Thompson looks beyond camp with surprise keepers

Pete Dougherty
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So Carl Bradford, Demetri Goodson and a third quarterback are on the Green Bay Packers' roster after the reduction to 53 players.

Chris Banjo, Jumal Rolle and Jake Stoneburner aren't.

Not that this is it. If general manager Ted Thompson claims a player on waivers Sunday — offensive line would be the most likely position — then he'd have to clear a roster spot.

But for now, Thompson kept two draft picks in Bradford (fourth-rounder) and Goodson (sixth-rounder) based on something other than performance in training camp. The GM also will go into the opener with a third quarterback for the first time since 2008.

It's not immediately apparent whether Matt Flynn or Scott Tolzien is the No. 2, but either way, injuries had to have been a significant factor in the No. 3 making the team.

Three players might have had a shot at a roster spot had they not been hurt in the preseason finale against Kansas City on Thursday night. The Packers placed two of them on injured reserve — third-rounder Khyri Thornton (hamstring), and outside/inside linebacker Nate Palmer (knee). The other, Stoneburner, was waived injured with an unidentified ailment.

I argued against keeping three quarterbacks last week and feel the same despite the recent injuries. Banjo is basically a special-teamer, so the risk of releasing him probably isn't great. But if Rolle or Stoneburner is claimed and turns out to be a productive player for another team, the Packers will have let him walk without good enough reason.

Here's a quick take on the cuts, position by position:

Inside linebackers (5)

A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones, Jamari Lattimore, Sam Barrington, Carl Bradford

How did Bradford make it? Not by his play the first four weeks of camp. The outside pass rushing skills he showed in accruing 21½ sacks his final two seasons at Arizona State didn't translate at all to 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL. But he's a fourth-round pick, and Thompson as GM has cut only one rookie selected that high, Cory Rodgers, a fourth-rounder in '06. Probably should have seen this coming because the Packers sent out conflicting signals about Bradford from the start. At the draft they said they would look at him as an outside rusher first, but that he could end up at inside linebacker. He busted outside. They moved him inside only last week and saw enough against Kansas City to keep him. They could have tried for the practice squad but must have thought a team that liked Bradford going into the draft would claim him on waivers. Thompson gave the benefit of the doubt to his draft pick.

Cornerbacks (6)

Sam Shields, Tramon Williams, Casey Hayward, Davon House, Jarrett Bush, Demetri Goodson

Is there anybody who went to practice every day and thinks Goodson outplayed Rolle? Doubt it. Goodson is raw — he's the former Gonzaga basketball player who didn't play football his last two years in high school and first three years of college. But the Packers sure seem to like his athleticism and competitiveness. This is an upside decision all the way. Rolle very well could get claimed. If not, it's a given he's on their practice squad.

Quarterbacks (3)

Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn, Scott Tolzien

We won't know who the No. 2 quarterback is until Sunday, though it's not a given the Packers still will have three when they hit the practice field in the afternoon. Thornton's injury might have saved the third QB. The Packers clearly thought Tolzien wouldn't clear waivers and get to their practice squad.

Tight ends (4)

Brandon Bostick, Richard Rodgers, Andrew Quarless, Ryan Taylor

Stoneburner isn't much of a blocker or special teams player, but he can run and catch. His receiving skills might have helped the Packers while Bostick is out for several weeks with a lower-leg injury. Looks like the third-round pick Rodgers will be the starter for the opener Thursday at Seattle. Undrafted rookie Justin Perillo stayed under the radar but had his moments and could end up on the practice squad.

Safeties (4)

Morgan Burnett, Micah Hyde, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Sean Richardson

Banjo was a core special teams player last season and did well as a cover man on kickoffs and punts in the preseason. But Richardson is the better safety and has the physical traits — size (6-3) and speed —to be an effective special-teamer. If Banjo clears waivers, he's a good bet for the practice squad.

Defensive line (5)

Mike Daniels, Datone Jones, Josh Boyd, Letroy Guion, Mike Pennel

The question before the injury was whether Thornton would make the roster despite his blasé rookie camp. The guess here is they would have kept him because he was a third-round pick. Teams just don't cut rookies drafted that high. Thornton's agent said the injured hamstring won't require surgery, but it's severe enough to land him on IR. Don't be surprised if the undrafted Pennel gets plenty of playing time.

Outside linebacker (6)

Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, Mike Neal, Nick Perry, Andy Mulumba, Jayrone Elliott

Palmer's injury made an easy decision for the Packers here. Not that he would have made it ahead of these six, and keeping seven would have been going very heavy at that position. But it wasn't out of the question. There's no way they could cut Elliott after his five sacks in the preseason. He looks more talented than Vic So'oto, who washed out after an eye-grabbing camp as an undrafted rookie in 2011.

Offensive line (8)

David Bakhtiari, Josh Sitton, JC Tretter, T.J. Lang, Bryan Bulaga, Corey Linsley, Lane Taylor, Derek Sherrod

Cut and dried after handyman Don Barclay blew out his knee in camp. Don't be surprised if they claim a lineman on waivers.

Wide receivers (5)

Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Jarrett Boykin, Davante Adams, Jeff Janis

A receiver-starved team might put in a claim on Kevin Dorsey, whose size (6-1, 207) and physical play will be attractive. He and Myles White had too many drops to justify a roster spot, but both have NFL talent. One thing to watch at Seattle is whether Janis is the kickoff returner ahead of DuJuan Harris. Janis hasn't done it much — seven kickoff returns in his college career — but his 62-yarder against Kansas City was an attention-getter.

Running backs (4)

Eddie Lacy, James Starks, DuJuan Harris, John Kuhn

No reason to keep anyone else on the 53. One of the two cut Saturday, Ladarius Perkins or Michael Hill, could end up on the practice squad.

Specialists (3)

Mason Crosby (K), Tim Masthay (K), Brett Goode (LS)

— and follow him on Twitter @PeteDougherty.

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