Roster Cut Downs - That’s What Cheese Said

Gutekunst and LaFleur spoke with the media to wrap up the roster decisions that were made this past weekend. 

It was a busy weekend at 1265 Lombardi Ave. The Packers trimmed its roster to 53, and now the attention will turn to the Minnesota Vikings. General Manager Brian Gutekunst and Head Coach Matt LaFleur met with the media to recap the moves that took place this past week and to look ahead to Week 1. 

Of course, cut down day is never easy, and the decisions were especially difficult in such an unusual season without preseason games. Because of that, Gutekunst understands what kind of talent is likely floating around the NFL right now. 

“There’s some good football players that probably aren’t on 53-man rosters right now, simply because they didn’t have the opportunity to show it,” said Gutekunst. 

While no undrafted rookies made the initial 53-man roster this season, the Packers did return undrafted players that impressed last season and spent time on the practice squad in 2019. Cornerback Kabion Ento and edge rusher Randy Ramsey were two players that Gutekunst expressed excitement about, despite Ento going on injured reserve to start the season. Additionally, offensive tackle Yosh Nijman is listed as the backup behind veteran David Bakhtiari at left tackle. 

Gutekunst said the Packers were “champing at the bit” to get Nijman out at practice and that the team likes his upside a lot. 

Another practice squad holdover to latch onto the initial 53 was wide receiver Malik Taylor, who claimed the team’s fifth and final receiver spot. While he may not have been on many radars going into training camp, both Gutekunst and LaFleur noticed the work he put in all offseason after a year on the practice squad. 

“He is extremely talented,” LaFleur said of Taylor. “We’re excited about what he can bring to our offense, and he’ll get his opportunity.”

The Packers kept only five wide receivers to start the season, with Marquez Valdes-Scantling listed on the unofficial depth chart as WR3 behind Davante Adams and Allen Lazard. While early reports indicated that Tyler Ervin practiced a significant amount with the receiving core, he’s still listed as a running back for Green Bay. 

For Gutekunst, that versatility is something that’s always mattered as the Packers build their roster. 

“Ted was really big on the versatility piece,” he said. “Having players that can play multiple positions, that can do different things within a defense, offense, or special teams ...it’s just critically important.” 

One change that Gutekunst hopes the NFL considers long term is the shortened injured reserve window, with players able to return after only three weeks. Additionally, the flexibility teams having bringing back as many players as necessary as opposed to the two designations in previous seasons. 

“The more players we have access to, the better,” said Gutekunst. “In this particular case, as we go through this year with the ability to put a guy down on IR for three weeks and still have another player to take his spot before we bring him back, it’s something I hope they think about keeping.”

Despite a few new faces on the initial 53-man roster, LaFleur appreciates that most of his core players have stayed together for his second season as head coach. One position benefitting from that consistency is the secondary, where the Packers returned both starters at safety in Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage, and both boundary corners in Jaire Alexander and Kevin King. 

“It was nice that they all played together last year,” LaFleur said, adding Sullivan as someone who at least was around the secondary and took some beneficial snaps now that he’s going into a starting role. 

The GM is just as excited about a second season for his head coach. 

“I would say there’s just a confidence level there in what they’re doing,” Gutekunst said of LaFleur and quarterback Aaron Rodgers implementing year two of LaFleur’s scheme. He highlighted the amount of growth that’s taken place this training camp. 

Even for players that aren’t going into year two under LaFleur or year three under defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, there’s still a familiarity with some key players, namely new inside linebacker Christian Kirksey, who’s impressed all camp. 

“Christian had an excellent camp,” Gutekunst said. “I think he adds a little bit of a dynamic ability that maybe we’ve been missing for a little while.”

Gutekunst emphasized that Kirksey is fully healthy and that from the beginning he’s really acted as a leader on the defense. With the initial 53-man roster in place, all eyes have now turned to Sunday against the Vikings. While installs have taken place throughout camp, the Packers have officially shifted focus to full prep for Minnesota. 

“I know our guys are, and I’m sure everybody around the league is just excited to go play against somebody else,” said LaFleur. 

 

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Maggie Loney is a writer for Cheesehead TV and podcaster for the Pack-A-Day Podcast and Pack's What She Said. Find her on Twitter at @MaggieJLoney.

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Comments (32)

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PatrickGB's picture

September 08, 2020 at 12:29 pm

It’s going to be interesting to see if the team can replicate last year’s performance. I see the offense getting further and further away from MM’s offense. Two big questions for me is how this offense responds to a more run oriented and quick pass off play action offense scheme. The second question is how Pettine’s defense copes with teams trying to run the ball down our throats.

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murf7777's picture

September 08, 2020 at 12:52 pm

On your second questions about teams running it down our throats. I agree that is a big question mark. But, There is a lot that comes into play for that to materialize.

First and foremost, many teams don’t have the personnel to achieve similar success SF did to us. Secondly, you can bet a kings ransom that Pettine and the players are going to emphasize gap integrity. Lastly, it is hard to run, run, run the ball if said team is behind on the scoreboard or GB stopped them in early parts of the game.

Overal the run D was average at best, but against SF it was horrible. This year will be a telltale sign if major changes will be needed. I suspect, especially if Pettine wants to keep his job, the run D will improve to a bit above average, while the pass D gets in the Top 5. I believe if that happens we will be tough team to beat, even in the playoffs.

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PatrickGB's picture

September 08, 2020 at 01:22 pm

Murf, I think that you may be right. I think that Pettine’s run defense was not too bad in the other games when they tried to run against our defense. Perhaps it was just a fluke that the Niners saw something about our defense that they could exploit. Pettine remarked that it had to do with gap integrity. The Niners were ahead in the SB game because of their run game. So maybe it’s simply a strength of theirs rather than a total failure on or part. If our offense can out score our opponent then all is good.

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Packers0808's picture

September 09, 2020 at 03:56 pm

Isn't that always the obvious outcome if you score more points than the opponents do you win? Or I am missing something new this year!?

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ShanghaiKid's picture

September 08, 2020 at 11:53 pm

Average at best is being kind. They gave up 4.7 yards/carry and 120 ypg which ranked 23rd overall. Three of four losses the D gave up 150+ rushing yards. That’s a trend.

Like Murf, I suspect Pettine has spent time self scouting and making adjustments schematically. The problem is that you need players to be able execute. I didn’t see a lack of execution last year, I saw guys getting blown out of holes and man handled at the point of attack. I’m not expecting that to change, but am hoping to be proven wrong.

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dobber's picture

September 08, 2020 at 12:49 pm

An interesting side-piece...

https://www.profootballrumors.com/2020/09/packers-aaron-jones-working-on...

Impacts the upcoming off-season dynamic a bit if he's resigned.

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murf7777's picture

September 08, 2020 at 12:55 pm

I just noted that dobber, which is further evidence for better or worse where this O is heading. I just hope they leave enough cap space on the table to keep Bak or you know where their next years first round draft pick position will be.

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dobber's picture

September 08, 2020 at 01:31 pm

I see that now. This is where cap guys earn their $$$.

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Coldworld's picture

September 08, 2020 at 02:35 pm

Maybe Nijman is already in line for that.

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Coldworld's picture

September 08, 2020 at 02:35 pm

Maybe Nijman is already in line for that.

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jannes bjornson's picture

September 08, 2020 at 08:30 pm

Trade the 2021 first round choice for a player they need now for the D. Bhaktiari is still a priority signing.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 09, 2020 at 03:06 am

Aaron Jones would have to accept the cash-flow model that Kenny Clark accepted. Remember that Clark will get just $2.1M in cash for playing the 2021 season.

Many teams probably will have to insist on such a structure. There are a few teams that could pay him $16M over the 2020 and 2021 seasons combined. Figure GB gives him between an $8M and $10M signing bonus in 2020 (~ $3M/$4M salary cap number) but probably just $2M in base, workout and game active for 2021, which translates to about a $4M cap number for 2021.

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hodge555's picture

September 09, 2020 at 06:09 am

Kenny Clark got paid $26.69m this year as he gets all his signing bonus now, and as you say he's then forecast to get only $2.1m in 2021.
Cap hit wise he is $6.69m this year, $7.1m next year then it's $20+m 2022 to 2024.

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NJ-RICK's picture

September 08, 2020 at 02:08 pm

My concern is with the D-line. IMO MGT did not do enough during the off season to improve the line. D Lowry & T Lancaster are mediocre at best. Keke I expect will get involved much more this season. The other weakness is covering opposing TE's, is Christian the player to improve in that area...? Should be a good game on Sunday everyone has the Packers at 3 point underdog...??? With no exhibitions games this year I'm sure we will see a lot of mistakes & turnovers during the 1st week of games in the NFL. It is what it is...

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Leatherhead's picture

September 08, 2020 at 02:34 pm

We won a lot of games with a shaky run defense.

I looked up last year’s results just to refresh the memory. 23 in total rush yards surrendered. KC was 25, SF was 17. And when I look at average per carry and all the rest, the same pattern is repeated.....we’re a little better than KC and a little below SF.

I’m also not seeing a very strong relationship between having a good run defense and making the playoffs, or winning in the playoffs. Half of the best didn’t make the playoffs and the ones didn’t advance.

SF, GB, Houston, KC. All in the bottom half, all advanced. I’m suspecting that stopping the run isn’t as important as some of us think it is. Stopping the PASS is what your defense is geared for....if that means sacrificing some run stopping, you do it.

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murf7777's picture

September 08, 2020 at 03:18 pm

Ditto....it’s a passing league first. I put out stats from 1978 to now to prove my point, but was lashed with a few down votes. Although, I must’ve tee’d someone off over the last month as no matter what I write I get one down....lol.

Unless you are privileged with a franchised QB in their first contract, due to SC, teams cannot fill all holes with above average players across the board. So, you must make choices. The Packers are making the correct choice in trying to create a top 5 pass D with a great pass rush and back end talent.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

September 08, 2020 at 03:34 pm

We don't need a top 10 rushing defense. We just need one that is not totally awful like the one that showed up in the NFC Championship Game.

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BuckyBadger's picture

September 08, 2020 at 03:47 pm

Sorry but you have can't stop the run you won't even get a chance to stop the pass. The San Fran game proved that to be true. The Chiefs pulled their run defense together by playoff time. If you have a poor run D you will be exposed in the playoffs.

Also can't just go off league rankings. Not every schedule is created equal so the rankings can be a poor tool to tell who has the best run D.

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GatorJason's picture

September 08, 2020 at 06:55 pm

Packers got dominated in three California games where opponent ran it down our throats:

LA Chargers 26, Packers 11: 159 yards rushing by LAC, 45 GBP
SF 49ers 37, Packers 8: SF dominated in all phases. Mostert ave 7.5 ypc
SF 49ers 37, Packers 20: SF dominated in all phases. Mostert ave 7.5 ypc (220 total)

Against big OLs, Packers run defense was a sieve. Opponent dominated TOP. Packers offense fell behind, could not close gap until garbage time.

My gut feel is that MLF wants to build team in image of SF and not rely on heroics from a back nine HOF QB. He'll spread the field horizontally, switch between speed and power running game and play-action downfield when the defense floods the LOS. Rodgers can make defense pay if they don't honor downfield passing game. The problem in 2019 was the Packer run/short pass game offense was not potent enough to drop down 8 in the box so longer pass plays were rarely open. (Note: having better receivers would have helped too.)

Bottomline: Weak run defense hurts if teams can exploit it at will and can couple it with a "proficient" QB. If your team does not have a Patrick Mahomes or a Drew Breeze at QB, you can still dominate the teams by running it down their throats and open up secondary for big strikes when opponents are forced to crowd the box. in 2020, Packers want to flip the script by running more effectively, and minimize long yardage passing situations.

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Bure9620's picture

September 09, 2020 at 06:37 am

Yes that is all true... But you cannot get gashed by the run either. It is one thing to be surrendering 4-5 yards per carry..This isn't great but those runs were typically used to set up the pass, bring a guy in the box and force defenses into cover 1 or cover zero....But you cannot get gashed for big runs either......those runs are essentially like a big pass play.

I expect the Packers to rank about the same in run defense this year as well...but they will likely be hard to throw on....as long as they make it difficult in the red zone it doesn't bother me much

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Duneslick's picture

September 08, 2020 at 02:41 pm

They have running backs they don't have tackles and corners. Signing jones would mean no bak and no king. Big mistake

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murf7777's picture

September 08, 2020 at 03:21 pm

That depends on the structure of the contract. IE: backend loaded with a low guarantee might also allow Bak and to get out of contract if need be in a year or two. I’m guessing they have Bak in mind while structuring this contract.

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Coldworld's picture

September 08, 2020 at 11:54 pm

They backloaded Clark heavily. I don’t know that they can keep doing that.

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murf7777's picture

September 09, 2020 at 08:34 am

I’m not sure either, but one thing I’m sure about is Ball and staff have a plan, whether that includes Bak, only time will tell.

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optimisticfan's picture

September 08, 2020 at 04:51 pm

Jones and Adams are tied for most important skill player value for this offense. Jones’ dual threat is the real deal. If we were talking about resigning a legit WR2 right now what would people’s opinions be about letting him walk?

Jones is the 2nd receiving threat behind Adams. It would be great if MVS really came on this year and bumped Jones to 3rd on receiving targets. But even if that happens Jones premium talent value over an average RB who can be a receiver may be worth signing him at a price half way between “the highest paid receiver in the NFL” and “team discount.” My guess would be that GB gives him a contract with high end money for a RB but structures it so that it is partially back heavy with less guaranteed money in the last few years so they have an out if his play declines (completely speculative on my part). If they can fashion a similar contract for Bahk with money pushed back and some of it for incentives of being all pro or making a super bowl, then the team should be good.

It sounds like Jones and Bahk are both the type that are not going to play hardball and will go along with the first agreed upon value their agents and admin come up with. If money doesn’t work out for Bahk AND Nijman has made a huge leap then they have other options. There are always multiple paths to future success. Also the differential between the potential of the CB depth to King’s value is less than differential of current OT depth to Bahk and differential of D. Williams to Jones. Sullivan, Jackson, Samuels will surprise people in the next few years (and room to improve with Nickerson and Hollman).

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BuckyBadger's picture

September 08, 2020 at 03:49 pm

The schedule starts out tough. The Vikings game is huge this weekend. If they are not an improved team a 2-6 start isn't out of the question with the teams they have to face. They could be underdogs in 5 or 6 of those games.

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jannes bjornson's picture

September 08, 2020 at 09:53 pm

They're not playing against a lot of Backups this year or greenhorns. Brady, Brees, Ryan, Stafford is healthy , DeShaun Watson, Rivers, and Cousins can still sling it. Le Fleur with go with multiple attacks; change every week.
He is a really good coach. I have the Pack at 12-4.

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BuckyBadger's picture

September 08, 2020 at 10:39 pm

The roster didn't improve and they struggled mightily last year vs below average teams. Unless Gary makes a big step forward and the offensive line comes together I can't see the team improving. The top 2 draft picks will buried on the depth chart and they haven't gotten enough out of previous drafts. If the offense struggles like it did last year to stay on the field MLF will be have his first real test because Rodgers winning ugly won't cut this year.

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Coldworld's picture

September 09, 2020 at 02:09 pm

In the end winning always cuts it if you do it regularly

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4zone's picture

September 08, 2020 at 05:20 pm

We've had three distinctively different NFL seasons,. One without the striking players, one without the striking Refs, now one without the fans. At least at the start. Got a feeling this one will be the weirdest by far.

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AngelaJones's picture

September 09, 2020 at 02:58 am

that's great

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AngelaJones's picture

September 09, 2020 at 02:59 am

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