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Examining the Packers' 7 Wide Receiver Debate

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Examining the Packers' 7 Wide Receiver Debate

Last week, Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press Gazette took the debate over the Green Bay Packers wide receiver situation up another notch.

While many have speculated that the receiver-rich Packers could take six into the regular season, Demovsky—one of the most plugged in reporters on the Packers' beat—predicted Green Bay will actually carry seven on their first 53-man roster of the 2012 season.

"I think they are going to keep seven," Demovsky said when asked who was the odd man out at receiver . "They've done it before—they've kept five tight ends once, they've kept three fullbacks. I think seven receivers, and all those guys—[Tori] Gurley, [Diondre] Borel, James Jones—they are all here."

The Packers kept five at the position last season and haven't been over that mark to start a season since Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy took over the reins in 2006.

Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are roster locks, while Donald Driver and James Jones are very likely to make the final roster. Driver has monetary roster insurance in the form of a previously paid $1.2 million bonus, and Jones—despite enduring waves of criticism—has been one of the NFL's most productive third (and sometimes fourth) receivers. Barring an injury or some unforeseen circumstance, both should be on the team come the start of September.

The rest of the receiver debate centers around Gurley and Borel, who each spent the 2011 season on the Packers' practice squad and were later given salary hikes to ensure they stuck around Green Bay for another offseason.

Gurley, a 6-4, 230-pounder, has a unique body among the Packers receivers and also displayed a knack for blocking kicks during training camp last season. If he's taken any steps forward this offseason, he's likely ready to be on an NFL 53-man roster in 2012.

Borel, a former college quarterback who stands 6-0 and weighs 199 pounds, has been praised throughout the spring by both Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers. Like Gurley, Borel is likely ready for an active roster spot if he's made the kind of improvement McCarthy and Rodgers have mentioned.

However, if the Packers keep both Gurley and Borel to start this season, positions on offense will almost certainly need cuts.

Here's a quick positional breakdown of how the Packers could keep seven receivers on their first 53-man roster of 2012:

 

Quarterback

The early assumption has been that the Packers will keep three quarterbacks, with Aaron Rodgers, Graham Harrell and 2012 rookie B.J. Coleman rounding off the trio.

While Green Bay went into 2011 with just two, replicating that in 2012 would put the Packers at risk of losing Coleman before they ever get a real chance to see what they have. The seventh-rounder from UT-Chattanooga showed enough natural arm talent this summer to think he'd be a difficult player to cut and then get back on the practice squad. But keeping just two quarterbacks on he 53-man roster is something the Packers have been comfortable with, and I wouldn't rule it out here either, especially if there is confidence in getting Coleman back on the practice squad.

Running back

Three is the assumption at running back, too. James Starks, Alex Green and Brandon Saine are the overwhelming favorites to be the final three, while UDFAs Marc Tyler and Duane Bennett will attempt to steal a spot in camp. But this is already a bone-dry position overall, and the chances of carrying four running backs is much stronger than two. The Packers can't afford any cuts here.

Fullback

John Kuhn was the lone fullback last season after the Packers spent three roster spots at the position in 2010. Green Bay won't go three again, but there's no cut available here.

Tight end

Most will point to tight end as the one position flexible enough for the Packers to carry seven receivers. Jermichael Finley is an obvious lock, but there are unknowns on the depth chart after Finley.

The best case scenario for Andrew Quarless is starting the season on the PUP list, but I doubt the Packers are counting on much from him in 2012 after he tore up his knee last season. There's still talk of him missing the entire 2012 season.

While Quarless' likely absence opens up one roster spot, where does the next cut come from?

Tom Crabtree and Ryan Taylor are similar players, but both have become established special teams contributors. Losing either would be a significant blow to an area in which Packers coach Mike McCarthy puts a high emphasis on. And cutting Crabtree—on top of losing Quarless to injury—voids the Packers of a true blocking tight end.

D.J. Williams was underwhelming in his first season, but his versatility around the offense gives him a good chance at sticking around. I'm not convinced the Packers are ready to give up on a guy that has some natural pass-catching ability, and I'm even less convinced that Green Bay would carry just one fullback and three tight ends if Williams wasn't one.

But let's now do the math: Three quarterbacks and running backs, one fullback, seven receivers and four tight ends, plus a minimum of eight offensive linemen. That scenario puts the Packers at 26 offensive players, a higher total than Green Bay has started a season with in the last three years.

And considering how poor the defense was last season—and the ensuing draft that saw six defensive players picked—keeping just 24 on that side of the ball seems unlikely. To start 2011, Green Bay kept 26 defensive players, including 10 linebackers and 10 players in the secondary. Is there enough on that side of the ball to think Thompson would trim its numbers by two to start 2012?

I'm not ready to rule out the possibility of the Packers keeping seven receivers, mostly because Thompson has a long history of keeping the best players regardless of position. But having seven receivers on the 53 puts serious pressure not only on other offensive positions, but also especially on the defensive side of the ball. At that point, the reward for keeping seven probably outweighs the risk.

Let's also not lose sight of the fact that training camp hasn't even started. Gurley and Borel still have plenty of work ahead of them to make this a worthwhile discussion. We can retrace our steps sometime next month to truly get a grasp on the seven receiver debate.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (32) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

CSS's picture

Harrell was exposed to waivers last year and made it on the practice squad. Coleman, despite his arm-strength, is 4 months removed from almost going undrafted. I find it hard to believe any other team will place him on their active 53 when so few teams even carry a 3rd QB on the active roster to begin with.

I give it a 5% chance that Coleman is on the active roster unless he suddenly picks up a highly complex offense in just a few months and lays waste to the opposition in mop-up duty during pre-season games. Practice squad all the way.

Good read, thanks.

Zach Kruse's picture

Thanks CSS for the comment.

One thing working in the Packers favor with Coleman is that he should want to stay around Green Bay even if he gets cut. If there's no team that wants him on their active 53 once cut, he should be a slam dunk to return to PS.

Rocky70's picture

You two really need to do a little more research. There's no way BJ Coleman goes to the GB PS. Read this & think again. (BTW, 6'3' & around 230#)

"Physically imposing and solidly-built throughout his frame with good body strength. Has a strong arm with the ability to easily make all the throws. Has above average zip and velocity on his passes with strong stick throws. Possesses a smooth, quick release with good mechanics that translate well to the next level. Has good mobility to move around in the pocket with the foot quickness to evade pressure and pick up yards with his legs when needed (7 career rush scores). Has strong character on and off the field with natural leadership traits and is known as the consummate teammate. Very coachable and is a quick learner, working hard to improve and hone his craft. A film junkie ..."

Do you honestly think TT/MM are going to expose BJ to the PS over Graham Harrell? BJ is already the 2nd best QB on GB's roster. He moved ahead of Harrell the minute he was drafted.

pkrNboro's picture

could... could we just see him play in a couple of pre-season games first ?

at the next level ??

before we crown his ass ???

SHODAN's picture

Dennis Green says to go ahead and crown his ass.

Rocky70's picture

Try this. GB would have already signed a veteran BU if they weren't confident in their QB situation going into TC.

Now try this. TT will go to the greatest lengths to retain his own draft picks. BJ Coleman is TT's draft pick while GH is just another QB project picked up off the street.

BTW, no one is crowning 'his ass' & it's highly unlikely that preseason will have much to do with who backs up AR in 2012. --- It's fairly simple --- BJ is the 'New Flynn' for the next 4 years.

pkrNboro's picture

Sheesh...

I was just trying to work some Denny Green into my comment.

Perhaps, I should have gone "Mora"

Three Quarterbacks?

THREE QUARTERBACKS ???

Rocky70's picture

Now I got it.
It flew over my head. My fault.

Franklin Hillside's picture

Victory for pkrNboro

gratif's picture

anyone have the numbers on how many teams carried 3 QBs last year? I believe it was less than half.

PackRatz's picture

It's ludicrous to say Coleman is already #2 when he hasn't even put pads on yet. Your quote is no more than a pre draft report showing an upside but he's still a project that will take a couple years to develop and learn the NFL game. Assuming GB places him on the PS,do you really think the GM of a team that passed him over in the draft, would you really want to guarantee a roster spot to a QB who can't beat out Graham Harrell?

chuck's picture

I would "guess" only one roster spot for the following players: WR Gurley, WR Borel, TE Taylor, and QB Coleman. That is if no other players at the position are hurt during training camp.

Of all those guys, only one was drafted- QB Coleman in the seventh round. One of those players should stand out before the season, and if not then pick one.

Thompson has a great track record finding receivers: Jennings, Nelson, Jones, Cobb in the draft. If neither Gurley or Borel make the team this year, I'd be pretty confident in Thompson drafting a WR or two next year for the 5th and/or 6th receiver. After all, both Borel and Gurley were undrafted FA last year. Either one would have a difficult time equaling Cobb's contribution of last year.

I would have to "guess" that Gurley or Borel would have to light it up in camp to make the team, or would make good trade candidates. I'd guess Gurley for his special teams ability to replace a tight end.

Just my thought. Nice when the only guessing on offense is 3rd string QB, 4th TE, 5th or 6th WR, and a couple backup linemen!

CSS's picture

I wouldn't underestimate Taylor. He could very well be their best special teams player and contribute on all units. Very difficult to replace his combination of intensity, violence and athleticism. Also, Rodgers publicly called for more offensive reps for the kid at years end. I think Crabtree and Williams are more vulnerable at the TE position. Crabtree is what he is at this point, while Williams better grow or he may go.

As for Borel and Gurly having trade value, I don't see it. Highly unlikely a team will pull the trigger knowing either/both would be released if they aren't taking a big step in camp and during the preseason.

Good Old 66's picture

Ryan Taylor was drafted in the the 7th round last year

woodson4president's picture

i always thought DJ Williams was a good enough player to make it in the pros...but i guess i have been wrong once or twice. i hope jermike gets his shit together this year n lights it up like we all know he can!

pkrNboro's picture

With Quarless and Green returning from knee injuries, I wouldn't be surprised to see both PUP. It's the typical crap every year, from every team, about their injured players: he's doing great, ahead of schedule, I-had-to-take-his-helmet, etc. But when push comes to shove, they err on the side of caution and limit, or even eliminate, contact. Or, more likely, the doctor says: "are you nuts? there's no way I'm clearing him to play!" Even though Q's injury was pretty serious, I doubt the Pack tip their hand about putting him on IR this season too -- starting him on PUP will give them options.

So that would give Gurley and Borel a tryout. If the Packers wanted to bring back both injured guys after the PUP timeframe, the two receivers could go back to the PS -- pretty sure both would still be eligible, if it was timed correctly.

Halfway through the season, it'd be doubtful that another team would really make a run for either. It would be a pretty tough task for a player to go to another team and learn their system and make a contribution. Plus, with Driver likely seeing his last season as a Packer, it would be incentive for both Gurley and Borel to stay -- which they would likely do for a minimum wage bump in pay.

After last season's defense, I think it's purely academic discussing the merits of a fifth or sixth WR. Personally, I'd give one or both positions to the defense.

MarkinMadison's picture

Nicely done.

Evan's picture

"Halfway through the season, it’d be doubtful that another team would really make a run for either."

Why not? Isn't that exactly what happened last season?

Also, both guys already took more money to stay on the PS last year, I highly doubt either would pass up a spot on someone's 53 just for a little more money and the hope of maybe making the Packers next season, again. They have their own careers to think about.

Rocky70's picture

You're exactly right. If Gurley or Borel do not make GB's 53 going into game 1, they are gone. Gurley turns 25 yet this year & Borel will turn 24 yet this year. ---- Each year you can add 50, 60, 100? new WRs who dream of entering the workforce (NFL). The Gurley/Borel window is closing. (may already be shut)

Mojo's picture

Agree about not keeping six or seven WR's. Rather see those roster spots employed on the defense, specifically the D-line. They need a larger rotation of players there to spell Raji and hopefully supply a pass-rush.

Sometimes you have to say; "whatever happens - happens" - regarding roster spots and the possibility of losing a decent player. I think most of us would agree that if the Pack could up-grade their D, they would not only be among the SB favorites, but the favorite. So along those lines, if they try to stash Coleman on the PS and lose him, so-be it.

Regarding PUPing Green, I don't think that will happen because I believe they will have him practice which would make him ineligible.

Rocky70's picture

Bingo. The "D" obviously needs the manpower to make needed improvements.

GB already has one of the best WR corp in the NFL. A 6th & 7th WR would only see the field because of injury.

2012 is all about the "D". Just like the draft leaned to the "D", so will the final 53.

BubbaOne's picture

Why would a soon to be 30 yr old coming an injury who is making $2.3M be a lock? I'm referring to John Kuhn.

pkrNboro's picture

because on average he can gain 10 yards on two carries and one pass reception per game ??

is this a trick question ???

BubbaOne's picture

Not a trick Q at all. TT has kept 3 FB's, 5 TE's, when playing the 4-3 he kept 10 DL and conversely he's kept only 2 RB's.

So whose to say Kuhn is a lock esp when you take into consideration the reasons I stated. (TT could use the nearly $2M savings towards one of the upcoming contracts). Most teams don't carry a FB, maybe this year TT follows suit which would free up a roster spot for a WR or OL.

mocheeseplease's picture

Hmmm, always confused when people say "monetary insurance" like it means anything to TT. If Borel and/or Gurley perform well this camp, and no one gets hurt, then Driver is gone.

Mojo's picture

I too believe DD is not necessarily a lock to make the final 53. I think if Borel, Gurley or maybe even Moss significantly outperform DD the Pack would have to consider moving on. And the $1.2 mil would be a nice parting gift for someone who has been held in high regard by the organization.

I know the head-coach is obviously a more important position within an organization, but the Pack had no problem eating Sherman's multimillion deal when they decided to move on from him.

Cole's picture

Here's the final 53:

3qbs
3rbs
1fb
6wr--Jennings, Cobb, Jordy, Jones, driver, borel
2 Te--Taylor, Finley
1 wr/te--D Moss

Borel gets the nod because of his return ability, we have no returner behind Cobb. Quarless on Pup. Dale moss shocks the world plays wr in goal line situations and gains weight while making eventual transition to TE.

Evan's picture

I think 3 TEs (not counting converting Dale Moss) is far more likely than 3 QBs.

Dave's picture

What about Shaky Smithson? We can't forget his return ability. He spent the season on IR last year, but showed some real promise before he was hurt.

Jake's picture

I'm pretty sure it was decided by most observers that he's just not fast enough to play in the NFL.

fred's picture

Surprising amount of love for Coleman. He has PS written all over him.

2 QB (Coleman to PS)
3 RB
1 FB
3 TE (Quarless to PUP, Williams cut)
6 WR (Borel cut)

DrewTheDraftGuru's picture

I personally doubt that we would keep 7 WR's. I think 6 is the most likely. We can keep the more developed out of Gurley and Borel (personally, I feel Gurley is the better option at this point) and try to sneak the other one on the PS. If they get claimed it's not the end of the world. WR is so deep around the league and keeping 6 is already keeping more than usual, so there is no need to keep 7 and hinder a more important position.

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