

      Taryn, I would be really shocked if Quarless played football in 2012.

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  7. Ron LC says:

    Plenty of manuverability on the full roster to accomodate any new talent regardless of position. The final 53 should represent the combination that will put the Pack in the best position to win the SB this year. That decision belongs to MM and Capers. Our input is based on an incomplete picture and stories from reporters that claim a degree of expertise beyond reality. But, it sure is fun.

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    • Oppy says:

      Dead on, Ron, we really don’t know squat, but it’s a blast to have the dialog!

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    • CSS says:

      Well said, Ron. And I’ll be ‘that guy’ when it comes to calling out the value of one position and the player that occupies it: John Kuhn has a cult following and the fans love him. Personally, I can’t see a single thing he does really well or even barely above average.

      I would love to see a TE flex into an H-back position. Your 3 RB’s on the roster can all catch the ball, so they offer a backfield threat. There are more areas to flex a TE and H-back in the modern game than a FB.

      Sure, I’m a fan of chanting the guys name, but I just can’t see the value there. I think he’s grossly overrated by casual fans.

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      • Oppy says:

        I have been nearly stoned for stating those same sentiments.

        The only thing Kuhn gives MM is a short yardage back from what I can see- that’s a role that either Starks, or Green SHOULD be able to fulfill.

        The way that Rodgers and MM talk about Kuhn, he’s a key cog in what they do. I don’t get it. He’s a WAY overpaid, just-average FB.

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        • Big T says:

          Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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          • BubbaOne says:

            You’re not being prejudice, you’re a racist pig. I believe this isn’t the first time you crawled in the gutter. If I’m right I hope Chad or AL throw you off this site FOR GOOD!!!

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          • Chad Toporski Chad Toporski says:

            Seriously, that comment was in very poor taste.

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            • CSS says:

              Anybody approving of the comment has even worse taste.

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              • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

                jeez… I had to read it like 10 times before I figured out the “joke”.

                I believe that’s strike #2. One more and you’re out, Mr. T.

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              • BubbaOne says:

                Al,
                I just gave you a dislike for two reasons. Debate? Racism is wrong, where’s the debate. Secondly, I take exception to giving this POS 3 strikes.

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      • Normthe1 says:

        I gotta go with the thinking of Ron LC here and think that if MM & AR constantly talk up Kuhn then maybe there is stuff we as fans, don’t know about?

        Personally, I think that Kuhn is THE safety net in case all the other RB’s get injured. He has done it before, albeit with mixed success…

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        • Ed Schoenfeld says:

          Aside from being a safety net as a runner, the importance of Kuhn can be expressed in 2 ideas and 4 words:

          Idea 1: Blitz Pickup
          Idea 2: Outlet Receiver

          Having Kuhn around to do that has provided the team time to let Starks grow into a starting role and keep trying youngsters (Green, Saine, Tyler, Bennett) to find better runners.

          Not needing to find RBs who have already developed (and thus demand early round draft picks to obtain), has let TT build the team at other positions (DE, OLB, CB, WR, LT) that are more critical to the Packers’ success.

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  8. Oppy says:

    The last day of minicamp saw the Packers throwing Lattimore and Jones back into the outside linebackers group.

    As Vic Ketchman on Packers.com pointed out, the ability to play ILB, OLB, and be a factor on STs makes you hard to get rid of.

    As Vic Ketchman didn’t point out, that’s the type of versatility that can also allow the Packers to open up a few roster spots if they so choose- just as I mentioned Jarret Bush’s versatility does for the secondary (CB/S/STs).

    The Packers have kept at minimum 4 OLBs and 4 ILBs. That’s two “starters” and two “Backups” each. If you’ve got a guy who can play both positions, Now perhaps you could trim the numbers down to 2 starters and one dedicated position back up at both ILB and OLB(a total of 3 players each), and one player as a back up who can play both positions, (for a total of 7 roster spots as opposed to 8). Add in that players’ ST contributions, and it’s clear why the Packers are always looking for that type of versatility from the young back ups.

    I think the LB positions will be a pivotal “clean up” area of the roster this season even though it is typically a very deep position in a 3-4 defense. I think the Packers will be cutting ties with a number of guys- we’ve got many LBs who have shown promise but not consistent production for a few years, and there seems to be too many bodies. Time to par it down.

    All the incumbents at LB with exception to Clay Matthews and Desmond Bishop will be on notice. DJ Smith and Jamari Lattimore are upswing players; Jones has versatility, and Perry isn’t going anywhere. That’s 5 or maybe 6 guys who are making the squad for certain(Jones is the outlier). Outside of them, I think it’s going to be a brutal competition for the remaining roster spots, and I don’t know how many the Packers will keep. If it means opening up spots for other talented ball players, they might go really lean this year.

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    • CSS says:

      How much are fans going to freak out when So’oto doesn’t make the final roster because he can’t differentiate himself on special teams like Lattimore, Manning and potentially Moses.

      Pads need to come on, sure. I hate the tease of OTA’s and now this gap.

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      • Oppy says:

        Completely agree, it’s such a tease with a long wait to cap it off.

        I certainly hope Dezman Moses isn’t a tease, either. It could be a great boon if the Packers Packers landed not only Perry, but also another legit pass-rushing threat from the LB position to spell both Matthews and Perry and just add more flexibility in general.

        Btw, I’m one of those guys who has always been intrigued with the physicality So’oto brings to the table (I feel like we could use a nasty bruiser on the edge), but I don’t think I’m the freak-out type. I was pulling for Sutton a few years ago, but I understood his odds and accepted his demise ;)

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        • CSS says:

          I have nothing against So’oto and hope he surprises, but he strikes me as a very linear (straight-line) sledgehammer as opposed to a lateral, quicker twitch athlete. The lateral guys offer scheme versatility, flexibility and special teams acumen. The linear guys are specialists that do nothing but get downhill.

          The roster looks to be heavily populated with those linear type athletes during OTA’s, not a good sign for So’oto.

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          • CSS says:

            Meant heavily populated with those ‘lateral types’….

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          • Oppy says:

            I think you’re probably right on the money with that take.

            If there’s one one to summarize the direction the Packers seem to be headed with many of their personnel additions this offseason, it would be ‘Athleticism’.

            I think So’oto has a good mix of size, speed and strength for the position, but the knock on him (besides being completely raw/lack of technique) would be his lateral agility.

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    • Mark says:

      Cut Hawk.

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      • Oppy says:

        I used to defend the man, but now there’s enough talent behind him that I can no longer say he deserves to keep his job at this point.

        Based on the way the Packers trust their scouting and player assessment, I don’t think we’re likely to see Hawk cut in 2012.. They will give him every opportunity to bounce back from last year’s poor showing.

        That said, I could see the Packers benching Hawk by week 6 if he continues to play poorly and DJ Smith shows marked improvement in year 2 during training camp and the preseason. Hawk could be cut at the end of the season, but I don’t think the Packers will put him on the chopping block for 2012.

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        • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

          And watch out for Terrell Manning. He’s one of my sleepers this year…

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          • Oppy says:

            Manning is a guy who average fans forget about, but I have seen numerous pro players, scouts, and other NFL insiders say that they really like what he brings to the table, so I figure he’s probably going to stick.

            To be completely honest, when I watch his tape, I don’t see anything spectacular that jumps out to me overall, but he seems like a well-rounded player. I trust that I’m just missing the details in the way he goes about his business, with so many pros having a keen interest in him.

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          • Oppy says:

            Crazy thought:

            What if the Packers conserve as many spots at LB as possible, and instead of keeping an extra WR (or two), the use them to absolutely stack the D line?

            Perhaps the Packers could employ more 3 safety defensive sets (using the extra safety in the box like an extra LB in nickle during balanced situations- equal opportunity of run/pass) and therefore they could justify keeping a player like McMillian on the roster- a guy who might need some time to develop as a safety (he’s probably not one of the top 3 on the roster at this time), but has good instincts and hits like a ton of bricks..

            Perhaps we’d see Williams/Woodson/Shields/House/Heyward/(bush) at CB, Burnett/Jennings/(Bush)/(McMillian) at S, and then reduced numbers in the LB corps as mentioned previously, drawing on the fact that McMillian would be used situationally as the 3rd safety/4th LB to give more balance for run/pass in nickle packages.

            Maybe this opens up another spot for another D lineman.

            Alright, now I’ve gone completely crazy with unrealistic projections.

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            • Turophile says:

              I’m with Oppy in expecting an extra D lineman (they keep 7). The Packers have added so many guys at this position it is logical to expect them to keep an extra one. I’m expecting one out of Merling, Guy and Wilson (all of whom make my cut) to go, when Neal returns from suspension). Raji,Worthy,Pickett, Daniels also make the cut on the DL.
              My breakdown would be:
              QB2, WR6, TE3, RB3, FB1, OL9, total=24
              DL7, LB9, DB10, total=26
              LS1, K1, P1, total=3, grand total=53

              That allows OT Datko to be kept on the 53, it allows one of WRs Moss, Gurley, Borel, to be on the squad. If Quarless comes back this year (probably not) there is a problem, the 9th LB or 6th WR would likely lose their roster spot.

              The most debateable part of my prediction is, imo, that they might go 4TE instead of 9OL, but I don’t think Crabtree makes the cut this year, with Taylor taking on his blocking duties and Quarless (a good blocker) coming back at some point either this season or next.

              For the 9 LBs, 4 OLBs, Matthews, Perry, and two of Walden, Zombo, Moses, So’oto. 5 ILBs are (imo) Hawk, Bishop, D.J.Smith, Manning, and one of Lattimore or Jones.

              If you look at the 10 DBs, Woodson, Williams, Shields, House, Hayward, Bush, Burnett, Jennings, McMillian, Peprah, that looks a strong group. Wouldn’t want to mess with that.

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              • Turophile says:

                Forgot to include Francois as a possible ILB. He would get lumped with Lattimore and Jones as a candidate for the last ILB spot.

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  9. Ron LC says:

    Gasoline on the fire? :)

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  10. Mojo says:

    Judging on the number of reply’s, I can see this is a popular topic. First I would like to refute MM’s cliche comment about keeping the best 53. If you really kept the best 53 you might have some position groups with no one on the roster. Not likely to happen.

    I’d like to see them keep at least 7 DLineman this year and keep rotating Pickett and Raji out more often. Give more snaps to the high-energy guys, like a Hargrove or Daniels type. Not only does this keep the fat guys more refreshed, but should give the team more of what it needs – an inside pass-rush. So combined with the sixth WR the Pack needs to cut-back at two other position groups. How about one each from the O and D. Use 3 TE’s and 9 combined total LB’s.

    {In hushed tones and with the proper amount of respect} the bottom line is: however the Pack mix and match the position groups they’re not keeping the best 53 because they’ve opted to keep DD on the roster.

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    • Tarynfor12 Tarynfor12 says:

      In hushed tones,mixed tones,bad tones,two tones…..there are 53 players more deserving of a roster spot than DD.

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      • Ed Schoenfeld says:

        The idea that DD does not deserve a roster spot as one of the best 53 players is, at this point, pure speculation.

        Only the coaches know for sure. The haven’t played favorites before; there is no reason to think they are playing favorites now.

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    • Oppy says:

      You want increased inside pass rush?

      Maybe we need better inside LBs for our base defense, too. Then we might not need to run nickle out on the field all the time.

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    • ThomasMagnumPI ThomasMagnumPI says:

      I’m not so sure about DD. It’s not like we’re running a fantasy football team here. I have been all for letting him move on this season, but he does seem to be a guy that ALWAYS shows up for big games. I remember that he looked like the only guy in a green shirt that looked like he wanted to be on the field in that playoff game vs the Giants a few years ago, and he looked like the only guy ready to play vs the Giants last year. Something has to be said about the veteran leadership that he brings to the table–something that NONE of the young playmakers bring.

      That being said–he’s being kept. GB needs to find a way to create as deep and talented of a roster as possible, given the constraints they have for filling positional needs vs. the talented players that they have loaded up on at wr. I hope they find a way to have their cake and eat it too.

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  11. Jim Hurly says:

    Packers seem to be cross-training LBs to play inside and out, so we could see them keep fewer LBs to accomodate a 6th WR. I bet they trade James Jones to make it happen.

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  12. Don says:

    I like the 2011 squad make-up with these minor changes:

    Offensively I’d keep 7 WRs adding both Gurley and Borel. Reduce the TEs to 3 – Finley, Williams and Taylor – with Quarless on the new IR tag. If/when Quarless can play, then cut Taylor.

    Defensively I’d add a Safety and reduce the CBs to 6

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    • ThomasMagnumPI ThomasMagnumPI says:

      I like it, except I would keep the defensive backfield deep, keep Taylor around as a ST dynamo, and trim some of the also-rans from the LB corps.

      Also, I see no reason why Borel cannot be cross-trained to function in the slot, as well as Finley’s spot, in order to have another versatile backup in the mix.

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