Loves, Hates and a Stab at the Initial 53

We're mercifully halfway through the preseason and we're starting to get a pretty good idea what the 53 man roster will look like. I've got my way too early projected initial 53 man roster below, along with what I've loved and hated through the first two games.

What I've hated:

The fact that Rodgers' back tightened up and he was unable to lead the #1 offense. Most years, I wouldn't care, but he absolutely needs a few series to get a little more comfortable with his new offense. The running game has been abysmal. Granted, Jones and Williams have yet to take the field, but the fact that they are both injury prone means the team needs a reliable third back and there isn't one currently on the roster.

Injuries to Kevin King, Josh Jackson and Oren Burks. These guys have missed valuable time already and the defense really can't count on any of them to give them meaningful snaps early in the season.

Missed tackles have been a hot topic. It will be a recurring theme until they clean things up. Hopefully we'll see improvement when the starters get some extended time against the Raiders, but with rookie David Montgomery and Dalvin Cook awaiting the first two weeks, the tackling better improve quickly.

The backup QB battle looks like a competition between Jerry Tagge and Jim Del Gaizo (obscure reference for old people, like me). Neither Kizer nor Boyle appear in the slight bit ready to lead the team if Rodgers goes down.

Rashan Gary. Didn't like him on draft day. Heard about the coaches and teammates drooling about him in practice. So far in two preseason games he looks exactly like the guy we saw at Michigan. Fills out the uniform nicely, but is invisible once the game starts.

What I've loved:

The depth at offensive line gives me a lot more comfort than last year's group. Jenkins may force Taylor to the bench at left guard and Turner looks like a big improvement at the RG spot. Plus, with Light backing up Bakhtiari and Turner able to kick out to right tackle if needed, the Pack at least appears to have suitable backups on the outside.
The competition at WR is the best thing going on this team. The emergence of Shepherd and Lazard have made things very dicey for Moore and Davis. As it stands now, with everyone healthy, I'd like to see them keep seven, but in this new offense, where fullback and two tight end looks are featured, I don't think they can afford to keep seven. These next couple of weeks will be very interesting for this group.
Speaking of which: Jake Kumerow.

Za'Darius Smith is the real deal. Small sample size, yes. But he is poised for a monster season and frankly the only guy in the group that looks like he will be a problem for opposing offenses.

The starting safeties haven't shown much yet, but neither Houston nor Baltimore have looked downfield very much. I feel so much better about this position than I did a year ago.

Curtis Bolton looks like a nice find at inside linebacker--the undrafted rookie out of Oklahoma may start week one by default. He looks the part, has shown up on tape and has made plays on special teams as well. Unless Burks is expected back before midseason, the team will likely add a proven veteran here after cutdowns.

It looks like Mason Crosby will hold on to his job for another year. "Love" may be a strong word, but I'm not ready for the Sam Ficken era to start. Crosby has been perfect in games and Ficken snuck one through the left goalpost Thursday night. give me the proven veteran, at least for one more year.

If I was asked to comprise the first 53 man roster for the Pack today, here's what I would do:

QB (2): Rodgers, Kizer

RB/FB (4): Jones, Williams, Williams, Vitale

WR (7): Adams, Allison, MVS, ESB, Kumerow, Shepherd, Lazard

TE (4): Graham, Tonyan, Lewis, Sternberger

OL (9): Bakhtiari, Taylor, Linsley, Turner, Bulaga, Jenkins, Light, McRay, Patrick

DL (5): Clark, Adams, Lowry, Lancaster, Keke

OLB (4): Smith, Smith, Gary, Fackrell

ILB (4): Martinez, Burks (IR)*, Bolton, Summers

CB (6): Alexander, King, Brown, Williams, Jackson, Hollman

S (4): Amos, Savage, Greene, Campbell

ST (3): Crosby, Scott, Bradley

If Burks is placed on IR (with a designation to return Week 8), expect them to either bring back Crawford or, preferably, add a veteran they like who was cut by another team. As I said earlier, I can't see them keeping seven wide receivers, and injuries may sort things out. I don't see Moore or Davis being kept over the two youngsters. Shepherd shows he can be a capable returner and provides a body type and shiftiness that's perfect for the slot in this offense. Lazard appears to have more upside than Moore (and maybe even St. Brown). His size and athleticism leap off the tape. In a perfect world, I move on from Graham. But they've committed to him at this point, so he makes the team. Fackrell earns a spot by a hair over Gilbert, but neither of these guys should figure in the team's long term plans at pass rusher.

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