Green Bay Packers tight end D. J. Williams tries to get away from safety David Fulton during training camp practice at Ray Nitschke Field. / H. Marc Larson/Press-Gazette Media
The Green Bay Packers continued the process of slowly dismantling what’s been an underwhelming 2011 draft class during the final round of cuts on Saturday.
Among the 22 casualties of the NFL’s mandatory roster reduction to 53 players were third-year running back Alex Green and tight end D.J. Williams, the team’s third- and fifth-round selection of that year’s draft.
Only three players from that 10-man draft class remain on the active roster: second-round receiver Randall Cobb, fourth-round cornerback Davon House and seventh-round tight end Ryan Taylor.
The Packers’ 2011 first-round pick, tackle Derek Sherrod, hasn’t played in 1˝ years after breaking his leg near the end of his rookie season and will spend at least another two months on the shelf after being placed on the physically unable to perform list earlier this week.
Williams, an athletic but undersized 6-feet-2, 238 pounds, showed flashes of the play-making ability he showcased during his record-setting run at Arkansas, but caught only nine passes for 70 yards in 26 regular-season games.
That, added with a cluttered room of tight ends, led to the ouster of he and fifth-year tight end Matthew Mulligan, a blocking specialist who was the Packers’ only offseason acquisition.
Green’s release was a bit more surprising in the wake of DuJuan Harris’ season-ending knee injury and leaves the Packers with only four running backs (Eddie Lacy, James Starks, Johnathan Franklin and fullback John Kuhn).
Green finished last season as the Packers’ leading rusher, but averaged only 3.4 yards per carry and failed to reach the end zone in his team-high 135 carries.
This preseason, the 25-year-old running back led the Packers in rushing with 21 carries for 72 yards, including a 31-yard pitch against Seattle two weeks ago, but ended on a low note in Thursday’s preseason finale against Kansas City when he managed only 10 yards on seven carries.
Since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee during his rookie season, Green struggled to regain his explosiveness and was bothered with swelling in the knee late last season.
Both players had their moments, but didn’t offer much specialization with Williams’ jack-of-all trades skill set leaving him vulnerable and Green falling behind in the revamped rookie backfield of Lacy and Franklin.
This offseason, Williams invited practice-squad tight end Brandon Bostick down to Arkansas to train with him.
On Saturday, Bostick received a promotion to the active roster while Williams was given his walking papers, but in an interview with Press-Gazette Media a little more than a week ago, the potential of that scenario playing out didn’t cause him vexation.
“I think what it comes down to is you need to be a good teammate. That’s the key part about it,” he said. “If it calls of me giving good advice and that guy getting the job over me, then he deserved it. If it’s vice versa, then I deserve it. At the same time at the end of the day, we’re all going to help each other and be happy for each other.”
As improbable as it might have seemed two months ago, Johnny Jolly has worked his way back onto an NFL roster.
The 30-year-old defensive lineman completed his journey back from a three-year league suspensionwhen he was one of eight defensive linemen the Packers kept.
Jolly was reinstated by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in February. League sources later indicated the Packers strongly considered releasing Jolly before opting to take a look at him in camp.
In four preseason games, Jolly registered four tackles, two pass deflections and one interception in a 19-7 win over St. Louis, where he likely sealed his place on the roster.
“(I’d) like thank Packers brass, coaches, packers nation 4 the support and opportunity. I won’t let you down,” Jolly tweeted after cuts were announced. “Most of all I like thank God, my family, my friends, teammates and agent. Couldn’t do it with out you.”
For Chris Banjo’s sake, it was probably a good thing Ryan McMahon played himself out of a safety job a little more than a month ago.
The undrafted and undersized safety out of Southern Methodist was sitting around waiting for a call last month before the Packers decided to part ways with McMahon, a Sacramento State alumnus who was cut after the third day of camp.
Since, Banjo has done nothing but make plays with 12 tackles in four preseason games and a sack in Thursday’s game against Kansas City.
With Morgan Burnett’s status uncertain because of pulled hamstring injury he sustained a little more than a week ago, the Packers decided to keep Banjo in the fold with third-year safety M.D. Jennings and 2012 fourth-round pick Jerron McMillian.
Banjo was one of three undrafted rookies to make it past the initial cut to 53, joining Eastern Michigan linebacker Andy Mulumba and Oklahoma State guard Lane Taylor.
■ The final spot on the roster likely came down to inside linebackers Sam Barrington and Terrell Manning, with the team deciding to cut Manning.
A fifth-round pick out of North Carolina State, Manning made more impact than in his rookie camp when a battle with colitis robbed him of more than 15 pounds, but he wasn’t able to beat out Barrington, a seventh-round rookie out of South Florida who was second on the team in preseason tackles with 14.
■ In a surprising turn of events, former Packers quarterback Graham Harrell survived the New York Jets’ roster cutdown after first signing with the team on Tuesday. He’s one of four quarterbacks currently on the Jets’ roster with Mark Sanchez out indefinitely with a shoulder injury.
Former Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop also made Minnesota’s 53-man roster after being cut by the Packers this summer.
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.