Thornton could be biggest name on cut list
No matter what anyone says, there probably aren't many Green Bay Packers' roster spots still up for grabs in Thursday night's preseason finale against the New Orleans Saints.
The Packers' cuts to 53 players, which they must make by 3 p.m. Saturday, aren't that difficult in large part because season-opening suspensions to Datone Jones (one game) and Letroy Guion (three games) leave the team with two extra spots.
That said, the most competitive battle going into Thursday night is for the third and likely final tight end.
The tougher cuts will come later, when Jones and Guion return from their suspensions.
We'll examine both points. But first, the roster basics.
I see Lane Taylor making it as the ninth offensive lineman; Aaron Ripkowski as a second fullback (with Rajion Neal as the third halfback); and fifth-round pick Brett Hundley is a must-keep as the No. 3 quarterback because of his poised play in the preseason. There's no way he'd make it through waivers and to the practice squad.
Barring a trade or waiver claim, receiver is a straightforward call, with Myles White making it as the No. 5. It's also hard to see how Jared Abbrederis can make the final 53 after his return to the field this week. Time missed and the ongoing injury risk after his ACL tear last year and concussion the first day of camp this season are prohibitive for 2015. If the Packers think he still has a future in football, the practice squad is the place for him.
Six cornerbacks (Demetri Goodson as the No. 6) and five safeties (Chris Banjo and Sean Richardson as the Nos. 4 and 5) should survive the weekend. Five outside linebackers (Andy Mulumba and Jayrone Elliott as Nos. 4 and 5) and four inside linebackers (Nate Palmer and Jake Ryan as Nos. 3 and 4) warrant spots.
The player on track to be the biggest-name cut is on the defensive line. Khyri Thornton, a third-round pick last year, has given the Packers little reason to keep him with his uneven play and effort. With Jones and Guion not counting, that leaves room for five: Mike Daniels, B.J. Raji, Mike Pennel, Bruce Gaston and Josh Boyd.
Kicking-game specialists take three spots, as will, probably, tight ends: Richard Rodgers, Andrew Quarless and one from among Kennard Backman, Justin Perillo and Mitchell Henry.
Here is where the call is toughest. I lean Perillo.
Backman, drafted with a sixth-round compensatory pick this year, has more upside as a receiver, so many probably are choosing him. But the second-year pro Perillo is a better blocker and can help the Packers more in 2015.
Also, I haven't seen much reason to think any team will claim Backman off waivers, so chances are he'll make it to the practice squad. He hasn't shown enough to think he's this year's Jumal Rolle, who was so good in camp last season that you just knew somebody would claim him if he was released.
There's the cut to 53.
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The tougher decisions come when Jones is back after the first game and Guion after Week 3.
Jones' return will leave the Packers with six defensive lineman, which usually is the minimum they keep.
So someone, somewhere, must go.
You can make a plausible argument that the Packers should cut Perillo and go uncommonly light at tight end with two. Ripkowski as the second fullback can fill the special-teams role of the No. 3 tight end. It's worth considering. But in the end, coach Mike McCarthy values tight ends too much to think that has any chance of happening.
So barring someone going on injured reserve, that decision could come down to Taylor, Goodson, Richardson and Banjo. Boyd or maybe even Jones himself could be in trouble, too. But this game requires big men, and it's hard to see the Packers playing with only five defensive linemen for another two weeks, until Guion is back.
Not an easy call, but I'd cut Richardson. Not that the Packers will – in camp he's played as much on the core special-teams as anyone on the roster, plus he has mixed in occasionally in the No. 1 base and nickel packages when defensive coordinator Dom Capers has gone big in the secondary. The Packers appear to have plans for him. Also, Richardson already has pocketed a $1.35 million signing bonus and has another $1 million in salary guaranteed.
But for my money, Banjo has outplayed Richardson in camp, and Goodson has a brighter future than both.
Still, my guess is the Packers would cut Goodson, for health reasons if nothing else. He has been in and out of the lineup the last three weeks because of a calf injury.
Guion then comes back after Week 3, which will leave the Packers with seven defensive linemen. They could keep them all, but I don't see why. Daniels, Raji and Pennel are the core of the unit. It's also hard to see how the team could cut Bruce Gaston with what he's shown as an inside pass rusher.
That leaves Boyd, Jones or someone at another position. Jones at least makes an occasional play. So I'd let Boyd go.
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