Predicting The Green Bay Packers 53-Man Roster

In 1986, then Green Bay Packers coach Forrest Gregg stunned the football world by releasing quarterback Lynn Dickey and tight end Paul Coffman at the end of training camp.

At the time, Dickey held most of the Packers’ all-time passing records, while Coffman ranked among the top tight ends in team history.

The moves sent shockwaves through Packer Nation. And more than two decades later, both Dickey and Coffman were still furious.

“Forrest, he’s someone I have nothing to say about,” Coffman once told me.

Dickey didn’t hold back when discussing Gregg.

“Bart and Forrest were like night and day,” Dickey said, referring to Bart Starr, his first coach in Green Bay. “Bart would work you extremely hard physically. I’ve never worked harder than I did under Bart. But he treated people with decency and treated you like a man.

“Forrest came in and he yelled at you and he insulted you in front of the team. Some things went on with him that would never work at any level. Forrest knew his X’s and O’s, but he had no idea about people skills.”

Those moves, of course, blew up in Gregg’s face.

The replacements flopped, Green Bay won just nine games over the next two seasons and Gregg was fired after the 1987 campaign.

Two weeks into training camp, it’s unlikely you’ll see any shocking cuts like the ones in 1986. The overwhelming majority of Green Bay’s roster spots seem settled, while a handful of jobs will be decided over the next few weeks.

All NFL teams must trim their rosters from 90 players to 85 on Aug. 16, then to 80 by Aug. 23. Teams must then reduce their rosters to 53 on Aug. 30.

Green Bay will have a handful of tough decisions to make on its way to a final 53. Here’s a glance at each positional group and how the Packers’ roster could look when they head to Minnesota for the season opener on Sept. 11.

QUARTERBACKS (2): Aaron Rodgers, Jordan Love.

Cut: Danny Etling.

Analysis: Rodgers is coming off back-to-back MVP seasons and has been extremely sharp again this summer. If he can carry an offense with many questions, a third straight MVP is certainly possible.

Love’s growth has been one of the most encouraging developments this summer. The 2020 first round draft choice — written off by many after two quiet seasons — has been poised, accurate and assertive.

“I just think of all the positions, the quarterback one mentally has the most on him,” Gutekunst said. “But I think you’re seeing him with a more confident level of ‘OK, know what’s going to happen before it happens,’ which I think is really important for the quarterback. All players, but especially the quarterback.”

The 28-year-old Etling has been on six practice squads since entering the league in 2018. If the Packers find a younger player to groom at this position, they would likely jump at the chance.

OFFENSIVE LINE (8): Yosh Nijman, Jon Runyan, Josh Myers, Royce Newman, Zach Tom, Sean Rhyan, Jake Hanson, Cole Van Lanen.

Physically Unable to Perform List (2): David Bakhtiari, Elgton Jenkins.

Cut: Rasheed Walker, Ty Clary, Michael Menet, Caleb Jones, Cole Schneider, George Moore.

Analysis: This is a tricky one to call with Bakhtiari and Jenkins battling back from ACL injuries. For now, let’s predict that the Packers error on the side of caution and have both players begin the year on the PUP List.

If that happens, Green Bay’s offensive line will be extremely young and inexperienced, but certainly shouldn’t be overmatched. That’s because Gutekunst has selected nine offensive linemen in the last three drafts, and there are replacements ready for their shot.

Myers, a second round pick in 2021, and Runyan, a sixth rounder in 2020, seem to have the center and left guard positions locked down. Myers was off a to a solid start in 2021 before missing 11 games with a knee injury. Runyan was second among Green Bay’s offensive linemen with 1,053 snaps last year and could be poised for a big jump in his third season.

“Runyan, when he came in, he was a pro’s pro,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “Maybe because he’s been around his dad (Jon Sr.) and seen what it looks like, but the game has never been too big for him.

“And Josh is such a big wide body. I like how those guys are playing.”

Newman, a fourth-round draft pick in 2021, started 16 games at right guard last year and led the offensive line in snaps. He’s played both right tackle and right guard in camp and is likely to win one of those jobs.

The 6-foot-4, 304-pound Tom is extremely athletic and ran the 40-yard dash in a blazing 4.94 seconds coming out of Wake Forest. Tom has played both left and right tackle in camp, and could very well be the starter at right tackle in Week 1.

The massive Nijman (6-7, 320) made eight starts at left tackle last season and more than held his own. If Bakhtiari and Jenkins begin the year on PUP, Nijman will be the opening day left tackle.

“You’ve got to give him a lot of credit because he has busted his tail to get where he’s at right now,” Gutekunst said of Nijman. “I’m excited for him. He’s really worked his way into a guy who’s going to have a long career.”

Hanson has worked with the first unit much of camp and has the versatility to play guard and center. Rhyan, a third round draft pick in April, has the versatility to play multiple spots. Van Lanen makes the team — for now — due to injury.

The Packers traditionally keep nine offensive linemen, and if they go that route, Walker could get the nod. Walker, a seventh round pick in April, has all the physical traits to succeed. But the Packers could also put Walker on the practice squad without using a roster spot on the rookie.

WIDE RECEIVERS (7): Allen Lazard, Romeo Doubs, Randall Cobb, Sammy Watkins, Amari Rodgers, Juwann Winfree, Christian Watson.

Cut: Malik Taylor, Samori Toure, Danny Davis, Osirus Mitchell, Ishmael Hyman.

Analysis: The Packers don’t have a star in this group after trading away Pro Bowler Davante Adams. But they do have a bevy of solid veterans and intriguing youngsters, meaning they’re likely to keep more receivers than most years.

Lazard, Cobb and Watkins all have proven track records and will be leaned heavily upon as the youngsters grow up. Doubs, a fourth round pick in April, has been the star of camp and figures to contribute immediately.

Watson, a second round pick this year, has been out with a knee injury and is the wildcard here. Watson’s a huge part of Green Bay’s future, but whether he starts the year on the active roster or the PUP list remains to be seen.

Rodgers, a third round pick in 2021, could take a big leap after a dreadful rookie season. Winfree (6-1, 210) ran with the first unit early in camp, but has fallen back in recent practices. He’ll need to impress the next three weeks to stick around, but the bet here is that he will.

Taylor made the roster each of the last two seasons, but has just seven catches. While Taylor is a solid special teams performer, his time is likely up.

Toure, a seventh round pick in April, has also had several impressive moments this summer. With a logjam at this position, though, Toure seems destined for the practice squad.

“I’m really excited about all those guys,” Gutekunst said of his wide receivers. “But if we get to a point where we feel that we need more, then we’ll certainly address it at that time. But the roles that we expect some of these young guys to play, we want to give them that opportunity to go out there and see if they can do it.”

TIGHT ENDS (4): Tyler Davis, Marcedes Lewis, Josiah Deguara, Dominique Dafney.

PUP (1): Robert Tonyan.

Cut: Sal Cannella, Alizé Mack.

Analysis: Tonyan is coming back from a torn ACL he suffered in Week 8 last season. While Tonyan hopes to be back by Week 1, it’s likely he begins the year on the PUP list.

In the interim, Davis and Deguara are likely to be the top pass catching targets, while the 38-year-old Lewis remains Green Bay’s best blocking tight end.

Dafney had chances to shine last year, but couldn’t stay on the field due to hip, hamstring and ankle injuries. He’s squarely on the bubble, but could stick around until Tonyan returns.

RUNNING BACKS (3): Aaron Jones, AJ Dillon, Patrick Taylor.

PUP (1): Kylin Hill.

Cut: BJ Baylor, Tyler Goodson.

Analysis: The Jones-Dillon combination rivals any in football. After that, there’s far more questions than answers.

Hill is on the PUP list with an ACL injury he suffered last October. He seems unlikely to be ready for Week 1.

Taylor stepped up after Hill’s injury last year and is the front runner for the No. 3 job. Taylor is dealing with a groin injury, though, which could force the Packers to look elsewhere for help.

DEFENSIVE LINE (6): Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry, Jarran Reed, Devonte Wyatt T.J. Slaton, Jonathan Ford.

Cut: Jack Heflin, Chris Slayton, Akial Byers.

Analysis: The top five are set — and they should give Green Bay’s its deepest and most athletic defensive line in years.

The mammoth Ford (6-5, 338), a seventh round pick in 2022, passed holdover Jack Heflin last week. If Green Bay keeps six players here, Ford is likely to get the nod.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (4): De’Vondre Campbell, Quay Walker, Krys Barnes, Isaiah McDuffie.

Cut: Ty Summers, Ray Wilborn, Ellis Brooks.

Analysis: Campbell and Walker could give Green Bay its best starting duo in a decade. From there, special teams will play a huge role in who sticks here.

Barnes has started 23 games in the last two years and has 161 tackles. Even though Barnes has been passed by first round pick Walker, his spot on the 53 should be safe.

McDuffie could be an anchor on a handful of special teams units, which should eventually earn him a job.

Summers has been one of Green Bay’s better special teams players since being drafted in 2o19. Summers has done next to nothing from scrimmage, though, leaving him squarely on the bubble.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (5): Rashan Gary, Preston Smith, Jonathan Garvin, Tipa Galeai, Kingsley Enagbare.

Cut: Randy Ramsey, LaDarius Hamilton, Chauncey Manac, Kobe Jones.

Analysis: Gary seems poised for a monster season, while Smith is coming off a solid 2021 campaign.

The problem is there’s little depth and the Packers could certainly trade for another player here before camp ends.

Garvin was Green Bay’s third outside linebacker much of last season, but was targeted in the run game and managed just 1.5 sacks. Galeai, who had one sack and six pressures in eight games, was active for Green Bay’s playoff game and Garvin wasn’t. Galeai is also on all four of Green Bay’s special teams units right now, which will be critical in determining roster spots.

Enagbare, a rookie fifth rounder, ran a dreadful 4.9 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine and has had a quiet camp. It’s unlikely, though, that Gutekunst parts with a fifth-round pick so soon.

Hamilton played in three games for Green Bay last season and was so-so. Ramsey missed all of 2021 with an ankle injury and is currently out with that same injury.

CORNERBACKS (5): Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes, Rasul Douglas, Shemar Jean-Charles, Rico Gafford.

Cut: Keisean Nixon, Kiondre Thomas, Kabion Ento, Donte Vaughn.

Analysis: The top three corners rival any in the league. After that, special teams could again be the tiebreaker.

Jean-Charles has had a solid summer and is on three of Green Bay’s four special teams units. The lightning quick Gafford is a favorite of special teams coach Rich Bisaccia and could emerge as Green Bay’s top return man.

Nixon, another player who has history with Bisaccia, seemed like a good bet to win a roster spot, but has been on the non-football injury list since July 26.

SAFETIES (6): Adrian Amos, Darnell Savage, Vernon Scott, Shawn Davis, Dallin Leavitt, Tariq Carpenter.

Cut: Innis Gaines.

Analysis: The Amos-Savage combination is one of the best in football.

Scott has taken a nice jump this summer and seems poised to win the No. 3 job. Leavitt spent the last four years with Bisaccia and the Raiders due to his special teams prowess.

Davis, a fifth-round draft pick by Indianapolis in 2021, is an aggressive tackler who lacks consistency. Carpenter, a seventh round pick in April, was drafted largely due to his special teams skills.

SPECIALISTS (3): K Mason Crosby, P Pat O’Donnell, LS Jack Coco.

Cut: K Gabe Brkic, LS Steven Wirtel.

Analysis: Crosby is currently out with a right knee injury, but is expected to be ready before the opener.

Wirtel, a holdover from last year, and Coco are fighting for the long snapper’s job. Wirtel’s feeble blocking effort that led to a blocked punt against San Francisco in the divisional playoffs in January is a hard memory to shake, though.