After nearly a month of fake football, Green Bay is finally ready to close the book on the 2016 preseason with one more game against Andy Reid’s Chiefs. As per usual with the preseason finale, none of the regulars will be suiting up on either side. Instead, coaches will get a final look at all the UDFA’s and bubble players competing for roster spots. With final cuts looming, we will focus on these position battles that are coming down to the wire.
The wide receiver group is one of the most crowded in the NFL, and three weeks of preseason play have only made this situation more murky, not less. Nelson and Cobb are obviously locks, and the draft pedigree of Davante Adams and Ty Montgomery likely means they’re secure as well. That leaves Jared Abbrederis, Trevor Davis, UDFA Geronimo Allison, and Jeff Janis (who is currently dealing with a broken hand).
Abby has had arguably the best camp of the bunch, Davis was a 5th round pick just a few months ago and Allison is oozing with potential. Janis, a core special teamer, is only expected to miss a few weeks. Placing him on IR before he makes the final 53 means he would not be eligible to return this season. If coaches deem him too valuable on special teams to lose for the year, it could mean the other three are battling for a single spot. It is fairly uncommon for teams to carry six wideouts, but it is nearly unfathomable to carry seven. A strong performance by someone in KC could go a long way to deciding the outcome of this one.
The defensive side of the ball is where things really get interesting. In a league that is starved for secondary talent, Green Bay is going to be forced to cut players that would be good enough to make the roster in any other season. With veteran safeties Clinton-Dix, Burnett, Hyde and Banjo all returning, no one was expecting the team to even consider keeping a fifth, until UDFA’s Kentrell Brice and Marwin Evans stepped onto the field.
Brice’s Pro-Day measurables would have placed him among the leaders at the NFL Combine, and his superb tackling and nose for the football that he has displayed on film may force the team to create room for him. Evans was already playing well himself before adding an interception last week, and a couple more splash plays this week could really complicate matters. Whoever gets cut between these two will almost assuredly be claimed by another team (my money is on Minnesota, who must be getting pretty anxious to sign their next ex-Packer).
The cornerback depth chart also needs to be finalized, with Ladarius Gunter, Josh Hawkins, and Robertson Daniel all in the running for spots. Gunter is already a favorite of DBs coach Joe Whitt, which means only Hawkins and Daniel will have to prove they belong. Carl Bradford and Joe Thomas are also battling for the fourth and final ILB spot on the roster. The DL is very thin at the moment, so unless Christian Ringo and/or UDFA Brian Price can put coaches at ease with a strong performance Thursday, they may force Ted to search the waiver wire for help when cuts begin next week.
Lastly, the most eagerly anticipated performance could come from the most unlikely position: the punter. Peter Mortell’s release a few days ago seemed to indicate Tim Masthay’s job was safe, but Ted Thompson then cut Masthay in favor of ex-Buccaneer Jacob Schum. This one is a head-scratcher to say the least, as Schum wasn’t particularly good last season and will now only have a couple weeks to get comfortable as Mason Crosby’s new holder. Obviously, coaches and scouts saw something they liked in Schum, but a shaky performance at KC is the last thing anyone will want to see one week before the regular season kicks off.