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Green and Bold: Depth an Issue on Packers' 53-Man Roster

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Green and Bold: Depth an Issue on Packers' 53-Man Roster

The Packers announced their final roster cuts on Saturday, trimming their roster down to 53 players and their practice squad down to 10. 

Enough ink has been spilled on the Packers' decision to cut starting guard Josh Sitton with one year remaining on his contract, but what the Sitton situation does remind us is that, on the offensive line and elsewhere, depth already looks like it could become an issue on the Packers' roster. 

We'll start with the offensive line. Take a look at the Packers' depth chart. With Sitton gone, Lane Taylor, formerly a reserve lineman, will be slotting in to start at left guard. 

While the Packers have reasonably good depth at the tackle positions, where rookie Jason Spriggs sits behind left tackle David Bakhtiari and rookie Kyle Murphy behind Bryan Bulaga on the right side, veteran lineman Don Barclay is listed as the primary backup for both guard positions as well as center JC Tretter. 

Of course, the problem is further complicated by the fact that Corey Linsley remains on the PUP list. The team hopes that Linsley will be able to return after six weeks, but in the meantime, the Packers had better hope that they don't experience injuries to more than one player on the offensive line.

Considering that every starting Packers o-lineman in 2015 missed at least one game due to injury except, ironically, for Sitton, that seems like a long shot. 

Plus, in order to activate Linsley six weeks into the season, the Packers will have to release another player to create room for Linsley on the roster, which could decrease the depth at another position group at that time. 

Let's move to the other side of the ball to the front seven. 

Presumably, the Packers drafted Kenny Clark in the first round to be their starting nose tackle after losing B.J. Raji to a hiatus from playing football. However, on the depth chart Clark is currently listed as the backup to defensive end Dean Lowry and defensive tackle Mike Daniels, but is nowhere to be found at nose tackle. There, Letroy Guion is slotted in at the top spot, with only Christian Ringo behind him as Mike Pennel serves a suspension for the first four games of the season. 

Ringo, meanwhile, spent his entire rookie season on the practice squad. 

In all, the Packers have only five defensive lineman on the 53-man roster, and only Daniels and Guion have played in an NFL game. 

It's possible that Clark is not listed as the starting nose tackle because he was been working his way back from a back injury, returning to practice on Tuesday for the first time since August 22. But no matter how you look at it, the Packers look thin on the defensive line. 

Then there's the inside linebackers. There are just three of them: starters Jake Ryan and rookie Blake Martinez, and Joe Thomas, whom the Packers cut and then re-signed off the Dallas Cowboys' practice squad.

Inside linebacker Sam Barrington, presumed by many this offseason to have been in the Packers' plans as a starter, was released as part of final cuts, leaving the Packers with only three inside linebackers. Carl Bradford was signed to the practice squad. 

And now the person calling plays for the Packers on defense will be a rookie who was selected in the fourth round of the 2016 draft in Martinez. 

Of course, if injuries were to befall Ryan or Martinez, the Packers could call up Bradford from the practice squad or, as a last-case scenario, move Clay Matthews back inside temporarily. Of course, however, every move has implications and in that scenario, the outside linebacker depth would become shallower as a result. 

Now, the necessary disclaimer: we haven't seen a snap of regular-season football, and we have no idea how the Packers final roster will perform until it gets onto the field. We don't know that losing Sitton and Barrington will necessarily make the Packers worse. 

This isn't a value judgment. But in analyzing the 53-man roster and, specifically, the number of spots allotted to each position group, it becomes apparent quickly which positions seem to be thinner than others. It's a reasonable concern heading into the season, because in a league where injuries run rampant, teams need to have a contingency plan. 

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (47) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

The TKstinator's picture

I wouldn't say that Martinez is calling plays for the Packers defense; I'd merely say he's the guy relaying them from Dom.
I wonder if that helmet thing has bluetooth.

RCPackerFan's picture

I can't disagree that the OL, DL and ILB are thinner then other positions.

The OL will get help once Linsley comes back, but until then the interior OL depth is lacking.

The DL will get a boost when Pennel comes back but these first 4 games could be tough without him. The first 2 games are against run heavy offenses.
With the defense playing mostly 2 DL at a time and with Peppers and Jones still able to play some DL, the depth will be ok. I'm not as concerned with the DL as I am with the OL at the moment.

The ILB in terms of depth on paper is very light with only 3 listed at ILB. We have heard rumors that they will be using Safety's as ILB and they still have the ability to move Mathews around. I'm not overly concerned with the ILB right now.

Once games start getting played we will see how Capers plans to play his players on the defense.

My biggest concern for depth is at the Interior OL right now. With only Barclay available (until Linsley comes back), it doesn't leave much room for injuries.

L's picture

Agreed. I too think there will be enough coverage at DL and ILB thanks to the defensive schemes they'll mostly be playing in and the versatility of D.Jones (plus perhaps J.Peppers too), C.Matthews, and M.Burnett; plus, who knows if another safety (perhaps M.Evans) has been given some (Hybrid) monkeybacker training too.

I do think that Clark will get opportunities at NT throughout the year, but they may not be rushing him into that role as he seemed to struggle a bit in the early preseason games. Pennel's return from suspension will be very helpful, but who gets cut? As far as the O-line depth being the biggest immediate worry, I sure hope Murphy is being prepared by the coaches to play some Guard in an emergency on top of his Tackle training because Linsley's return will be 2 weeks more than Pennel's absence and they can't be comfortable with just Barclay being the only capable interior backup for that time period on the 53. By the way, who gets cut to make room for Linsley?

The other good news is the practice squad has some depth on it at these particular positions, so it's possible they could pull someone from there after a game if need be.

My guesses for how they make room on the 53 for Pennel and Linsley: T.Davis goes onto the IR from mysteriously re-injuring his shoulder and J.Callahan gets cut, but added to the practice squad. Another contender for the cut and added to the practice squad possibility is M.Evans, but if he's being trained as another (hybrid) monkeybacker then perhaps not.

RCPackerFan's picture

I am really curious to see what Capers has planned. With the Elephant End and the Hybrid Safety role.
I'm not to concerned about our depth along the DL because most of the time they use 2 DL anyways. But an injury could hurt it a quite a bit.

Pennel should provide a boost when he returns.

As far as players that may get released when players come back, i would say lets wait and see if there any injuries between now and then.

Evans could be a really good candidate to be a Hybrid S/ILB type of player. He is a hard hitter and plays without fear.

croatpackfan's picture

Well, while I agree that some positions looks thin on depth - lets say ILB, they have 2 ILBs on the PS. Same with OL (2 G), where you have Lucas who played well through preseason. DL is thin, but that is something Packers decide to go with, obviously with the decision to play more subpackages than base D, where they might have just enough players up to bye week. If injury will take player out, they have Price on PS to fill lost.
I'm not so concerned by depth. I'm more concerned how rookies will respond on assignements.

Caleb Lites's picture

But thank God we kept 7 WRs (9 including PS) and 6 safeties..

Still strange to me how a team with a fairly deep roster during training camps ends up with such a wonky final roster construction.

Packer_Pete's picture

Isn't it 10 WRs, as there are 3 on PS? But regardless, I think the story of "good depth" was perpetuated by people with rose or better green/gold colored glasses. I posted last week that I didn't think the depth was that great at several positions, especially OL, DL, and ILB, which some regulars here disputed. And that was of course before Sitton. I maintain that was the case, and there really isn't that great depth that many people want to see.

While some players have looked good during preseason, one always has to see who they've played against. Browns certainly will be bottom feeders in the NFL this season. 49ers won't be doing great either. Oakland IMHO will have a decent but not a great team. And the only good team they've played was the Chiefs, but that was game 4 and mostly young guys fighting for roster spots. But I think it was telling that both lines got pushed around by the Chiefs quite a bit, so the Chiefs' depth at both OL and DL is definitely superior vs the Packers depth at those positions. Won't matter that much during regular season if the team can stay relatively injury free, but if similar things happen to the OL as last season then this one will go down the drain quickly.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

"Plus, in order to activate Linsley six weeks into the season, the Packers will have to release another player"

Well, there is a good chance an injury will handle that for them.

LeagueObsrvr's picture

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MarkinMadison's picture

I think the biggest concern is the OL. Murphy is clearly not ready to play. Spriggs has spent all of his time at LT, and he has been uneven there - about what you would expect for a rookie. Barclay may be improved but he is still not a starting caliber player. The OL will have trouble adapting to one injury while Linsley is on PUP. Two would be a disaster.

DL is really thin at NT. Ringo is not a NT by any stretch of the imagination. Guion is going to need to be spelled in the heat, just like any big man. Add it all up and you are looking at a defense that is going to be vulnerable for the first four weeks to runs up the gut.

This is why my bold prediction yesterday was a 2-2 start.

Handsback's picture

The Oline right now has two significant injured players: Walker and Linsley. I think Sitton's position was made for Walker, but he'll have to earn it the hard way now. So the Oline is thin as well as the Dline. Let's see how those first two games go against the power running teams. My hope is that the Pack's offense puts pressure on the other team to score and keep up. So a strong running game against Green Bay is out of the question.

Michalske's picture

Walker was placed on IR as part of the cut down to 53. Mostly players that happens to take an injury settlement once they get healthy and then sign with a different team.

Not sure if Walker's injury will allow for that, but I am not counting on him staying a Packer.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Walker was waived injured. He can be re-signed after 8 weeks.

stockholder's picture

The contingency plan is the versatility of the present starters and TTs budget plan. Everyone of the defensive guys can switch to fill in. I see no depth issues. I'm sure a few of these guys are here just for the special teams. And TT will pick up somebody new if needed. You saw how fast Burks was replaced. If they don't perform as expected, they won't be here next year. Get hurt and their gone. Pertect the draft picks. It's that simple. Coin is the name of this game this year.

stockholder's picture

Because they don't have too. It's versatility. The players need to be brought up to GAME DAY readiness anyway. No PS or waiver guy, is going to make an immediate impact. Pennel is what it is. I understand ,and wanted TT to take 2 NT in the draft. But he went with Spriggs. (I understood. ) Many from SB nation wanted a LB from Alabama. But the DL can still play Peppers or Jones. As for Clarke , they used Raji up, they'll be careful with Clarke. Better compare Clarke to Jones and Perry. They knew that when they took him. I guarantee that if this team gets that desperate for Defensive Lineman, and their difference makers get hurt. They'll be playing for draft picks. Thats the contingency Plan. Thats always been TTs plan. Common you know that.

staffordsneckfat's picture

DPF,

I have noticed you mentioning Pennell's baggage a few times and I think it is important to note that he was not kicked out of school at ASU, he was just suspended from the football team.

Happy Wednesday,
StaffordsNeckFat

staffordsneckfat's picture

I don't think you're hearing what I am saying. Getting kicked off the team and getting kicked out of the University are two very different things. He was never kicked out of ASU, just suspended from the team.

RobinsonDavis's picture

Agree wth the "contigencies" remark and D-line depth, Desert. Also, It was not too long ago we had 3 TEs injured at the same time in our own training camp and our current/only FB was injured. Although, not of urgency, I would think TT has a plan for a TE and/or FB on the practice squad at some point, but we shall see. Regardless, finding quality d-line/depth has long been an issue for the Pack and TT in particular.

carusotrap's picture

You sure do have to wonder how the roster depth that was the envy of the league four weeks ago got to this point.

zeke's picture

If all it took to go from being the envy of the league to something much less than that is losing Sitton, then maybe the roster depth wasn't really the envy of the league. Or maybe no one knows because they have yet to play a game.

Turophile's picture

Look at this from another perspective. How many players did the Packers lose to other teams on cutdown day. There are only two players of note, Barrington and Sitton. Talented guys made it to the PS, like Allison, Patrick, Bradford, Gilbert, Price, to name a few.

There are reasons for the release of both veteran players, for example several people have said the Packers were afraid Barrington had lost a step after his foot surgery, speed he could not afford to lose. With Sitton, ex Packer and commentator Tom Crabtree said (on espn) he knew why, but wouldn't give details. Whatever, it was probably a late decision by the Packers based on something that went down (that we know nothing about), there was no real sniff of this earlier in camp.

These losses are not enough to change a pre-existing opinion that the Packers depth is the envy of the league. The somewhat screwy numbers the Packers kept at various positions (originally it was 12 DBs, 7 WRs, 3 ILBs) suggest they are trying their very best to keep anyone who may have a future with the Pack.

My conclusion, caruso81, is that at this point the Packers invite about as much envy now as they did earlier.

dobber's picture

Unless the Packers are committed to some change in over-arching philosophy, we'll likely see these numbers even out close to what we view as "normal" over the course of the season as injuries occur and players develop (or regress).

stockholder's picture

I don't think Bradford,Gilbert, Price are that talented. TT will replace any of them anytime he finds a chance. Allison and patrick are a dime a dozen. Speed is what they want now. Barrington was not the best ILB anyway. Compared to Bishop, I'd release him to if he slowed down. TT got Lucky or just earned his pay with the DBs. It's interesting that TT did not draft a DB/S this year. And yet these guys look like they could be very helpful. I believe the packers are doing their best to keep the players in the most expensive positions. TT knows he'll have to pay a difference maker. If he gets the same play from a FA as a veteran. Well, good bye veteran. I'll call it scab labor. But how many get retained after this year, will change the packers for years to come. Because when the difference makers get hurt, this team will only get a higher draft pick.

Turophile's picture

Stockholder, you may as well say that any PS guy on any team is not that talented because he is not on the 53.

That is NOT the way a team committed to draft and develop views it. For them, the PS is a future investment. Coaches agonise over the final 53 and the PS, because they know these details matter, they are part of the puzzle in putting together the best possible roster, both now and in the future.

We have seen several guys now on this Packers PS do good things. They have been (imo) less invisible than PS guys have often been in the past. That is a pointer that there may be several good investments there for the future.

As for the 'dime a dozen' comment, well, let's see how much turnover there is in the PS this year. I'm guessing that guys like Allison, Bradford, Patrick, Gilbert, do not just get cut to add another guy out there. What I see is maybe three positions churning as the Packers bring guys in to see what they have.

Finally, your comment "when the difference makers get hurt, this team will only get a higher draft pick", makes it sound like you WANT them to fail, so you can get all excited at the next draft - I say it's better to get your fun on February 5th instead, with the Packers playing in Superbowl LI........pick 32 will be just fine then.

stockholder's picture

Yes ,we have seen a couple of guys come off the PS. But really how many become difference makers. The dime a dozen is whats happening in a NFL WR position. My feeling was " Just replacements" till the next draft. No, I really hope the packers win the super-Bowl. I do have a vegas bet. I just feel TT took the stability out of this team to get there. If I had seen the results of Sitton, Barrington, and a new punter holder, I would never have made the bet. Because when you make your team more questionable, you don't play like WE CAN'T LOSE. The players can't Relax. More injuries and other intangibles happen. Pressure! The draft has become over hyped. And who watches the pro-Bowl anymore? College football is more exciting. Especially the Bowl games. The Nfl is to swayed by the officials and poor GM decisions. The Negative sets in real fast.

Turophile's picture

You want difference makers from the PS !!! You don't want much. There are just 3 difference makers on the squad now. Rodgers, Matthews, Nelson, with Daniels close behind. Other teams have no more and very often less.

I'll be delighted if the Packers get some decent role players from the PS. Any starter quality guy is gravy, while difference makers are an opium dream that almost never happens.

If you look at the turnover in a roster each year, it becomes obvious that draft choices on their own are not enough to replenish a roster, especially when you include the guys that all teams get who just don't work out. Some teams pay big dollars acquiring veterans to fill that gap, but all too often they get burned doing this.

The Packers (more than any other team) really put in work on undrafted guys. That has two benefits. First they are cheap (and almost always hungry to succeed, because they were undrafted). Second the team gets a reputation for giving undrafted guys a fair shot at being on the team, which makes the Packers more attractive to prospects.

Given how sparing the Packers are in getting veteran FAs or giving up picks for a guy, they NEED to get a regular drip-feed from the PS to the 53, to allow them to do things their preferred way.

I really hope I've helped you see that undrafted guys are important to a team in the long run. They are part of what allows the Packers to have good depth across the years.

stockholder's picture

Thank you for explaining it so nicely. Shields was a great pick-up. And I still would include a few more.

Turophile's picture

Thanks for the compliment. The old saying that any blog turns into insults after about 30 posts, is not holding true here.

Sam Shields was a good one. Packers went to that well again a few years later, with another (undrafted) very, very fast guy at CB, but that time it didn't work out (forgot his name, was it Hawkins ?), i don't think he was physical enough for the NFL.

Tramon Williams was an undrafted guy, outstanding value......and although drafted, Tauscher and Don Driver were 7th rounders, who were brilliant additions.

lucky953's picture

As I saw it, a couple of things contributed to the situation. The inconsistency of WRs last season and dearth of production in the passing attack has led to keeping more guys at that position because they still don't know who will actually produce. Secondarily, they apparently had a banner year in unearthing defensive backfield talent (Brice, Hawkins, Evans). I imagine they will frequently bring a safety into the box and expect the corners to provide superb coverage. As other astute CH commentators have suggested, they are built to defend the pass with speed and athleticism. I remain concerned about the ability to stop the run and have plenty of anxiety about what Malik Jackson is going to do to Lane Taylor.

RobinsonDavis's picture

Although, I have long pointed out that the Safety position is undergoing a renaissance with the Packers D and that they have found a number of talented young safeties in FA this year, there may be another factor why the Packers may have kept as many safeties as they did.....Morgan Burnett's lingering back issues.

Kevin McDonnell's picture

I think the OL is deep, especially when Linsley gets back. Tretter and Barclay can play multiple positions. I think you're wrong about Spriggs, the Stanford product would fill in at left tackle if needed.
The Pack play a lot of nickel and dime. Hence, the depth in the defensive backfield. ILB has Matthews as an emergency backup but also has Carl Bradford waiting in the wings.
Every team has depth concerns. But I'll take the Pack. Pre-season play proved that they have better depth than many teams...

dobber's picture

I think you're right with regard to usage: this roster seems out-of-whack defensively IF the Packers decide to play a lot of base, straight-up 3-4. I don't think they're going to do that, but rather will play a lot of nickel and dime. I think they're going to concede some in the run defense with the plan of outscoring opponents...at least early on. Same idea of keeping a MLB pitcher around who is prone to walks, but throws a lot of ground balls and keeps the ball in the park. Periodically, he'll walk you to death, but otherwise you'll be in the ballgame because he's not giving up the 3-run HR. RIght now, this defense is faster and more versatile than a year ago, and it's designed to not give up the 3-run HR.

NMPF's picture

I find it hard to understand the chicken little the sky is falling tone, yes depth on the 53 is important but only 46 can suit up to play weekly. 8 OL, 5DL 3 ILB is the most that would be active anyway. I say worry about the other stuff if or when it happens. Pack 27 Jax 24.

gr7070's picture

Our safeties will be playing more ILB this year. Thus the need for only 3 of them.

ILB is the FB of the defense anyway.

dobber's picture

If you're only playing base less that 35% of the time, how often do you need more than 1 ILB on the field?

gr7070's picture

Exactly my point. The safeties will be acting as "ILBs".

dobber's picture

Agreed!

staffordsneckfat's picture

With roster restrictions it is impossible to have depth everywhere. Every team in the league is thin at a position.

This article accurately highlights the positions where the Packers are thin, but fails to cite the positions where they are very very deep (QB, WR, DB)

RCPackerFan's picture

Also with the depth at Safety, you have to really wonder how much Capers is going to be using Burnett and others in a ILB type of role.

ILB maybe thin in numbers but until we see how Capers uses the players I don't think we can necessarily say its a thin position.

staffordsneckfat's picture

Yup. The talent at safety is going to let Capers get really creative, should be a fun defense to watch.

And to think, we were trotting out M.D. Jennings just 3 seasons ago....

Since '61's picture

On offense this team is built to give AR plenty of weapons and options for how to utilize them. There is some depth concerns at OL but we have 2 OGs on the PS plus Linsley will return from PUP. The defense has been built around speed and athleticism to defend the pass and rush the passer. Defending the run appears to be less important but we won't know that until we see how the Packers line up and play. Every team has depth issues it's part of todays NFL. The Packers have chosen to go heavy at WRs after last season's experience and to load up on DBs to prevent the big plays which have hurt them in the past. How it all works out remains to be seen. At least we've made it to Week 1 with a healthy roster, except for Linsley. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since '61

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

NE cut Kline and after he cleared waivers signed him to their practice squad. Apparently, GB didn't want Kline last Saturday, so one would suspect TT has no interest in him now. Maybe we'd want to sign him to our own PS?

Ferrari Driver's picture

Quite a pessimistic prognostication, Michelle.

Hard to imagine what you would have to say if you were around when the NFL played with a 40 man roster.

Since '61's picture

Or a 33 man roster form that matter.! Thanks, Since '61

marpag1's picture

When some writers and members on this website have actually debated - sincerely, it seems - that the Packers aren't deep at CORNERBACK, it ought to make us wonder if we can agree on what reasonable depth actually is.

Last year a lot of people were bitching that the Packers had no depth on the O-line, and this was apparently proven by the fact that a guy like Barclay had to make a spot-start or two due to a rash of nagging injuries. This year the Packers add two rookie OLs who are clearly not ready yet, and all of a sudden the Packers are "incredibly deep" on the offensive line. Then we subtract one - count 'em... one - good but aging veteran guard and suddenly the entire team is once again bereft of depth.

Real games can't come soon enough.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Lots of sarcasm, not much beef, in this comment, Marpag. IIRC, I'd say you're twisting what was written.

1. OL being incredibly deep? Did anyone write that? Numbers crunch yes, ready to start players, fairly deep but not incredibly so. Initially, we were talking about the 5 starters, plus Tretter, and a moderately decent Taylor = 7 NFL ready OL. Plus 2 talented rookies tackles, neither of whom could get to the PS, equals 9. Jersey Al agreed with me that Spriggs has tons of athleticism, but was the least ready of the top 5 or 6 OTs in the draft. I loved Murphy, and have hopes that he could play RT at a decent level maybe later this season, but more likely in 2017. I had hopes for a jump from Walker and Rotheram to overtake Taylor or Barclay, but they both got injured. I was advocating keeping 10 OL due to the expiring contracts on the OL, and would suggest that going into the pre-season suggesting that the 10th OL would be chosen from Barclay, Walker, Rotheram, is probably better than most teams. GB lost Sitton and Linsley, 2 starting quality OL, and Walker and Rotheram, two modestly promising OL. Given decent health, I was hopeful of only seeing the top 5 and Tretter, and never seeing Taylor, or Barclay play this season. Now we are definitely going to see Tretter (no drop off there) and Taylor play, and there is a decent chance of seeing Barclay play more than a few snaps. Big change. Most teams have 1 less than average guy starting, but not GB till TT went insane. Few teams had a prime back-up as good as Tretter. So, pretty deep, but not incredible.

2. I am guilty: I did write about the depth at CB. Top 3 in Shields, Rollins and Randall are fine. GB is probably as good or better than most teams with those three. I wrote that the lynch pin between having a very deep CB corps was Gunther, but Hawkins came in and played well. Note that I think Hyde has seriously slipped, notwithstanding that nice INT he had. Good hands, but he can't man cover TEs and RBs. He needs to move from Hybrid to just plumb back-up safety.

2a. I am a bit concerned about Burnett. Lots of talk about Sitton's poor health and inability to practice, but Sitton looks like an iron-man next to Burnett. I pushed hard for Evans to make the team as perhaps a guy who might develop into Burnett's replacement. Liked Brice too, but as a FS.

I agree on one thing: a few real NFL games will help answer these issues, and probably make some folks look a bit silly. I hope my opinions on RR, Hyde, Clark, Elliot, Davis, Janis, and Adams make me look silly, and that my opinions on Cook, Abby, Lowry, Perillo, and Pennel make me look like a genius.

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