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Saturday, August 30, 2008 10:06:32 AM(UTC)
Green Bay - The Green Bay Packers have kept either nine or 10 offensive linemen each season since the National Football League expanded the roster limit from 47 to 53 players in 1993.
By late today, the Packers might well have just eight players on the offensive line to accommodate better prospects at running back and linebacker.
To go heavy in one area a team must go light in another.
Last year, the Packers went into the regular season with merely two tight ends and two quarterbacks to support an unprecedented total of 11 defensive linemen and 10 defensive backs.
NFL teams must reach the 53-man limit by 5 p.m. On Sunday, teams can sign up to eight players to practice squads.
Heres a position-by-position rundown entering the day of decision:
Wide receiver: [ul]Even though James Jones figures to miss several more weeks because of a knee injury theres no one worth keeping after him, Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Ruvell Martin and Jordy Nelson.
Brett Swain, a seventh-round draft choice, has been a disappointment. Not only does Swain lack big speed but neither his routes nor his hands were as good as advertised. Free agent Johnny Quinn is much tougher and could surface on the practice squad.[/ul]
Tight end: [ul]Almost every game, Jermichael Finley has a horrendous play or two in the run game. Against Tennessee, it came on the final snap of the first half when defensive end Jevon Kearse drove Finley 5 yards back and straight into Kregg Lumpkin, who absorbed a 5-yard loss.
The Packers might be better off this year adding a veteran blocker off waivers and going without Finley. But with his size, speed and receiving potential another team surely would claim Finley off waivers.
If the Packers keep just one fullback, they might need Tory Humphrey to operate as one of two lead blockers in their short-yardage backfield. Humphrey is better athletically than free agent Joey Haynos, who might be much better in 2009 after a productive year on the practice squad.
Offensive line: [ul]The critical decision is whether to keep rookie Breno Giacomini, a fifth-round draft choice, as the No. 9 lineman.
At this point, Giacomini is a one-position player (right tackle). After a slow start he has improved, but not enough to contribute this year. His saltiness and reach are impressive but his feet need work.
Big, tough guy that cant move, one personnel man said. Theres a bunch of guys like him around.
The Packers took a hit Thursday when Junius Coston suffered what appeared to be a significant knee injury when defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth fell on him. NFL sources said the Packers told teams early in the week that Coston was available, and one personnel director said it was quite possible Green Bay could have gotten a conditional seventh-round pick for such an athletic guard with seven starts under his belt.
But those chances are gone now. Plus, when scouts see what Haynesworth did to Coston on his first two snaps, they probably wouldnt trade for him, anyway.
The Packers basically wasted three years working with tackle Orrin Thompson. Hes just a pretend player.
If Giacomini departs, the eight-man contingent might look like this against Minnesota: Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher at tackle, Daryn Colledge and Jason Spitz at guard, Scott Wells at center, Allen Barbre as the backup at left guard, Tony Moll as the backup tackle and right guard, and right guard Josh Sitton on the sideline rehabilitating a sprained knee.[/ul]
Quarterback: [ul]As poorly as Brian Brohm has performed, the Packers arent about to waive him after one training camp even though Matt Flynn clearly was the second-best passer in camp.
Its not even close right now, one scout said. Flynns been in big games, too. They just gave Brohm all the hype and forgot about Flynn.
If the Packers decided that Flynn as the No. 2 wasnt desirable and brought in a veteran, theyd love him back on the practice squad. However, one scout predicted hed be claimed (another predicted he wouldnt). Moreover, Flynn probably would have other practice-squad possibilities, and after being let go for political reasons in Green Bay he might be eager for a new home.[/ul]
[img_r]http://graphics.jsonline.com/graphics/packer/img/news/aug08/smorency829.jpg[/img_r]Running back: [ul]The decision here might boil down to whether fullback John Kuhn is more valuable than linebacker Tracy White. Kuhn isnt as good on special teams as White but at least Kuhn plays 10 snaps each week from scrimmage whereas White doesnt play any.
Kregg Lumpkin isnt a special player but might possess the second-best running skills behind Ryan Grant. Against Tennessee, he made end Kyle Vanden Bosch miss at point-blank range, kept surging forward on most of his runs and continued to develop as a receiver and pass blocker.
Vernand Morency is the best pass blocker of the bunch. He also can be a hard guy to be around. Morency should make it over Noah Herron based on talent, but they both could go.
Two fullbacks are somewhat of a luxury. So are four running backs.[/ul]
Defensive line: [ul]It took until the exhibition finale but rookie end Jeremy Thompson finally made his presence felt. He is worthy of the sixth berth at end.
At tackle, Daniel Muir seems to rate a slight edge over Alfred Malone for the fourth slot.
Malone raised some eyebrows Thursday with first-half pressures against starters Kevin Mawae and Jake Scott. It was his best game. After a slow start, Muir has come on to an extent. He also had a flush at Mawaes expense and made a short-yardage stop for the second straight game.[/ul]
Linebackers: [ul]Hunting down the tight end on a bootleg. Passing two other linebackers to make the tackle on a screen. Sifting through traffic to smash down Vince Young. Splattering the fullback in the flat.
Desmond Bishop did all of those things and more against Tennessee after merely three days of practice on the weak side. If A.J. Hawk is sidelined for the opener, Bishop should be in competition with Brandon Chillar for the starting assignment.
You could start Bishop against anybody and hes going to make plays, one scout said.
Abdul Hodge finished off a strong exhibition season with nine tackles (two for loss). He shed some of Tennessees best blockers and filled holes with authority. He also got stuck on some blocks and was a step slow getting to the sideline.
White limped off with a right ankle injury midway through the third quarter. His primary value is on special teams, but he did run over running back Chris Johnson to drill Young and broke up a flat pass to Johnson. White just isnt nearly as physical as Bishop and Hodge.
Free agents Spencer Havner and Danny Lansanah both have redeeming qualities.[/ul]
Secondary: [ul]Charlie Peprah might have been the most impressive safety in camp until he injured a hamstring Aug. 5. He still isnt ready and now might have lost his job.
Jarrett Bush, a key special-teams performer, has demonstrated a degree of proficiency at safety. With Bush as the No. 5 cornerback and No. 4 safety, the Packers could go back to keeping nine defensive backs.[/ul]
Specialists: [ul]J.J. Jansens knee injury might cause the Packers to add another long snapper.[/ul]
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