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Mike Vandermause column: What the 53-man roster might look like

Toughest decisions may come at linebacker

Aug. 3, 2012
 

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Green Bay Packers linebackers Terrell Manning, left, and Jamari Lattimore work on drills during training camp practice at Ray Nitschke Field on Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012. Both players are battling for a spot on the 53-man roster. / H. Marc Larson/Press-Gazette

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The Green Bay Packers are one-third of the way through training camp following their Family Night scrimmage on Friday night at Lambeau Field.

Many of the 90 players on the roster are trying to prove they belong in the NFL. They have 14 more training camp practices and four preseason games to show it before the Packers trim their roster to 53 players on Aug. 31.

While plenty of jobs are still up for grabs, here is an early analysis focusing on the players most likely to crack the final roster, based on early training camp results, potential, past performance and other factors. (The number in parenthesis indicates how many players the Packers will likely keep at each position).

Quarterbacks (2)

Behind Aaron Rodgers and Graham Harrell, rookie B.J. Coleman is expected to land on the practice squad, just like Harrell did a year ago. The Packers have gambled with two quarterbacks on the final roster in the past and havenít been burned. They need the extra spot somewhere else.

Running backs (4)

The Packers only kept four and will more than likely do so again. James Starks, Alex Green, Brandon Saine and John Kuhn top the depth chart. Kuhn has been hurt but should be ready for the regular season. He brings added value with the ability to play fullback and halfback.

Receivers (6)

There has been speculation seven receivers will survive, but that seems excessive and unlikely. Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are locks, and James Jones should stick assuming he doesnít get traded.

General manager Ted Thompson likes to keep his roster young but is willing to make an exception in the case of 37-year-old Donald Driver, who received more than $1 million in guaranteed money and has looked good in camp. That leaves Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel fighting for one job. Borel has an early lead but that could change.

Tight ends (4)

Last year the Packers kept five, but Andrew Quarless, who is recovering from a knee injury, probably wonít be ready in time for the regular season. That makes it an easy decision to keep Jermichael Finley, D.J. Williams, Ryan Taylor and Tom Crabtree.

Offensive linemen (8)

The Packers only kept eight last season and thereís no reason to believe they will alter that strategy. For the first time in years the starters are set early in camp, with Bryan Bulaga, Josh Sitton, Jeff Saturday, T.J. Lang and Marshall Newhouse forming the No. 1 unit. Assuming he recovers from his broken leg, second-year tackle Derek Sherrod will stick, along with veteran center-guard Evan Dietrich-Smith. The Packers are waiting for someone to distinguish himself and grab the final spot.

Defensive linemen (6)

With Anthony Hargrove (eight games) and Mike Neal (four games) ineligible due to suspensions, the job of picking six linemen to open the season becomes much easier. The harder choices could come in mid-season when they return. B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett are solid, while rookies Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels arenít going anywhere with their vast potential. Expect veterans C.J. Wilson and Jarius Wynn to stay unless Lawrence Guy or Daniel Muir make a major move in camp.

Linebackers (10)

The more linebackers on the roster the better for special teams purposes. Thatís why the Packers loaded up with 10 linebackers last season and could very well do so again. The top six include Clay Matthews, Desmond Bishop. A.J. Hawk, D.J. Smith, first-round draft pick Nick Perry and camp phenom Dezman Moses, an undrafted free agent. After that things get interesting. Six players will be fighting hard for the four remaining jobs: Erik Walden, Brad Jones, Frank Zombo, Vic Soíoto, Jamari Lattimore and rookie Terrell Manning.

Defensive backs (10)

Nine spots are already accounted for, including cornerbacks Tramon Williams, Davon House, Jarrett Bush, Sam Shields and rookie Casey Hayward, and safeties Charles Woodson, Morgan Burnett, M.D. Jennings and rookie Jeron McMillian. That leaves one spot for either Brandian Ross, Anthony Levine or someone else who rises up from the ranks this month.

Specialists (3)

Mason Crosby, Tim Masthay and Brett Goode are so entrenched that they donít have any camp competition.

ó mvandermause@greenbaypressgazette.com and follow him on Twitter @MikeVandermause.

What's your take on the Packers Family Night change?

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