Packers face multiple personnel issues

GREEN BAY -- Poised to rebound from a disappointing 6-10 season and become contenders in the NFC again, the Green Bay Packers have to weigh the long-term future of the team with the desire to win right now as they prepare to trim their roster to 53.

GREEN BAY -- Poised to rebound from a disappointing 6-10 season and become contenders in the NFC again, the Green Bay Packers have to weigh the long-term future of the team with the desire to win right now as they prepare to trim their roster to 53.

They must ask themselves:

Can they afford to trade veteran Scott Wells knowing their only other center behind starter Jason Spitz is undrafted rookie Evan Dietrich-Smith?

Can they get away with keeping undrafted rookie running back Tyrell Sutton in favor of a pair of bigger, more physical backs like DeShawn Wynn and Kregg Lumpkin?

Is rookie fullback Quinn Johnson's snowplow style so desirable that it's worth cutting either John Kuhn or Korey Hall, two of the team's better special teams players?


Do they want to keep rookie tackle Jamon Meredith over veteran Tony Moll, knowing that if left tackle Chad Clifton got hurt they probably would have to shuffle the line because Meredith isn't ready to play yet?

There are reasons why general manager Ted Thompson makes millions of dollars. By 6 p.m. Saturday, Thompson will have to decide which 53 players he's going to keep.

Here's a position-by-position overview of what Thompson faces:

Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, James Jones and Jordy Nelson make up one of the top groups in the NFL. The only decision is whether to choose the quickly improving skill and special teams talents of Brett Swain over veteran Ruvell Martin.

Swain showed how good the coaches feel about his athletic ability when they inserted him into the lineup as an emergency cornerback against Tennessee Thursday night. He has improved his body and played with some burst, but he's not a big target, and he doesn't block like Martin.

Undrafted rookie Kole Heckendorf has shown enough to be brought back to the practice squad.

It's a slam dunk. Donald Lee, Jermichael Finley and Spencer Havner are on the team. Finley appears poised for a breakout season, but Lee is still the starter. Havner showed pretty good hands in the last couple of exhibition games. He also plays linebacker and is a special teams demon.

Moll is on the trading block and the Packers definitely are entertaining the possibility of trading Wells. It would probably take at least a fourth-round pick for someone to pry him away. On the other hand, Dietrich-Smith is Wells' equivalent in size, and he improved each week of camp playing both center and guard.


The Packers could just as easily dump the shaky Giacomini, who was underwhelming in his competition with Allen Barbre for the right tackle spot. Unlike Giacomini, Moll can play both right and left tackle, but getting beat badly at left guard against the Titans didn't help his cause.

The top seven are: Chad Clifton, Daryn Colledge, Spitz, Josh Sitton, Allen Barbre, T.J. Lang and Wells.

Regardless whether Wells is traded, the decision comes down to Giacomini and Meredith, both fifth-round picks.

There's little chance that Sutton will make it through waivers if he is released, so the Packers have to think long and hard whether he's a viable option as a backup if either Ryan Grant or Brandon Jackson are injured.

Sutton averaged 4.8 yards per carry playing mostly with second- and third-string offensive linemen. At 5-7{, 213 pounds, his pass blocking skills can be exploited, but the one thing you can't argue is that the guy knows how to tote the football.

"I'm not the fastest guy or the tallest guy to play the game, but I try to be the quickest guy out there," said Sutton, who ranked fifth in the NFL in rushing with 191 yards during the exhibition season. "I'm just trying to make this team."

The Packers would have to feel comfortable with Sutton being their backup headed into the regular-season opener against Chicago. Jackson is recovering from an ankle sprain and even though he may be back at practice this week there's no guarantee he'll be ready.

If Jackson is ailing, the Packers will either release Sutton or go with six running backs. They'll have to decide between bruisers DeShawn Wynn, who practiced better than he played, and Kregg Lumpkin, who runs hard between the tackles but has been injury prone.


The fullback battle comes down to youth vs. experience. Either Johnson stays and Kuhn or Hall goes or Johnson goes and the other two stay.

The Packers used to keep 10 defensive linemen when they played the 4-3. Now they'll keep six.

The starters are Johnny Jolly, Ryan Pickett and Cullen Jenkins. First-round pick B.J. Raji is No. 4 and sixth-round pick Jarius Wynn is likely No. 5.

The first decision is whether to stick it out with Justin Harrell and hope his back heals before the season progresses too far or to put him on injured reserve. They won't release him because it only costs them $646,625 to keep him this year.

If Harrell goes on injured reserve, Mike Montgomery likely gets the nod.

The defense is loaded at this position, but there are some considerations for the future in picking the top nine.

The coaches will have their hands full spreading out playing time between Aaron Kampman, Nick Barnett, A.J. Hawk, Brady Poppinga, Clay Matthews, Brandon Chillar and Desmond Bishop. Chillar and Bishop are good enough to be starters on another team, but unless they were bowled over with an offer, the Packers won't trade either.

Jeremy Thompson hasn't done a lot to justify a roster spot, but he has too much talent to give up on after just one season in the NFL.


More than likely, the Packers will have to choose one from this group: outside linebackers Brad Jones and Cyril Obiozor and inside linebacker Danny Lansanah. There's a buzz around the league about the potential of Obiozor, and it's unlikely they would slip him past waivers given there are 12 other 3-4 teams out there constantly looking for big pass rushers.

Jones, who has flashed pass-rush ability, and Lansanah would probably clear waivers, although Lansanah might be a good pickup for someone's special teams units.

The guess here is that the Packers keep 10.

They have to deal with two injured cornerbacks, Brandon Underwood (stinger) and Pat Lee (knee), both of whom were hurt against Tennessee. The Packers may try to stash Underwood on injured reserve, since he's not ready to play yet.

Lee could also wind up there if his knee injury turns out to be serious. Cornerback / returner Will Blackmon has a deep thigh bruise, but is aiming to be back this week.

With all those injuries, the club has a minor problem at cornerback. It may have to start the season with safety Jarrett Bush as its fourth corner behind Charles Woodson, Al Harris and Tramon Williams.

At safety, Nick Collins, Atari Bigby and Anthony Smith have the team made. Attempts will probably be made to trade Charlie Peprah, but his bum knee probably will result in an injury settlement. Aaron Rouse (hamstring) could be a candidate for injured reserve, but if not he's probably the odd man out.

Mason Crosby will be the kicker, Jeremy Kapinos the punter and Brett Goode the snapper. Crosby has to find his long-distance accuracy or risk losing McCarthy's confidence. Kapinos ranked second in gross average (48.8 yards) and third in net (43.0) during the exhibition season.


He could have had at least four punts inside the 20 against the Titans but settled for two when he hit a pair into the end zone.

-- (c) 2009, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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