Green Bay Packers Preseason: Saturday Scoop

The Green Bay Packers wrapped up the 2015 preseason with a nice win against the New Orleans Saints.  The most important part was coming out of the game injury-free.  After nearly losing their top two wide receivers in consecutive weeks, fans and the team had to be reeling a bit and hoping they'll be able to line up in week one as close to fully healthy as they can.

By now, you've seen many final roster predictions so I won't get too much into that but will expand on a few hot topics surrounding the Packers as they begin to prepare for the 2015 regular season opener.

Backup Quarterback

Rookie Brett Hundley stepped into the spotlight after Scott Tolzien was sidelined with a concussion after the second preseason game a few weeks ago.  Hundley thew seven touchdown passes to just one interception during his preseason campaign.  With Aaron Rodgers and Tolzien both out for the last two weeks, Hundley took full advantage of the added playing time, putting together two solid starts and performances.  So much so that there has been some discussion about whether Tolzien or Hundley should be the primary backup to Rodgers.  For now, Tolzien holds that distinction and likely will for at least the fist part of the season.

When Hundley came to Green Bay after the draft, he looked every bit of raw that a quarterback could.  He was described as terrible, overwhelmed and did I mention terrible?  Hundley seemed to make bad decisions and throws on a daily basis in practice.  Fortunately for Hundley, and the Packers, the lightbulb went off at some point between then and now and the young UCLA alum has all but locked in his chances of making the team's final roster.

It's a good problem to have for the Packers, who seem to have found another potential gem at the most important position on the field.  For the immediate future, the Packers now have the best depth at quarterback that they've had in a very long time.  In looking ahead, the team will have some decisions to make, eventually.  Rodgers is entrenched as the starter for years to come and if other teams around the league see Hundley as starter material, the Packers stand to gain something if they can find a trade partner.  What looked like a potential bust at the beginning of the spring has turned into a hidden gem in Hundley.  The quarterback riches in Green Bay continue a bit longer.

The wide receivers

We know that the Packers are going to have to accomplish what they will this season without Jordy Nelson.  We also know that Randall Cobb, Davante Adams and Ty Montgomery are the top three receivers on the depth chart.  In the fourth spot has to be Jeff Janis.  Janis just continues to catch touchdowns.  Although it's his second year in the league, Janis still seems like a bit of a one-trick pony in that he makes most of his plays running depp routes.  While that may be true, Janis is reeling in scoring passes and at least has some potential to add to the Packers' talent at receiver.  He also has some work to do in his rapport with Rodgers.  But with Nelson out, Janis moves up the chart and seems to be the fourth guy in the rotation, for now.

So what to do with the fifth spot?  Jared Abbrederis is not the answer.  He was cut today after having returned to practice this past week and playing in the fourth preseason game.  He didn't flash much, but he was back on the field to give the Packers a very small glimpse at what Abbrederis can do in future game action.  He went down in the team's first training camp practice with a concussion and sat out most of the summer.  Couple that with an ACL tear that cost him all of 2014 and Abbrederis just wasn't available to do what he needed to do to earn a roster spot.  He's a prime candidate for the team's practice squad, if the Packers want to sign him and he's available.

Myles White stepped in during the 2013 season when Cobb and James Jones went down with injuries.  White was serviceable, barely.  I have said many times before, he doesn't do anything special that separates him from the rest of the bunch.  Still, the Packers may prefer White's reliability in knowing the offense and having been the team's leading receiver during this preseason.  Many have White penciled in as the team's fifth receiver and that may hold true, at least until some of the suspended players return or the team decides to look at free agency to add depth.

Former Packers receivers James Jones and Jarrett Boykin were both released by their respective teams and are available.  Throw in veteran Reggie Wayne, let go by the Patriots today.  Packers general manger Ted Thompson doesn't dig into free agency often, but in this case, he may consider it, given that Jones and Boykin were on the Green Bay roster over the past two seasons.  The alternative is handing the fifth spot to White or Abbrederis, neither of which add much to the play sheet at this point.  Boykin was bad last year, but he did flash something in 2013 while playing along side White.  Boykin was clearly the better receiver there.  Jones, while a bit older now, is still a very savvy route runner and can be the guy catching balls on the sideline, something Nelson did often.  Jones is the best option of all, in my opinion.

Let's be honest, it's Aaron Rodgers throwing the ball.  This offense is going to do good things this season, especially through the air.  I don't know if I believe the hyperbole that they could throw me out there and AR can still throw for over 4,000 yards, but whichever direction the Packers go, they should be fine.

Cornerback/Safety

Not many surprises here as far as who I think makes the final roster.  This is more about shifting guys around and finding the best combination.  I said before that it may be time to move Micah Hyde to safety and call him a safety.  He didn't look very good in coverage this preseason.  Maybe he wasn't trying as hard because the games didn't count, but coverage has never seemed to be his strength.  Even as a slot corner, can he keep up and be effective in primary coverage on the short and over-the-middle routes?  Near the line blitzing and in support in coverage is where Hyde seems to produce the most.  LeRoy Butler made a pretty good living doing just that when he was in Green Bay and he was a former cornerback as well.  Hyde is no Butler by any means, but he can do some of the same things.  With the news that Chris Banjo will be on the 53-man roster, the Packers clearly see Hyde as a corner and will likely use him in that slot role unless a better option presents itself.

The next  question is the outside corner spot oppostie Sam Shields.  Casey Hayward is penciled in there for now and he should start on the outside in week one.  There are still plenty of questions about whether Hayward can handle being out there versus in the slot where he has spent most of his time with the Packers.  It's also where Hayward has done most of his damage.  If Hyde is moved around and used differently and if Hayward is outside, the Packers need an inside guy.  That would leave Damarious Randall Quinten Rollins and LaDarius Gunter to choose from.  All three showed some good things in the preseasons games.  Randall and Rollins both spent some time on the inside and the outside.  To me, Rollins is someone who may take over outside if Hayward struggles or if he continues to play really well in practice.  Randall could take over in the slot if Hyde isn't that guy.  Gunter is an outside corner, but I need to see him make some plays in games that count and against top-flight receivers before I start throwing his name in the mix as a regular.  

The Packers have some options here, which is a good thing.  They do need to get their rotation figured out.  With as many variations as this defense uses, in terms of formations, there are a lot of opportunities and responsibilities for the top four cornerbacks.  They need to find the right guys who know where they're supposed to be and make plays on the regular.

Linebacker

This is a position group that had me watching the waiver wire earlier today, which you should already be following right here at CheeseheadTV.  Carl Bradford and Joe Thomas were both cut.  Bradford doesn't surprise me much.  He just wasn't able to find his niche in this defense and the Packers now have to part with a fourth-round pick from just a year ago.  Thomas was slightly surprising to me, as he made some nice plays during preseason games.  That move may have come down to the Packers wanting an extra guy or two at another position.

A few bubble players will round out the linebacker corps.  Guys like Andy Mulumba and Nate Palmer.  The Packers need to find play-makers and more impact from their linebackers, especially on the inside.  Palmer has the size to his advantage and should stick.  On the outside, Mulumba should also stick, as he looks to be well-recovered from his knee injury last year.  

Rookie Jake Ryan showed some good things in game action, but he's still in a learning curve.  When the games start for real, his snaps will come gradually, barring injury.  The Packers have to be crossing their fingers that he can overachieve for where he was drafted.  Sam Barrington didn't look very good against the Philadelphia Eagles, despite leading the team in tackles.  He was unfairly matched up on running back Darren Sproles and promptly was beaten for a touchdown.  Coverage is an area where Ryan offers more than Barrington can, but Barrington has the time and experience in the defense.  He showed abilities to get active and be a solid contributor last year.  He has to continue to develop.  Barrington may be a better option than A.J. Hawk or Brad Jones at this point, but it's not by a lot right now.  Caught in the wrong defense, teams will look for #58 and work for the mismatch.

Easier said than done here, but the Packers need more, a lot more, from their linebackers this year than they've seen the last two seasons.

Special Teams

There has been nothing special about the Packers kick coverage units.  Between allowing big returns, constant penalties, lack of tackling and discipline as well as not being able to count to 11, this looks to be an area of weakness again in 2015.  Kicker Mason Crosby has been the only bright spot.

It's only preseason games and the Packers had to rotate a lot of players in who aren't on the roster anymore, but the player response to coaching so far is evident.  That evidence shows there is still a lot of room for improvement.  Perhaps when some of the starters are insterted into these areas, they'll take a step forward, but I'll need to see it to believe it.

The Packers had more kicks blocked last season than any other team.  Punter Tim Masthay had a lot of opposite-colored jerseys in the backfield during the preseason.  Eventually he's going to get blocked and those types of plays rarely lead to anything good.  Speaking of Masthay, he is dealing with a serious case of the yips.  He has the talent and ability, he just isn't doing it.  It's hard to coach the mental aspect of the game.  Timmy needs to work on just playing and not thinking so much.  The alternative is the Packers just score or drive past the opponent's 30-yard line on every single possession this year.  No problem, right?

Surprise Cuts

Running back Rajion Neal was let go and many didn't see that coming.  Alonzo Harris and John Crockett have not yet been released and the Packers may be going with one of the two instead.  Neal ran well in preseason both last year and this year.  He was signed to the Packers practice squad in mid-2014.  He appeared to be an asset as a runner, pass catcher and on special teams as depth on kick return.  

Harris had some nice runs, but he also had a few key drops in the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Rodgers used his check down a lot more last season and should continue to do so this year.  The Packers need to count on their backs to reel those throws in and do something with the ball after.  Neal appeared to be able to do that well, having been a former receiver at Tennessee.  As far as Crockett goes, he dealt with some injuries and didn't get a chance to showcase much this preseason.  I'd be surprised if he gets the nod. 

The Packers also parted with defensive lineman Khyri Thornton, who was injured all of last season and didn't show any signs that he can play this year.  This is a third-round pick from a year ago sent packing.  The Thornton pick puzzled many analysts at the time, as most teams seemed to have a much later grade on him.  Now we can see why.  Packers general manager Ted Thompson wasn't able to find his gem in this case.

Rookie defensive lineman Christian Ringo was let go.  He was a sixth-round pick this year and was the odd man out in a crowded group.  The Packers will get Datone Jones back after week one and Letroy Guion returns in week four.  Beyond those two, the Packers will run with B.J. Raji, Mike Daniels and Josh Boyd.  Julius Peppers will move up to the line at times, too.

The Packers have their reasons and I can't argue with their output the past several years.  We'll see how the rest of today plays out.  Stay here at CheeseheadTV and follow the roster moves live.

 

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Jason is a freelance writer on staff since 2012 and also co-hosts Cheesehead TV Live, Pulse of the Pack and Pack A Day podcasts.  You can follow him on Twitter here

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Comments (21)

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Oppy's picture

September 05, 2015 at 06:11 pm

Surprised by the Raijon Neal cut, but I guess Harris fits the Packers' preferred running back body type, Tall and lean muscled, like Ryan Grant or James Starks.

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Dan Stodola's picture

September 05, 2015 at 06:39 pm

Personally I would compare Harris more to Lacy.

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Oppy's picture

September 05, 2015 at 06:46 pm

Harris is 6'1, 235

Starks, 6'2, 220
Grant was 6'1", 225
Eddy Lacey, 5'11", 235

MM has been on record about having a fondness for those long RB's. I don't understand it, they have a harder time running behind their pads and are often thought to get injured more because they are larger targets, but he's talked about it over the years. Specifically mentioned it in regards to Grant and Starks.

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Dan Stodola's picture

September 05, 2015 at 07:35 pm

I remember hearing him say that too. But I just think the comparison to Lacy is closer than Starks or Grant. 5'11 235 and 6'1 240, both power RB, not slashers like Starks and Grant.

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Ibleedgreenmore's picture

September 05, 2015 at 06:24 pm

After watching Neal the last two games I thought he had it all rapped up. Well its why I am not the gm and coach.

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jh9's picture

September 05, 2015 at 06:30 pm

According to Demovsky, Crockett has been cut.

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Oppy's picture

September 05, 2015 at 06:38 pm

The 53 has been announced by The Packers, you can get a list of all cuts and moves to the current 53 on Packers.com

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NickPerry's picture

September 05, 2015 at 06:51 pm

I would have liked to see them keep Neal over Harris, I thought he showed more than enough in the preseason and was the better receiver. Harris also had problems in pass protection didn't he?

Bummed about Abby but not surprised.

They kept Goodson again which surprises me. Keeping 11 CB & S he might be the one to go when Jones or Guion come back.

It's definitely a roster that can win SB 50 though!!

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Dan Stodola's picture

September 05, 2015 at 07:19 pm

"It's definitely a roster that can win SB 50 though!!" Apparently someone disagreed w/ you about that or "something" else. LOL

I was on the 2 RB, 2 FB bandwagon (probably by myself). I wonder if Harris showed more as a ST player, not returner, that gave him the spot over Neal.

Was surprised by 11 DB's too. Goodson or Banjo might have to go in a week when Datone returns.

RB and the 11th DB were the 2 spots I missed on.

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Since'61's picture

September 05, 2015 at 07:38 pm

Nick - Cutting Neal and keeping Goodson surprised me as well. I would have kept 6 WRs including Abby and cut Goodson. 7 CBs seems like too many to me. We'll se what happens with the PS and after Guion and Datone return. Thanks, Since '61

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Dan Stodola's picture

September 05, 2015 at 08:18 pm

Hyde is a Safety/CB hybrid. Goodson, Richardson and Banjo are great ST players, clearly they made it on those merits. Not nearly as much on their play at respective positions.

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Since'61's picture

September 05, 2015 at 08:24 pm

Dan - I'm sure you're correct, especially about Goodson. I was just thinking that with Jordy gone for the season I would want 6 WRs for additional depth in that position group. Thanks, Since '61

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Dan Stodola's picture

September 05, 2015 at 10:09 pm

I don't think a 6th WR deserved a roster spot. Can't just keep 6 if they aren't good enough or been on the field enough to deserve it. That would seem counter-productive (whats the point of a 6th WR that would never see the field?).

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NickPerry's picture

September 06, 2015 at 05:58 am

Dan and Since '61... I commented in a previous piece which was very similar to your thoughts on the loss of Jordy and the lack of a TE. I completely understand, Abby wasn't able to show enough to grab a roster spot. With that said, it's not like Thompson hasn't kept others that didn't deserve spots either. Hell he kept that idiot Bostick for how many years based on what??? Once it finally bit him in the ass he cut him. They've (MM & TT) even done it on the coaching staff with Slocum. Apparently having ST that ranked near the bottom every year wasn't a clear enough sign and don't even get me started on Zook!

I haven't seen the value of Goodson on ST yet, hell I haven't seen value from the guy at all. Perhaps it's that damn "Athletic Ability" I always hear about when describing him. I have 2 words for "Athletic Ability", Brandon Bostick! He had "Athletic Ability" too.

With Abby, unless he returned a punt for a TD and had another that was a long return he was doomed. When McCarthy looks at a player he looks for a few particular traits with availability being at the top. With one game and one practice after a year on IR he never had a chance.

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Dan Stodola's picture

September 06, 2015 at 11:23 am

Potential is what gets some guys a roster spot. But soon that potential has to show up. Bostic was kept over Ryan Taylor at TE, even tho Taylor was a very good ST player. He would never have made the mistake Bostic did. Bradford was kept on potential last year, as a 4th rd pick potential. When he didn't show up, they moved on.

Maybe I should have said Special Teams and Potential.

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marpag1's picture

September 06, 2015 at 06:37 am

Totally agreed. The "6 receiver argument" isn't logical. If you have five pedestrian receivers, adding yet another one isn't going to make you better.

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Since'61's picture

September 05, 2015 at 07:01 pm

The most significant event that happened to the Packers this preseason was the loss of Jordy Nelson for the season. Other than this negative we really don't know anything different about the Packers than we did prior to the pre-season. Our offense is going to be very efficient again, especially at home. Although I believe the loss of Jordy will highlight the lack of a genuine TE threat unless R. Rodgers steps up or Beckman really surprises. RBs and WRs are strong position groups even without Jordy. Our backup QBs can preserve a lead if necessary but leading a comeback or starting for an extended period probably means big trouble. As long as A. Rodgers and the OL remain healthy the offense will be fine again. Our defense has plenty of questions marks again especially at ILB and on the DL. We need to achieve consistent play on the DL and this will lead to improved ILB play. I believe that the defense will improve as the season progresses and the Packers identify the best rotations on the DL and LB positions. Most importantly this defense needs to make stops after the Packers score, especially in close games and during the 4th quarter. We'll see where we are at after the first 4 games. Who knows what will happen on the STs but for me I can be satisfied if we can block effectively for our place kicks and get some KO returns past 20 yard line. As for today's cuts I was surprised about Neal and I hope the Packers sign Neal and Abby to the PS. Otherwise I agree with the other cuts. Finally we can discuss real football. Thanks, Since '61

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4thand1's picture

September 05, 2015 at 09:01 pm

This team should be better than last year. D got rid of some really dead weight but lost Jordy. AR will spread the ball around and the Pack can run the ball with anyone. ST's can only get better, unless they stay at 32, not gonna happen. Now stay healthy, GOPACKGO.

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Since'61's picture

September 05, 2015 at 09:59 pm

4th - I agree with you. This team should be better than last year. For that to happen we are depending on a number of players stepping up on the defense. At least one more player besides Daniels on the DL, at least one ILB when CM3 is outside and one of the CBs whether it's Hayward, Randall, Rollins or Gunther. STs will be better if they block for the place kicks and punts and get some decent KO returns.
5 Keys to 2015:
1. Stay healthy
2. Improve Run D and tackling
3. Improve STs
4. Reduce or eliminate dumb penalties
5. Play full 60 minutes regardless of score or opponent.

Go Pack! Thanks, Since '61

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Mojo's picture

September 05, 2015 at 11:59 pm

Roster reflections:

Bummed that Rotheham didn't beat out Taylor for the guard spot. I wanted a big powerful road grader for Eddie to run behind. He'll probably end up on the PS though, so there's still hope.

Liked that they only kept 3 TE's. That's all that deserved a spot and even then the remaining guys don't get me too excited. RR we'll see. The Ripper can already block better than any of the TE's and he can leak out on passing plays. He can substitute for some of the TE snaps.

Nine o-lineman seems like too many. One (Taylor) will get cut when the two d-lineman return. They'll keep Walker because he can play tackle (probably not well). They like Barclay so that leaves Taylor. This of course if there are no injuries on the line.

Wish they could have kept two QB's on the 53 and one on the PS. Just wasn't going to happen this year. Hate to lose a spot to someone who if we're lucky won't play before his next contract. Still he could end being QB2 by next year.

ILB is really weak when CM3 is not playing there. I want Ryan to get significant PT. Could be a banger. No one else does anything for me.

Too many jack-of-all-trades, masters-of-none in the secondary. Shields is a true CB, but the others are moved around too much. Just put Randall at the other corner as soon as he gets enough reps and the rest as backups or slot guys.

D-line is a mystery to me. Are we going to get the matador interior performance from last year, or is Pennel going to be our next Gilbert and plug the middle? Daniels is our only pass rush threat, even with Pennel in there. Why should I believe Jones will turn it around? Boyd - meh. A lot of run stuffers but then there are big games where we end up getting gashed anyway.

Jeff Janis is very similar to Jordy in body type, but that's where the similarity ends. Jordy was so much better making contested plays. Janis looks uncoordinated with jump balls or anything that's not dropped right into his hands. He's got to use his wide catch radius. Jordy would look like a ballerina on the sideline. And don't forget the chemistry with QB1. The Jordy loss is going to hurt.

I'm fine with Harris over Neal. Neal looked a little slow to me. Nothing special. Hell, I'd take DuJuan Harris now that he's been cut by the Queens. I'd like to keep Crockett though. Get him on the PS.

Someone not named Peppers or CM3 have to provide a pass rush. Mulumba and/or Elliott need to step up. We won't get a lot from the D-line - so guys you're needed. I think a lot of fans felt a OLB pass rusher was one of the Packs biggest needs and I agree. Like DJones, can't rely on Perry to turn things around.

The d is clearly the question mark, again for the upcoming season.

Overall a very good starting roster. Obviously QB1 is the key and will get us to the playoffs. Unfortunately ARod has been mediocre in recent playoff games. That's why we need others to pick it up and ARod to string a few 2010/2011 playoff type games together. Every team has holes, but the Pack less than most. S/B an entertaining year.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 06, 2015 at 01:18 am

Very interesting reflections on the roster. I am not sure if the 9 OL means the back ups should be viewed as a strength or a sign of weakness. It is clear to me at least that Lane Taylor is the 3rd best OG. I'll be very surprised if he gets cut at any time this year. It is my belief that 9 OL were kept because the FO is not sure whether any of them can play OT even in a pinch. I hoped Josh Walker could but he regressed.

I hoped GB would keep only 2 TEs & 2 on PS. Backman isn't NFL ready. 2 of the 3 can't block at all.
I am not sold on Palmer. Need to hit on Ryan or Palmer. Disappointed that they didn't keep Vaughters or Joe Thomas. Maybe PS. Not sold on Hayward. Hyde had a bad year last year. Whitt will polish some of the talent given time.

DL looks better to me. Daniels, Raji and Guion (when he returns) are an improvement. Pennel can back up at NT, not sure if he can play DE but we'll find out when we play Seattle. Don't see another decent (i.e. complete) DE.

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