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Green Bay Packers' Ted Thompson infuses title-tested roster with fresh talent

Sep. 3, 2011
 
Green Bay Packers General Manager Ted Thompson, center, patrols the sidelines during the Aug. 26 preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Green Bay Packers General Manager Ted Thompson, center, patrols the sidelines during the Aug. 26 preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. / Corey Wilson/Press-Gazette

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Not even a Super Bowl championship will compel Green Bay Packers General Manager Ted Thompson to veer from his roster-building plan.

The Packers reduced the size of their team on Saturday to the NFL-mandated 53 players, and 16 of them werenít on the Super Bowl roster just seven months ago.

Thatís a whopping 30 percent turnover in personnel, including 10 new faces on offense.

Change is the only constant for Thompson, whose roster includes seven draft choices and three undrafted free agents.

There is no complacency in the NFL, not even for the reigning Super Bowl champion.

Thompson has insisted on making over his roster every year with younger talent, which explains why nearly one-fifth of the 2011 team consists of players with no NFL experience.

Besides their ongoing youth movement, the Packers received an influx of talent from last yearís injured reserve list. A half-dozen players who were lost for the season in 2010 are back, including starters Jermichael Finley, Ryan Grant and Morgan Burnett.

Make no mistake, the Packers are a veteran-laden team with 20 of 22 players on their No. 1 offensive and defensive units possessing regular starting experience.

But Thompson never has been comfortable standing pat. With an eye on the future, he brings in fresh blood and props up the bottom of the depth chart.

In Thompsonís nearly seven years with the Packers, 82 percent of his draft picks (56 of 68) have made the team in their rookie seasons, including seven in each of the past four years.

And many of those players are more than one-year wonders. All seven of Thompsonís draft picks in 2010 are still on the team, as a telling example.

Thompson also has enjoyed success with undrafted free agents. This year, despite the NFL lockout that prevented players from participating in offseason practices, three such players cracked the roster: linebackers Vic Soíoto and Jamari Lattimore and safety M.D. Jennings.

There is a never-ending mission to upgrade the Packersí talent pool, and on paper at least, they should be better than last year from top to bottom.

The Packers kept five tight ends and 10 linebackers, two positions that put a premium on athleticism. Thatís a sure sign Thompson is hoping to improve his special teams units with those types of players. Rookie Randall Cobb also has the potential to provide an immediate impact as a return man.

The Packers also should have better overall talent at running back, receiver, tight end and safety.

This is not a team without question marks, however.

T.J. Lang must prove he can replace departed left guard Daryn Colledge, and Mike Neal must do the same at defensive end in place of Cullen Jenkins. Should injuries strike, there are also some concerns about quality depth along the offensive line and at linebacker.

But overall, this team appears locked and loaded for another championship-contending season.

Mike Vandermause is the Green Bay Press-Gazette sports editor. Email him at mvandermause@greenbaypressgazette.com and follow him on Twitter @MikeVandermause.

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