Roster Analysis: Green Bay Packers

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

Here is a close look at the Green Bay Packers as they head into their season opener against the San Francisco 49ers Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET.

QUARTERBACKS: Starter - Aaron Rodgers. Backups - Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien.
An obscure preseason for Rodgers morphed into him being overshadowed by a sequence of personnel moves in the past week that has caused some consternation regarding who is left behind him. The Packers signed 10th-year journeyman Wallace on Monday after releasing B.J. Coleman. Graham Harrell and Coleman, both holdovers from last season, were all cut. It is a gamble to bring the 33-year-old Wallace less than a week before the season opener, but the veteran could be a quick study. Green Bay also signed Scott Tolzien, like Wallace, waived by the 49ers. Rodgers, the team's longest-tenured player says he is well-prepared to start the season didn't play one down with top receivers Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson, who were out with injuries until returning for last week's final tuneup, of which Rodgers was held out.
RUNNING BACKS: Starters - HB Eddie Lacy, FB John Kuhn. Backups - HB James Starks, HB Johnathan Franklin.
Second-round draft pick Lacy figures to be the featured back, although the team lists Starks as the starter on its depth chart. The powerful and elusive Lacy gives the Packers a rare breakthrough as a 1,000-yard rusher if he can stay healthy. The Packers went with with three halfbacks and one fulltback, Kuhn, whose versatility has been important the past six seasons as a Packer. Lacy and Franklin are rookies. Franklin, a fourth-round draft choice, disappointed in the preseason in pass-blocking and ball-handling.
TIGHT ENDS: Starter - Jermichael Finley. Backups - Andrew Quarless, Ryan Taylor, Brandon Bostick.
Finley, who didn't play in the final preseason game at Kansas City last week, led all of Green Bay's receivers in August with seven catches for 133 yards. Quarless, a potential pass-catching complement who can block, is back on the 53-man roster for the first time since injuring his knee in December 2011. Bostick gives Rodgers a good-sized, sure-handed target over the middle. Taylor overcame a knee injury early in camp and will be utilized on special team.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters - Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson. Backups - James Jones, Jarrett Boykin, Jeremy Ross.
The opener is Rodgers' first game with the "Big 3" of Cobb, Nelson and Jones since the Packers' loss at San Francisco in the playoffs. Cobb (biceps) and Nelson (knee) missed long stretches of the preseason to recover from their injuries. Jones (league-high 14 touchdown catches last season) also didn't play against the Chiefs but was in midseason form as a deep-ball threat for Rodgers from the get-go in camp. Cobb has 100-catch potential working out of the slot after breaking out with a team-best 80 receptions for 954 yards last season. The Packers will count on young prospects Boykin and Ross in situational roles.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters - LT David Bakhtiari, LG Josh Sitton, C Evan Dietrich-Smith, RG T.J. Lang, RT Don Barclay. Backups - T Marshall Newhouse, C/G Greg Van Roten, G Lane Taylor.
Bryan Bulaga, the former first-round draft pick, suffered a torn ACL a little more than a week into camp and is on IR. Coachg McCarthy tapped rookie Bakhtiari to take over for Bulaga as Rodgers' back-side protector and the 6-foot-4, 300-pound, fourth-round draft pick was reliable. Barclay outperformed Newhouse at right tackle by the midway point of camp and is penciled in as the opening-day starter. The interior of the line is solid, anchored by Pro Bowl right guard Sitton's switch to the left side. Van Roten and Taylor, a burly undrafted rookie, provide the depth inside. Newhouse is the lone reserve tackle with Derek Sherrod on PUP.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters - DLE Datone Jones, NT Ryan Pickett, DRE B.J. Raji. Backups - DE Mike Neal, DE C.J. Wilson, DE Mike Daniels, DT Johnny Jolly, DE Josh Boyd.
Pickett and Raji are the veteran mainstays. The time appears to be now for Jones, this year's first-round draft pick, to have a starting role. The preference is to have Raji and Jones form the pass-rushing duo on the line in nickel and dime packages with steadily improving Daniels and a reinvigorated Jolly factors as inside rushers. Jolly missed the last three seasons on suspension. Wilson provides insurance should Jones have any growing pains in an expanded role. Boyd, a fifth-round draft choice, is developmental material as a rookie.
LINEBACKERS: Starters - LOLB Nick Perry, LILB A.J. Hawk, MLB Brad Jones, ROLB Clay Matthews. Backups - ILB Robert Francois, ILB Jamari Lattimore, OLB Andy Mulumba, OLB Nate Palmer, ILB Sam Barrington.
Neal is considered a defensive end, but the fourth-year player may see the field more this season as a pass-rushing outside linebacker. Neal would allow flexibility to move defensive star, Matthews, around to create mismatches. The depth on the outside also includes a pair of rookies with Palmer and Mulumba, the latter an intriguing undrafted prospect. Hawk and Jones, who should be OK for the opener after missing last week's game with a hamstring injury, are the starting incumbents on the inside. Hard-hitting returnees Francois and Lattimore are solid backups and Barrington, a rookie,emerged at the end of the preseason.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters - LCB Tramon Williams, RCB Sam Shields, FS Morgan Burnett, SS M.D. Jennings. Backups - CB Casey Hayward, CB Micah Hyde, S Jerron McMillian, S Chris Banjo, CB Davon House, CB Jarrett Bush.
Williams, the seventh-year leader of the cornerback corps, missed most of camp because of a knee injury. Hayward, last year's rookie sensation as the nickel corner with six interceptions, was felled by a hamstring injury and may not be ready. Burnett is working his way back after being out with a strained hamstring. Shields is starting in tandem with Williams on the perimeter again and Hyde has proved to be a suitable replacement for Hayward in the sub packages. Jennings and McMillian should see the field in substitution packages Banjo, like Hyde a preseason standout, also could factor in as an undrafted rookie. Bush, an eighth-year player helps on special teams.
SPECIAL TEAMS: PK Mason Crosby, P Tim Masthay, LS Brett Goode, KOR/PR Randall Cobb, KOR/PR Jeremy Ross.
Crosby took a sigh of relief in the final days of the preseason after surviving an unusual kicking battle. He made 26 of 27 field goals in practices in games and practice to keep the job. The strong-legged Masthay, who also is the holder, is a viable option to take the kickoff duties from Crosby. He flourished in his main role during the preseason. Masthay ranked second in the league with 28 punts and averaged 45.9 gross yards and 37.0 net yards. Goode is in his sixth season as Green Bay's reliable long snapper. Ross, who survived the roster cut at receiver, can be as explosive as Cobb on runbacks.

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