PO­SI­TION-BY-PO­SI­TION

Packer Plus - - News - Ryan Wood

Break­ing down the ros­ter as Pack­ers be­gin OTAs

— If this were a bas­ket­ball team, where height and length are paramount, the Green Bay Pack­ers would present quite a for­mi­da­ble lineup en­ter­ing this week’s or­ga­nized team ac­tiv­i­ties.

Coach Mike McCarthy said the Pack­ers put a pre­mium on get­ting “big­ger” this spring. Usu­ally, “big­ger” for a foot­ball squad is mea­sured in pounds, not inches. But as the team en­tered its OTAs on Mon­day, it’s ap­par­ent the Pack­ers have got­ten sig­nif­i­cantly taller.

Whether it’s the tallest ros­ter in the NFL de­pends on where you draw the line on the tape mea­sure. The Pack­ers lead the NFL with 49 play­ers listed at least 6 foot 3, and their 21 play­ers listed ex­actly 6-3 is also the most. Their 28 play­ers listed at least 6-4 is more mid­dle of the pack, and their 15 play­ers listed at least 6-5 is in the league’s bot­tom third.

The Pack­ers used the draft to in­fuse their ros­ter with height — nine of their 11 drafted play­ers are at least 6-2 — but it also came from other av­enues. The Pack­ers’ tallest player, 6-7 tight end Jimmy Gra­ham, signed as a free agent. The Pack­ers’ tallest quar­ter­back, 6-4 DeShone Kizer, ar­rived via trade.

Whether height trans­lates much to win­ning is a fair de­bate. Tall play­ers can clog a QB’s throw­ing win­dow or reach high for a pass, but you can’t dunk a touch­down. Seven teams from last sea­son’s play­offs rank among the league’s top half in play­ers listed at least 6-3, in­clud­ing the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots. Five teams are in the bot­tom half this spring, in­clud­ing the Philadel­phia Ea­gles.

Re­gard­less, the col­lec­tive height on the Pack­ers’ ros­ter is no­table. If their play­ers have the speed and strength to match, along with solid fun­da­men­tals, they could go a long way.

The Pack­ers en­tered Mon­day’s open­ing ses­sion with a full, 90-man ros­ter. They later put de­fen­sive tackle Filipo Mokofisi, an un­drafted rookie from Utah, on the re­serve/re­tired list. No al­ter­na­tive move was an­nounced. So here’s a po­si­tion-by-po­si­tion look at the Pack­ers’ 89-man ros­ter in ad­vance of their first open OTA ses­sion (R: rookie; N: new­comer):

Quar­ter­backs (4)

Aaron Rodgers, DeShone Kizer (N), Brett Hund­ley, Tim Boyle (R)

Out­look: One of the off-sea­son’s best ros­ter com­pe­ti­tions fig­ures to be Kizer vs. Hund­ley, both vy­ing for top backup sta­tus be­hind Rodgers. With the Pack­ers not want­ing to overex­tend Rodgers as he re­turns from the bro­ken col­lar­bone in his throw­ing shoul­der, there should be plenty of prac­tice reps for each.

Run­ning backs (5)

Ja­maal Williams, Aaron Jones, Ty Mont­gomery, De­vante Mays, Joel Bouagnon (N)

Out­look: A year ago, the Pack­ers ap­peared to bepa­per-thin at run­ning back. Much has changed since then. Af­ter the suc­cess Williams and Jones had in their rookie sea­sons, the big­gest ques­tion now is how to ac­com­mo­date all the tal­ent in their back­field. Mont­gomery is the best pass-catcher out of the back­field. Don’t over­look De­vante Mays, a dark horse af­ter his rookie sea­son was de­railed be­cause of fum­bles.

Full­backs (2)

Aaron Rip­kowski, Joe Ker­ridge

Out­look: On a lesser scale, the Pack­ers’ full­back depth chart is sim­i­larly clogged. In Rip­kowski and Ker­ridge, the Pack­ers have a pair of start­ing-cal­iber full­backs with spe­cial-teams value at a po­si­tion where teams only carry one player. Ker­ridge played Rip­kowski to a near draw in last year’s camp, only to in­jure his calf be­fore the pre­sea­son finale and even­tu­ally reach a set­tle­ment. The Pack­ers re-signed Ker­ridge in Novem­ber, and they played four games late last sea­son with a pair of full­backs in their 46man, game-day lineup. McCarthy has said in the past he prefers two full­backs on his ros­ter. Per­haps Jeff Ja­nis’ off-sea­son de­fec- tion from the spe­cial-teams unit will en­tice the Pack­ers to keep two full­backs again this fall.

Re­ceivers (11)

Da­vante Adams, Ran­dall Cobb, Geron­imo Al­li­son, Trevor Davis, Michael Clark, DeAn­gelo Yancey, Colby Pear­son, Jake Kumerow, J’Mon Moore (R), Mar­quez ValdesS­cantling (R), Equanimeous St. Brown (R)

Out­look: The Pack­ers’ re­ceiver po­si­tion is rem­i­nis­cent of their run­ning back po­si­tion last sea­son. Yes, they have a No. 1 re­ceiver in Adams and a start­ing slot tar­get in Cobb, but as a whole, the re­ceiv­ing corps lacks depth. Al­li­son might be the lead­ing con­tender to start on the perime­ter op­po­site Adams, but there is no one who projects to have le­git­i­mate, No. 2 re­ceiver pro­duc­tion. The Pack­ers spent a trio of Day 3 draft picks on re­ceivers, just as they did last year with run­ning backs. Ideally, Moore, ValdesS­cantling and St. Brown would have sim­i­lar rookie pro­duc­tion, though it’s more un­likely for re­ceivers than ball car­ri­ers.

Tight ends (6)

Jimmy Gra­ham (N), Lance Kendricks, Emanuel Byrd, Robert Tonyan, Ryan Smith (R), Kevin Rader (R)

Out­look: By far the thinnest po­si­tion on the ros­ter, only two proven tight ends re­mained af­ter Richard Rodgers signed with the Philadel­phia Ea­gles in free agency. In Gra­ham and Kendricks, the Pack­ers have a pair of pass catch­ers to stretch the mid­dle of the field, though both need to build chem­istry with Rodgers. Kendricks played spar­ingly be­hind Martel­lus Ben­nett early last sea­son, af­ter the quar­ter­back missed eight weeks be­cause of in­jury. Be­hind Gra­ham and Kendricks, the Pack­ers have a com­bined ex­pe­ri­ence of just one NFL game. That came in last sea­son’s finale from Byrd, who had two catches against the Detroit Lions. If the Pack­ers keep a third tight end, the job might go to the best blocker, some­thing nei­ther Gra­ham nor Kendricks does well.

Guards (6)

Lane Tay­lor, Justin McCray, Lucas Pa­trick, Adam Pankey, Kofi Amichia, Cole Madi­son (R)

Out­look: A cou­ple years ago, guard was one of the strong­est po­si­tions on the Pack­ers’ ros­ter with Pro Bowl play­ers Josh Sit­ton and T.J. Lang. Ero­sion has left the for­merly un­drafted Tay­lor the leader of this group. Tay­lor, who signed a three-year ex­ten­sion last Septem­ber, en­ters his third sea­son as start­ing left guard. The team’s start­ing right guard re­mains a mys­tery. McCray is prob­a­bly the fron­trun­ner, though of the many po­si­tions McCray played in a util­ity role last sea­son, he got only one snap at right guard. Pa­trick and Pankey also will com­pete for the job, and fifthround rookie Madi­son fig­ures to get his chance as well.

Tack­les (7)

David Bakhtiari, Bryan Bu­laga, Kyle Mur­phy, Ja­son Spriggs, Ja­cob Al­sadek (R), Alex Light (R), Kyle Mead­ows (R)

Out­look: There isn’t a big­ger void on the ros­ter than right tackle, mak­ing Gutekunst’s de­ci­sion to not draft one sur­pris­ing. It’s clear the Pack­ers hope they can get some­thing from Bu­laga this fall. That point is un­likely to come be­fore mid­sea­son as Bu­laga re­cov­ers from a torn ACL in his right knee. In the mean­time, the Pack­ers will rely on a pair of tack­les com­ing off their own sig­nif­i­cant in­juries. Spriggs, a 2016 sec­ond-round pick who faces a make-or-break off-sea­son, missed nine games af­ter tear­ing his ham­string in last sea­son’s opener, then dis­lo­cated his left kneecap in Week 16. Mur­phy fared bet­ter than Spriggs in three starts at right tackle, but his sea­son ended in Septem­ber be­cause of a bro­ken foot.

Cen­ters (3)

Corey Lins­ley, Dil­lon Day, Austin Davis (R)

Out­look: Af­ter go­ing through most of 2017 with­out a tra­di­tional backup cen­ter, the Pack­ers have more depth. They won’t need it if Lins­ley re­peats what he did last sea­son. Lins­ley was the only player on ei­ther side of the ball to be on the field for every snap last fall, play­ing well enough to earn a three-year, $25.5 mil­lion ex­ten­sion one day be­fore the sea­son ended.

De­fen­sive line­men (8)

Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry, Muham­mad Wilk­er­son (N), Mon­trav­ius Adams, James Looney (R), Conor Sheehy (R), Tyler Lan­caster (R)

Out­look: Gutekunst dou­bled down on a strength when he signed in­te­rior pass rusher Wilk­er­son to a one-year deal in free agency. It will be in­ter­est­ing to see how their top four of Daniels, Clark, Lowry and Wilk­er­son ro­tate. The Pack­ers need this group to gen­er­ate con­sis­tent pres­sure on the quar­ter­back, off­set­ting what their de­fense lacks in edge rush­ers.

Out­side lineback­ers (8)

Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Vince Biegel, Reg­gie Gil­bert, Kyler Fack­rell, Chris Odom, Ken­dall Don­ner­son (R), Naashon Hughes (R). Out­look: Same as last year, the Pack­ers are search­ing for vi­able edge rush­ers to emerge be­hind Matthews and Perry. Their hopes of bol­ster­ing the depth chart mainly rest on Biegel and Gil­bert, who showed flashes last year but will need to make huge jumps. This much is clear: The Pack­ers can’t count on Matthews and Perry stay­ing on the field. Both missed time with in­juries last sea­son. Sev­enth-round pick Don­ner­son is un­likely to con­trib­ute much this fall.

In­side lineback­ers (8)

Blake Mar­tinez, Jake Ryan, Ahmad Thomas, Oren Burks (R), Par­ris Ben­nett (R), C.J. An­der­son (R), Greer Mar­tini (R), Mar­cus Porter (R)

Out­look: Five rook­ies give the Pack­ers a young in­side line­backer depth chart. One is third-round pick Burks, who fig­ures to get plenty of snaps as a sub­pack­age, cover line­backer. Mar­tinez and Ryan are the stal­warts of the group, start­ing most of the games over the past two sea­sons. Af­ter shar­ing the NFL lead in tack­les last sea­son with 144, Mar­tinez could take a jump if he im­proves in cov­er­age.

Cor­ner­backs (11)

Kevin King, Davon House, Tra­mon Williams (N), Jaire Alexander (R), Josh Jack­son (R), Quin­ten Rollins, Josh Hawkins, Demetri Good­son, Lenzy Pip­kins, Donatello Brown, Herb Wa­ters

Out­look: The Pack­ers’ pri­or­ity this off-sea­son was build­ing their cor­ner­back po­si­tion. In re-sign­ing House, sign­ing Williams and draft­ing Alexander and Jack­son with their top two picks, the Pack­ers added a nice mix of veteran ex­pe­ri­ence and young tal­ent. King re­turns for his sec­ond sea­son af­ter his first ended pre­ma­turely be­cause of shoul­der surgery. How much he par­tic­i­pates this spring will be worth tracking. Be­hind a clear top five, the Pack­ers have sev­eral de­vel­op­men­tal prospects.

Safeties (6)

Ha Ha Clin­ton-Dix, Josh Jones, Ken­trell Brice, Marwin Evans, Jer­maine White­head, Raven Greene (R)

Out­look: The suc­cess of this group hinges on whether Clin­ton-Dix plays more like 2016, when he was a Pro Bowl player, or his dis­ap­point­ing 2017 ver­sion. The Pack­ers have placed their trust in him, push­ing Clin­ton-Dix to be a leader in their locker room fol­low­ing Mor­gan Burnett’s de­par­ture. At strong safety, Jones and Brice will com­pete to re­place Burnett. There is solid depth with Evans, and the Pack­ers like White­head.

Spe­cial­ists (4)

Mason Crosby, JK Scott (R), Hunter Bradley (R), Zach Triner (N)

Out­look: Af­ter Justin Vo­gel had the best sea­son of any Pack­ers punter since Jon Ryan in 2007, he was re­warded sim­i­larly with a re­lease. In his place, the Pack­ers ex­pect fifth-round rookie Scott to be a “rare” tal­ent worth their gamble. The Pack­ers spent a sev­enth-round pick on long snap­per Bradley, a tan­gi­ble price to fi­nally re­place Brett Goode.

Ros­ter su­perla­tives

Heav­i­est player: Lane Tay­lor, a 324-pound left guard. Light­est: Re­ceiver Trevor Davis and cor­ner­back Herb Wa­ters, both at 188 pounds. Tallest: Tight end Jimmy Gra­ham and of­fen­sive line­man Ja­cob Al­sadek, both listed at 6-foot-7. Short­est: Aaron Jones, a 5-foot-9 run­ning back. Most ex­pe­ri­enced: Aaron Rodgers, en­ter­ing his 15th sea­son at quar­ter­back. Old­est: Tra­mon Williams, a 35-year-old cor­ner­back. Youngest: Jaire Alexander, 21, rookie cor­ner­back.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pack­ers rookie Mar­quez Valdes-Scantling is one of 11 re­ceivers on the 89-man ros­ter. The team drafted three wide­outs.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Out­side line­backer Reg­gie Gil­bert is among sev­eral younger play­ers that are be­ing counted on to im­prove Green Bay’s pass rush.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.