Kris Burke: My Initial Packers 53-man Roster Prediction

Ted Thompson

This is the face many players are dreading to see this week.

First, a little bit of a disclaimer:

I HATE doing roster predictions.

Why, you may ask? I don’t like pretending I’m smarter than I really am.  Packers GM Ted Thompson has one of the shrewdest minds in the NFL, and I don’t.  If I did, I wouldn’t be writing this right now.

I do not envy Thompson at this time of year, however.  He has done such a masterful job at building a roster that he in a sense backs himself into a corner each training camp and has to make some difficult choices. A third stringer on the Packers is sometimes good enough to be a starter on the other 31 teams, but thanks to the ludicrous depth Thompson has built, they’re stuck on the bench.

Since we’re on the topic, here’s my best guess at what the Packers’ opening day roster will look like:

Quarterback (2)—Rodgers, Harrell

I’m still on the fence as to whether or not the Packers hang on to Graham Harrell or trade for a more experienced backup.  Even if Harrell plays poorly against the Chiefs on Thursday, the Packers may keep him anyway.  If the Browns offer some conditional picks for Colt McCoy, if they even try to trade him, then I could see Thompson pulling the trigger.

Running Back (5)-Benson, Green, Saine, Kuhn, Starks

I wanted to cut Starks, but with no one really standing out to be the sixth wide receiver, Neo remains a Packer though he’s the mostly likely of this group to get cut. Saine remains an interesting prospect once he is healthy and Alex Green keeps progressing.

Wide Receivers (5)-Nelson, Jennings, Driver, Jones, Cobb

No brainer here.  With Diondre Borel and Tori Gurley disappointing in training camp, the once-possible notion of the Packers hanging onto six wide receivers has come and gone.

Tight Ends (4)-Finley, Crabtree, Williams, Taylor


Offensive Line (8)-Lang, Sitton, Newhouse, Saturday, Bulaga, Dietrich-Smith, Datko, Wells

Dietrich-Smith remains the heir apparent to Saturday as the center of the future, and Wells has shown versatility like Lang to move around the line and fill in where needed.  Datko has shown just enough as the last spot here came down to him and Barclay, who despite having some versatility, just seemed to be outmuscled by Datko.



How Much Longer Can A.J. Hawk Remain a Packers Starter?

D.J. Smith

Could D.J. Smith take A.J. Hawk's job in 2012?

Since being drafted in the first round of the 2006 NFL draft, A.J. Hawk has consistently been one of the most criticized players for the Green Bay Packers.  In fact, it would be safe to say that the former No. 5 overall pick has been widely considered somewhat of a bust during his tenure in the league.

It seems that every year Packers fans are wondering whether or not this will be the last time that Hawk remains a starting inside linebacker for Green Bay.  However, every year before the start of the regular season they inevitably see Hawk’s name in the starting lineup without a possible replacement challenging him.

That may no longer be the case for Green Bay and Hawk.  According to a report from Gregg Rosenthal at NFL.com, Hawk could lose playing time to second-year player D.J. Smith.  Rosenthal does state that it is unlikely that Smith will completely replace Hawk, but could definitely begin taking away snaps from him.

However, the most interesting quote in Rosenthal’s article is the comment from defensive coordinator Dom Capers that basically states that Smith will be competing for Hawk’s job.  It is one thing for a reporter to say Smith could take Hawk’s job, but it is another thing entirely to have the head-honcho of the defense saying the same thing.

Smith became a fan favorite while filling in when Desmond Bishop injured his knee last year.  One reason why fans in Green Bay loved Smith so much was due to his passion for the game.  He played every snap at 110 percent and was widely effective during his time on the field.

While no one would ever say Hawk doesn’t give his all on the field, you have to wonder what happened to the dominant linebacker who ravaged offenses at Ohio State.  Whereas  Hawk seems to have reached a ceiling that is lower than anyone expected, Smith appears to be capable of becoming much better.  He looks like he could become an exceptional player in this league, and that type of talent simply can’t sit on the bench.

The only question that remains is how long does Hawk have before he stops losing snaps to Smith and simply loses his job completely?



Wide Receiver Jordy Nelson Appears on NFL’s Top 100 of 2012

Green Bay Packer Jordy Nelson against the Chicago Bears

Jordy Nelson makes the NFL Top 100 at No. 80

After posting 68 receptions, 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns (all which happened to lead the team), Jordy Nelson is starting to get respect from everyone, including the NFL Network.

During last night’s broadcast of the Top 100 Players of 2012, Nelson came in at No. 80, right ahead of defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and behind cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.  While being considered the 80th best football in the NFL by the NFL Network is definitely quite the honor, there is certainly a reason for him to feel he was shortchanged.

Of the 30 players that have been revealed so far, two receivers currently rank ahead of Nelson.  Cincinnati Bengals’ receiver A.J. Green came in at No. 77 and Philadelphia Eagles’ receiver came in at No. 71.  There is little doubt that both Green and Jackson are extremely talented receivers, but neither comes close to what Nelson did in 2011 or what he’s likely to in 2012.

Both Green and Jackson had less yards, receptions and touchdowns than Nelson.  When you combine that with the fact that Nelson was playing next to receivers like Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones, Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley, it makes Nelson’s numbers even more impressive.

While last year’s performances are only part of the equation in deciding the Top 100 for the following year, all signs point to Nelson becoming an even bigger threat in 2013.  Over the past three seasons, Nelson has quietly increased his receptions, yards and touchdowns.  With Driver likely to see a decreased role with the team, Nelson will only get more looks from Aaron Rodgers, likely meaning more production.

The NFL Top 100 list has also been a hot topic of conversation in years past, and this year will certainly be no different.  I’m sure Nelson is honored at being considered one of the best of the best, but there is certainly reason for him to be upset at being surpassed by two less talented receivers.

What do you think?  Was Nelson ranked too low, too high or just right?





Anthony Hargrove Suspended For Half of 2012-13 Season

Anthony Hargrove says he's a Green Bay Packer

Anthony Hargrove will miss the first eight games of the 2012 season.

If the Green Bay Packers were expecting defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove to make an early impact during his inaugural season with the team, they might need to revisit their plans.

Roger Goodell handed out the penalties for four players from the New Orleans Saints for their involvement in “Bountygate” scandal.  Hargrove received the second-harshest punishment of all the Saints’ players (only Jonathan Vilma receiver a harsher punishment).

According to a report from NFL.com, Hargrove has been suspended for the first eight games of the 2012 NFL season.  This is a big hit to the Packers, who likely knew that some type of punishment was coming, but probably couldn’t fathom him missing half the season.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reported that Hargrove and the other suspended Saints’ players are likely to appeal their suspensions.

While Hargrove’s play will be sorely missed by the Packers because of their desperate need for improved defensive line play, the suspension of Hargrove brings an entirely new issue to Green Bay.

The Packers have never been a team to deal with too much drama.  In fact, when drama surrounding the team occurs, Ted Thompson and Co. like to get as far away from it as possible.  This is completely understandable due to how much of a distraction a huge legal battle can distract the rest of the team from focusing on next Sunday’s game.

I don’t think that the Packers will completely wash their hands of Hargrove and simply replace him, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Hargrove spend the majority of the season on the bench after his suspension.  The Packers’ front office could let Hargrove contribute in a backup role, and give him the opportunity to fight for a starting spot come the following offseason.

The good news for the Packers is that they drafted two defensive lineman during the 2012 NFL draft.  Both Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels will now get a great opportunity to get on the field as rookies.  Worthy may even be talented enough to fight for a starting spot opposite Ryan Pickett on the defensive line.

The Hargrove suspension will be one to watch closely in the upcoming weeks, as it isn’t likely to go away anytime soon.



Green Bay Packers Release Safety Nick Collins

Nick Collins has been released by the Packers

The Green Bay Packers have released free safety Nick Collins today according to a report from Jason Wilde at ESPN-Milwaukee.  This decision has been hanging around us all since Collins saw his season end just two games in after suffering a severe neck injury against the Carolina Panthers.

Collins was one of the most beloved Packers on the entire roster, and his overall performance on the field is what caused so many fans to fall in love with him as a player.  Collins was voted to three straight Pro Bowls heading into the 2011 season, and was also a member of three straight All-Pro Teams.

No one will ever forget his interception that was returned for a touchdown in Super Bowl XLV against the Pittsburgh Steelers.  It was that play that was the catalyst for the Packers to bring the Lombardi Trophy home after so many years.

Now the Packers need to figure out what to do without Collins, and it’ll all start tomorrow with the 2012 NFL draft.  Instead of being able to focus on outside linebacker and defensive line early in the draft, Ted Thompson and the Packers will now need to add safety to their positions of greatest need for the 2012 season.

Some names to keep an eye on in the first or second round for Green Bay are Harrison Smith, George Iloka and Brandon Taylor.  Each of these prospects could eventually replace the production that fans were used to seeing from Collins.

Whatever happens in the upcoming days, there are two things that we can be assured of.  One is that the Packers will figure out how to survive without Collins.  They went 15-1 without him last year, and now they’ll be prepared.

Secondly, we can be assured that Collins will always be remembered as one of the greatest defensive players in Packers history, despite only playing a few seasons for the team.  He was simply that talented, and he’ll be missed by all.





Is Ryan Grant About to Leave the Packers?

Could Ryan Grant find a new team before the NFL Draft?

There was a time not too long ago that running back Ryan Grant appeared to be the future at running back for the Green Bay Packers.  Thanks to back-to-back 1,200-yard rushing seasons in 2008 and 2009, Grant looked ready to solidify himself as one of the better backs in the league.

Unfortunately, misfortune struck Grant as he suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 1 after just eight carries.  While the Packers struggled mightily to find a consistent ground game in Grant’s absence during the 2010 season, the emergence of James Starks during the playoffs was the beginning of the end to Grant’s career in Green Bay.

While he played well last season in his final contract year for the Packers, it was practically guaranteed that Grant wouldn’t be coming back for the 2012 season.

Now, thanks to a report from Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press Gazette, it appears as if teams are stepping forward for Grant’s services, and none of those teams appear to be the Green Bay Packers.

What does this exactly mean for Green Bay?

Well, it’s not a secret that the Packers are a pass-first team.  However, a good portion of their success on offense comes from the ability to move the ball on the ground.  With Starks, Alex Green and Brandon Saine as the only running backs on the roster, Grant could initially be missed if he doesn’t return to Green Bay.

While Starks, Green and Saine are certainly talented, they lack the experience that Grant brings to the field.  Don’t be surprised if the Packers’ offense struggles for a game or two without Grant on the roster, should that be the case.

Another aspect that Grant’s possible departure brings up is how the Packers will address the 2012 draft.  If a deal is indeed done before April 26th, then Green Bay could very well look to use an early round pick on a running back to become their premier back.

It’s possible that if a prospect like Doug Martin of Boise State or Lamar Miller of Miami drops to the 28th pick of the draft, the Packers could pull the trigger to improve their offense.  Of course, that would only happen if there isn’t a pass-rusher worth a first-round pick available to them.



2012 NFL Schedule: Packers Schedule To be Revealed Tonight

National Football LeagueAccording to Will Brinson of CBSSports.com, the NFL will release their 2012  schedule at 7PM EST on NFL Network.  Even if you don’t subscribe to the NFL’s own channel, there will be plenty of places to find the Green Bay Packers 2012 schedule (including right here).

While it has been known for months who the Packers will be playing during the upcoming season, the exact weeks, times and stations of those games has remained unknown.

So, what does this mean for you?

Well, by about 8PM EST tonight, you’ll be able to have every Sunday, Monday, Thursday and possibly Saturday scheduled from the middle of August straight through the cold Wisconsin winter.  In fact, it would probably be wise if you started spending more time with your families and loved ones now to make up lost time during the NFL season.

In case you were wondering, here is a list of opponents that will likely be losing to the Packers once the season begins:

Home – Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, New Orleans Saints, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans

Away – Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings, St. Louis Rams, Seattle Seahawks, New York Giants, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts