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Packers Face Difficult Decisions

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Packers Face Difficult Decisions

The preseason is in the books for the Green Bay Packers and now the coaching staff and General Manager Ted Thompson have some tough choices to make.

With a win over the Los Angeles Rams, the Packers finish with a 3-1 record and some very solid play overall.  For a team with Super Bowl aspirations, their showing this past month certainly didn't hurt their case.  Now they have the task of deciding which 53 men will make up their 2017 team.

We all know that Aaron Rodgers is QB1 and Brett Hundley will back him up.  Joe Callahan and Taysom Hill both had some bright moments this preseason, as well.  Hill really stood out in the games against Washington and the Rams.  There's a good argument that he's supplanted Callahan for third on the depth chart and that the Packers will try to stash Hill on their practice squad.

At running back, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Ty Montgomery would be the starter with Jamaal Williams his primary back up.  But bursting onto the scene over the last three weeks has been Aaron Jones.  Jones has shown versatility in his ability to produce between the tackles and as a pass catcher.  His blocking hasn't been bad either and many opined after Thursday's game against the Rams that Jones is the clear number-two back.

Williams was a fifth-round pick so it's unlikely that he isn't kept on the active roster.  Seventh-round pick Devante Mays turned in a nice finale and appears headed for a roster spot as well.  With fullback Aaron Ripkowski in the mix, that would make five running backs that are all on.  To me, that seems very likely given the youth and need for other options in case of struggles.

At wide receiver, the top five spots are pretty much set.  Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, Geronimo Allison and Trevor Davis are set.  Davis should enter the season as the punt returner so based on that alone, he's on.  Jeff Janis likely did enough to keep his spot for another year.  That's six receivers.  Remaining are Deangelo Yancey (a fifth round pick this past spring), Malachi Dupre (a seventh round picks this past spring), Max McCaffery and Michael Clark.  

One of the burning questions is whether the Packers will keep a seventh receiver.  With Allison's one-game suspension (add to that a concussion suffered against Los Angeles), the team won't have to answer that right away.  Expect them to keep an extra guy at least until Allison returns.  

Health will likely be what shakes out this position group but for now, my bet is that McCaffery gets the nod based on what was turned in during the preseason.  Some will say that's crazy given Yancey's draft position, but he had such a lackluster camp and preseason.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Packers seem to have quite the stock of defensive backs.  Youngsters Josh Hawkins, Marwin Evans, and Donatello Brown all made solid cases for themselves in game play.  Hawkins and Evans are returning from last season and should both stick.  Brown was battling with Lenzy Pipkins though most of the preseason but Brown's performance against the Rams may have pushed him ahead.

With Davon House dealing with a hamstring injury and rookie Kevin King battling a groin, the Packers could opt to go heavier at defensive back for now.  

While the previously mentioned groups seem heavy on personnel, the Packers are also quite thin in other areas.  The offensive line is becoming a bigger concern by the week.  As right tackle Bryan Bulaga heals, back ups Jason Spriggs and Kyle Murphy have done little to calm anyone's nerves.  Will the Packers scour the waiver wire over this weekend and look to add some depth?

At outside linebacker, Clay Matthews and Jayrone Elliott are both dinged up.  Ahmad Brooks was added this past week and Kyler Fackrell is healthy, but how effective he can be is still up in the air.  Rookie Vince Biegel seems destined for the physically unable to perform list so he's out of the mix until at least the seventh week of the regular season.  A lack of a pass rush in these first five games is less than ideal, given the schedule.

It appears as though the Packers will avoid another punter controversy this season.  Last year, they let long-time punter Tim Masthay go in favor of Jake Schum, who had been cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  The move was puzzling and Schum had his struggles early in the season.  Justin Vogel has kicked and been the holder the entire preseason and Head Coach Mike McCarthy was complimentary of Vogel after the Rams game.  Brett Goode is back as the long snapper and Mason Crosby is your kicker, of course.

Over the next few days, we'll learn just how accurate all of the predictions are and who the Packers opt to keep on the practice squad.  Final cut downs are never without drama and don't expect this year to be any different.

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Jason is a freelance writer on staff since 2012 and also co-hosts Pulse of the Pack podcast.  You can follow him on Twitter here

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Nick Perry's picture

"Will the Packers scour the waiver wire over this weekend and look to add some depth?"

I would think the Packers are scouring the waiver wire at this moment, just waiting to pounce if someone who could help them is suddenly available. Hundley does hold onto the ball a little long sometimes, but it seemed most plays he had someone in his face in a second. Pretty hard to look downfield when you have huge men trying to make you part of the turf the second you get the ball.

I really like Aaron Jones. He plays faster than his 40 time and seems to have excellent vision. Playing against guys who will be watching Sundays games on their sofas just like us week one makes it tough to gauge just how good he is, but playing behind that 2nd string O-Line and getting any positive yards is encouraging. I'm not so sure Jones isn't RB 2 or if he isn't now he may be soon.

Watching Frackrell not be able to get to the QB against scrubs was a bummer. I'll admit now I was WAY overly optimistic about him for 2017. I still have lots of hope for him, but my optimism has faded for 2017 quite a bit since TC started. I'm not so sure I wouldn't keep Gilbert over Elliott.

RCPackerFan's picture

I think right now Jones is ahead of Williams, or at the very least on par with him.
The game seems to have slowed down for Jones. He sees the holes better. Williams looks like he is pressing, and isn't seeing the holes.

Last night all 3 rookie RB's ran with the same OL and against most of the same defenders. Jones was the best by far.

I wonder how secure Fackrell's position on the roster is. I commented below that he could be a surprising cut in favor of Gilbert.

Handsback's picture

I was pointed to Mays the same night that the Packers drafted him. He was a guy that fell through the cracks and few if any knew anything about him. So last night was watch the RBs night as far as I was concerned. All three rookies would be given a bigger opportunity to show what they could do.
Here is what I saw, (I'm not expert BTW) Williams hits the hole with some power. He can block and catch passes. That being said...I haven't seen him make something out of nothing.
Jones is very slippery. He can block and catch passes as well. (I thought the TD pass was a great effort on his part.) He doesn't have top-end speed, but seems to find holes better than Williams. His big runs had some huge holes, what I'm not sure of is if the holes were where the play was intented or did he see them and exploit them?
Last night, Mays was thrown to right away and showed good hands and very elusive ability in the open field. He gained his yards by doing his Lacy impression (which was very good) and I never saw him fall backwards while being hit. He did miss a block in pass protection, but otherwise looked very solid.

So what do the Packers do? To me, Monty is going to be one heck of a RB this year. If Monty stays healthy, I don't know why the team needs a deep RB group unless they contribute on ST. I saw some good things from Jones on KOs and could even see him return punts. So he may have moved to the roster because of that. If you have Rip, do you need Mays? If you're salting the game away in the 4th qtr. would the Pack want Rip or Mays on the field? I think Mays and have Rip blocking is what they would want.

If what I speculate is right (50/50 chance on that) then Mays and Jones have roster spots and Williams is on the outside. The problem with that is he's a higher draft pick that can do everything and more likely to be snatched up. So the Packers will probably keep all three of the rookie RBs and use them in different spots on the field. Over the course of the season, someone is going to get nicked up and Green Bay will still have the depth they need.

RCPackerFan's picture

The things that I noticed. (Like you, I'm no expert).

Williams right now is not seeing the holes. There was a play in the first half that he had a big hole to the right. He basically put his head down and ran right into a defender on the line. The game hasn't slowed down for him yet. But he does run with power and has been very good catching passes.

Jones to me is the best all round rookie RB. While he may not have top end speed he is fast and quick enough. Like you said he is slippery. On that draw he did have a big alley to run with, but he also made like 4 players miss. He broke like 3-4 tackles on that play. That shows his strength.
While he may have had some bigger holes to run through on some plays, he also made the right cut and hit the hole.

Mays I think is a player worth developing. He runs with power and runs angry. He has good receiving skills. He seems to have good vision as well.

I agree with you on them not necessarily needing a deep RB group. That being said the RB position is always one that needs more then 2 RB's. As we saw last year you need to have more. Another thing with both Jones and Mays is they do offer special teams roles. Jones can return kicks and Mays can play on all the units.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I don't know if Handsback and RC are experts, but I think those are excellent evaluations. Williams is the best of the 3 in pass pro. Jones looks better at it than he did.

Williams is a 4th round pick (not a 5th). Can't imagine TT not keeping him, though he is the least impressive in games. As an aside, if Denver cuts Jamaal Charles, I'd be all over that, but they have cut several RBs so far, and it looks like Charles made their team.

cuervo's picture

If I had to cut one of the 3 drafted running backs it would be Williams, Both Jones and Mays have shown more as both a runner and a pass catcher IMO, and it isn;t even close. They have both blocked well in pass protection as well.

At WR, McCaffery should be the easy choice if the objective is to keep someone that COULD help if needed right away this year. He has value on special teams and is clearly ahead in the nuances of the offense compared to Yancy or Dupre. I think both of them would be easy stashes on the PS.

Ot OLB, again if truly keeping the best player is the objective and you had to cut one....Fackrell would be my cut. Gilbert has shown way more than Fackrell. Fackrell could be put on the PS, nobody would put him on their 53 given the horrid tape he has out there. Whether he's even worth putting on the PS is another question.

Hawkins will be on the 53, and Brown or Pipkens or both can easily be on the PS.

They need to sign an OL or two after cuts, I have to belive there will be a few average vets available. As it stands now, we have zero quality depth. What a difference a year makes.

RCPackerFan's picture

If no one knew which round these RB's were drafted I would say that Jones was by far the best and would have been their first pick. Mays 2nd and Williams was last.
They won't cut Williams. I think they will keep all 3 rookies.

cuervo's picture

I agree, I don't think they'll cut Williams either, I just said IF I had to cut one, Williams would be it. If they cut one of the other two and keep Williams, that would be a mistake IMO.

RCPackerFan's picture

Yeah, I think Williams has shown enough that he will play. Just haven't seen anything big time with him. The game doesn't seem like its slowed down for him yet. But when it does I think he will be really good.

HankScorpio's picture

What fans have seen in regards to their pass blocking is but a tiny fraction of the entire body of work. And a relatively unimportant fraction to boot. In practice, the Packers defense is going to throw more looks at the offense than they see in exhibition games.

I've heard a beat writer say that Williams is the most accomplished pass blocker of the rooks. He backed that with praise from Rodgers...the guy that is being protected.

I don't know where the truth lies in terms of pass blocking ability from the rooks. But I do know the truth is that pass blocking is a vital function for a Packer RB to see the field. It is why John Kuhn, and Brandon Jackson before him, were on the field so much despite being pedestrian (at best) runner. They pass block on more than 6 in 10 plays so clearly it is a very important part of the job.

So if said beat writer and Rodgers are painting an accurate picture, not only will I be surprised if Williams is cut, I will be surprised if he doesn't see more snaps than Jones or Mays.

sheppercheeser's picture

The problem I have is TT's penchant for hanging onto higher draft picks, regardless of their performance, I'm guessing cuz he doesn't like to admit a mistake. There have been plenty of examples of this in TT's tenure. That being said, Fackrell hasn't measured up and I go along with the opinion that the NFL stands for "not for long", so if Fackrell doesn't perform, let's move on.

Handsback's picture

Fackrell hasn't developed like the Packer have wanted is my guess. That being said...he probably won't go on the PS because they think someone sees the same thing they do: Tall quick guy that needs to add strength.
I'm not sure if he's a 1-2 year development project in the Packer's eyes, but if they see or think his potential is pretty high....they aren't going to risk losing him to another team.

Green Bay has an issue, a nice issue, but a problem with their roster. They can't keep all of their draft picks on the roster. Guys like Fackrell, Mays, Dupree, Clark, Price, and others that have the capability to develop into good players may not be kept by the Packers because their roster is just about set. Other teams see the same things that the Packers do and have room either on their roster or PS for these guys. So instead of losing UDFAs, and low round draft picks, the Packer's will be losing some mid-round picks because their is no where to put them.

Like I said, it's an issue, but a nice one.

RCPackerFan's picture

The cut down will be tough in some areas of the team. The WR battle to me is till the toughest one to figure out.

Also I completely agree about Aaron Jones. He has been very impressive. His pass blocking from what I have seen has been fine. Right now the game has slowed down for Jones. He has been able to find the holes where Williams is missing them. Mays I thought looked good as well.

Here is my 53 prediction.

QB (2) - Rodgers, Hundley
RB/FB (5) - Montgomery, Jones, Williams, Mays, Ripkowksi
WR (7) - Nelson, Cobb, Adams, Davis, Janis, Yancey, McCaffrey, (Allison joins after week 1).
TE (3) - Bennett, Kendricks, Rodgers
OL (8) - Bakhtiari, Taylor, Linsley, Evans, Bulaga, Spriggs, Barclay, Murphy

DL (6) - Lowry, Clark, Daniels, Francois, Ringo, Adams
OLB (5) - Mathews, Perry, Brooks, Elliott, Fackrell
ILB (3) - Ryan, Martinez, Thomas
CB (6) - House, Rollins, Randall, King, Hawkins, Gunter
S (5) - Clinton-Dix, Burnett, Jones, Brice, Evans

SP (3) - Crosby, Vogel, Goode

I believe they keep Biegel and Goodson on the PUP.

The one position I'm still unsure of is WR. They may not keep 7 and may go with 6. If they do that, I think there is a chance they go after an OL that was cut by another team.

If there is one "shocking" move it might be cutting Fackrell, and keeping Gilbert. Fackrell hasn't developed the way they were hoping. Might they cut him loose already?

I think for the PS they will hope to go with something like this.

QB - Hill
WR - Dupre, Clark
OL - Amichia, Patrick
DL - Price
OLB - Gilbert
ILB - Mathews
CB - Pipkins, Brown

Savage57's picture

A good roster guess. I suspect Hill and a couple of others (Gilbert, Price) might not clear waivers, or get picked up off the PS if they do.

Oh, well, life in the NFL.

RCPackerFan's picture

Honestly in deciding this the areas that were the toughest, was WR, OL.

I am not completely sure they will keep 7 WR's.
But they drafted Yancey for a reason. Thompson rarely cuts picks 5th round or higher. Thats why I am going with the odds that they keep him.

OL, I think they have 8 players right now that they would keep. If they go with 9 I think it will be from another team.

As for players the 2 that I wanted to get on the 53, just couldn't was Price and Gilbert.

croatpackfan's picture

Almost same idea here. But I have interesting idea about Adams. I think he will be put on 53 roster, than he will be placed on IR designated to return and because of that I will ad Gilbert to OLB. Also, I think Yancey will go to PS and Patrick will be on 53...

But, as I have quite good record on betting who will be on the roster (2013 2 mistakes, 2014 1 mistake, 2015 1 mistake - I thought they'll cut Janis and last year 2 mistakes) I believe that this season is very, very hard to predict what will be...

RCPackerFan's picture

I do wonder if they may put Adams on IR. Which if they do that, then they could add either Gilbert or Price to the 53.

Yeah, I'm mostly going with Yancey on the 53 because of his draft position. Thompson rarely cuts guys 5th round and higher. Especially ones that have shown something, and he has shown some skills. Have to remember to with the 53. Its not just about this year, its about the future.

To me the toughest position to figure out is the WR. They could go so many directions. They could end up cutting Janis this year. With guys like Evans, Jones and Brice they could be our gunners. Are they as high on McCaffrey as a lot of fans? Do they see something in a guy like Clark that they don't want to risk losing? I mean there are a lot of scenarios that could happen.

flackcatcher's picture

I agree RC, but I would add a couple cautions here. MM likes to have an extra fullback when the team reaches the back half of the season. That kid from Michigan did nothing to kick himself off the 53.(forgot his name) Somebody in the WR group is going to get unfairly cut because of needs elsewhere. There might be one less slot open on the offense side to fill the needs at SS and OLB. I believe the WR and DB who are cut will make some other NFL team this year. (either their 53 or PS) With the league now a pass first pass league, no team can have enough DB's, and that skews everything.

croatpackfan's picture

Any team that take player of the cuts of other team needs to put that player on 53... So, PS is not the option!

cuervo's picture

Clarification....... any team can offer any player that is cut a postion on their PS. But If they want a player that is already on another teams practice squad, then they have to put them on their 53.

Example...if the Packers cut Clark on Saturday, any team in the league can offer him a spot on their PS, including GB. It's up to him and his agent to decide where they want to go. Some teams might offer to pay him more than the PS minimum as an incentive (including GB). So, if there is really a player that GB doesn't want to lose, they can keep them. In fact if a team offered a player a spot on their 53, that player doesn't have to accept. He can stay on the PS of another team if he thinks that's better for him long term.

RCPackerFan's picture

I think they have the extra FB with Kendricks now. He can play that h-back role.

I wouldn't be surprised if one of the WR's that they cut end up with another team. If they cut McCaffrey, I think he could go to another team.

Maybe they will try to pull of a Caleb Schlauderaff like trade with one of these guys.

Steve Cheez's picture

You can never have too many Caleb Schlauderaff-like trades!

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I believe cuervo is exactly correct. In fact, there were stories about GB paying (name?) the NFL 53 minimum even though the guy was on our PS because some team wanted to poach him. The player feared it would be for only a few weeks. Didn't work out for that player, GB dumped him. Was it Rotherham?

https://www.acmepackingcompany.com/2015/12/10/9885238/ol-matt-rotheram-g...

jasonperone's picture

This is pretty realistic, RC. Gilbert is going to be an interesting case. This preseason reminds me of Jayrone Elliott 3 years ago. Perhaps the Packers don't want to become too enamored and see his impact lessen against starters. That said, I love what I've seen from him and wouldn't hate his getting the nod over a guy like Fackrell. Yes, KF was a 3rd rounder but I think we can all agree he was WAY over drafted. Ted et al need to accept their mistake and make the right call, which may end up being Fackrell in the end but. . .

As far as WR goes, one thing to keep in mind is that teams are going to be furiously finalizing their rosters this weekend. Once they are set, most teams aren't going to want many shake ups. The Packers keeping as many guys as they can, knowing Allison won't count for a week, would be wise. When Allison returns and if they decide to move, say, McCaffery or Yancey to the PS, another team can then only offer him a spot on their 53. Adds a layer of protection. I never want to say a suspension is good, but in this case and with the quality depth the team has at WR, it seems to be working in their favor.

RCPackerFan's picture

Thanks Jason.

Gilbert was one of the few that I really struggled with. I wanted to add him to the 53, but really didn't find a spot for him.
I do really wonder where Fackrell sits with the coaching staff. He showed some flashes last year, and has had one here and there this year. But overall he has under performed in my eyes and many others. Some proof of that is with them going out and signing Brooks. If Fackrell had taken the step like they hoped they likely wouldn't have had to bring in Brooks. So do they cut ties with him?

The WR position is tough to try to figure out. I felt like I was sitting in an Algebra class trying to figure it out. I was trying to base it on history as much as I could. Thompson rarely cuts 5th round or higher draft picks. Thats why I picked Yancey to stay. The 7th spot, I went with McCaffrey, but honestly I could see making a case for Dupre and Clark. If it were my decision I probably would go with Clark. But that is probably mostly my fan crush talking. Basing his play time last night though it seems like they chose to not play him to get him on the PS.
They have kept players on the 53 in the past that really probably didn't deserve to stay though but kept basically to have for the future. Lane Taylor was one. Would they do that with Clark?

I agree with you that the Allison suspension kind of helps them.

Its going to be interesting to watch these cuts.

dobber's picture

"I do really wonder where Fackrell sits with the coaching staff. He showed some flashes last year, and has had one here and there this year."

I honestly think Fackrell belongs in that hybrid ILB/OLB position Matthews played a couple years ago. I don't think he's a true ILB or OLB on the NFL level, and that might hurt him come Saturday.

RCPackerFan's picture

Yeah, he probably could play a role like that. Maybe he would be a better fit in a 4-3 defense too.
I like many others are just disappointed he hasn't developed like we hoped he would or expected him to.
The question is how does the coaches and GM feel about him?

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I think Biegel and Fackrell both project better as ILBs. I don't think Fackrell was overdrafted, I think Jason and company are too impatient. I think Biegel was overdrafted as an OLB, but would make a fine ILB.

jasonperone's picture

If Fackrell projects better as a ILB then the Packers completely missed it. He's then a 3rd rounder who, if your theory is right (I don't personally agree), is miscast. They need OLB's, I get it. They've tried to move inside guys outside before (Brad Jones). If this front office and coaching staff all thought taking a guy that early to play out of position was a good idea, I'd be disappointed. Why would so many successful minds all miss on that? If they DID have that mindset, it was foolish (we'll use that term instead of over drafted) to experiment with Fackrell in round 3 at the time of the draft. That would just be a bad choice.

If you wanted to simply argue that I'm not being patient enough, that is certainly possible. It's year 2, the lightbulb may still flip on. When you added in the ILB projection, it made his being drafted in the 3rd even more puzzling. Teams can't really afford to miss on guys rounds 1-3. A project like you're describing was a huge risk if that's what they had on him as well.

Slim11's picture

Janis did not hurt his chances to make the 53 this season. In fact, he might have helped himself more than in the past three years.

After Allison's return for week #2, I suspect Janis might be cut because the O-line depth is such a concern. Grey's rapid fall-off and the poor play of Spriggs plus the injuries to Barclay and Patrick tell me TT will be looking to pick up OL following the cut-downs. Numbers for the O-line are more important right now than WR numbers.

cuervo's picture

Janis will not be cut period. His value on special teams would put him above Allison and Davis on the WR group. Everyone forgets he is probably the very best gunner in the NFL, and that my friends has extreme value. Much more value than a 4th or 5th receiver has. Any receiver contributions from Janis are a bonus.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Playing with words. AR as an elite QB has extreme value. Monumental? Just don't think the best gunner has extreme value. I agree that as long as a player is the best gunner in the NFL, there are few teams that wouldn't find room on the 53 for him.

dobber's picture

I think it's unlikely that the Packers will sign an OL to the 53 after cutdowns unless they're surprise veteran cuts. For better or for worse, they're going to dance with the girl they brought.

I don't think Janis was in much danger of being cut. The fact that Yancey, Dupre, and Clark failed to do much of anything during the last two games only made his spot more cozy. As many said earlier, the WR situation ironed itself out.

cheesehead1's picture

Would like to see McCaffery stay. What about Richard Rodgers? Do we really need him? Excellent hands and good team mate but slow as molasses.

cuervo's picture

We need three tight ends, and he's far and away the 3rd best. An injury to Kendricks or Bennett and you'll be glad he's there, in spite of his tortoise like speed.

cheesehead1's picture

I suppose you're right, but it's just frustrating watch him lumber along. Really hope TT picks up some O Line depth.

dobber's picture

I think the fact that none of Dupre/Clark/Yancey did anything to distinguish themselves last night (and that none of them contribute anything to ST) put McCaffrey on the roster.

cheesehead1's picture

Would like to see McCaffery as well.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

As the chief RR hater on this site, I would love to dump RR given any semblance of an excuse. Unfortunately, RR didn't provide one, and none of the other TEs pushed him. As the #3 TE, I have him, grudgingly, on my 53.

dobber's picture

He's been mostly invisible this preseason.

Since '61's picture

For me the most important thing from this preseason is that the Packers survived the preseason without serious injuries to their starters. Cuts will be tough at WR, RB, OLB and CB.
At CB, after House, King, Randall, Rollins, and Hawkins, I'd like to see D. Brown and/or Pipkins.
OLB, Perry, CM3, Brooks, Elliot, and Gilbert.
RB - Monty, Williams, Adams, Mays and Rip.
WR - After Jordy, Cobb, D. Adams and Allison it's too close to call but I like T. Davis, McCaffery and Janis.
We'll see, Thanks, Since '61

Lphill's picture

If the roster was increased to 55 it would make a big difference , I don't know the procedure involved to do this but adding 2 more spots would benefit every team .

dobber's picture

I think it benefits the players more than it benefits the teams. IMO, adding two more players at the very bottom of the roster doesn't do much unless you increase the number of actives on game day.

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