Final Thoughts After the Packers' Last Preseason Game
So far this preseason, we’ve released a podcast after each preseason game recapping individual performances and how they affected the overall roster pictures. However, with the cutdown deadline approaching on Saturday afternoon and with some cuts already underway (farewell, Jocquez Kalili, we hardly knew ye), I thought it made more sense to offer some quick thoughts on each position on the roster ahead of the deadline.
DeShone Kizer or Tim Boyle? Tim Boyle or DeShone Kizer? At this point, it looks like Boyle is the leader for the top backup spot behind Aaron Rodgers. He played solid if unspectacular football against the Chiefs, much as he has all season long.
Kizer, meanwhile, could not have had worse luck against the Chiefs. He was victimized by some of the worst offensive line play of the preseason and things got even worse when J’Mon Moore stopped a crossing route unexpectedly, leading to Kizer’s first interception of the preseason.
The third-year quarterback had hardly distinguished himself prior to last night’s game, though. And even though he has great physical tools, at some point the Packers just need to go with the best player. Boyle seems to have an edge there now.
I ultimately don’t have a huge preference here. I just hope the Packers don’t keep three quarterbacks. A third quarterback seems like an extravagant luxury, one the Packers don’t seem to be able to afford with holes elsewhere on the roster.
Early on, it seemed Tra Carson was doing all but driving Dexter Williams to Austin Straubel Airport himself. Such was the authority and urgency with which he ran. And given head coach Matt LaFleur’s praise for Carson earlier this week, it looked like he had the third running back job locked up.
But then Williams acquitted himself well as the game went on, hopefully inserting a bit of doubt into the mind of Packers coaches and personnel men. Williams is clearly a more gifted runner than Carson, and I’d hope they would be willing to give himself time to develop the less polished aspects of his game. Cutting him because Carson is better in pass protection would seem to be missing the point in LaFleur’s run based attack.
I don’t know if Darrius Shepherd cut himself on Thursday night; it’s hard to let one special teams miscue outweigh what has, to this point, been a spectacular preseason. But on the other hand, a turnover is the one thing he absolutely could not afford to allow to happen, and it did.
Whatever the case, we may be overthinking the wide receiver position a little bit. It’s always hard to avoid overvaluing your favorite team’s players in the preseason. It may not be as big of a stretch as we’d think to roll the dice on Shepherd or Allen Lazard making it through waivers. Lazard’s concussion may also yet play a role in the decision process.
There’s no change here. Jimmy Graham and Robert Tonyan are locks, as was Jace Sternberger even though he hadn’t played until last night. For a moment it looked like injuries could play a role here, but Sternberger returned to the sideline in uniform after being carted off with a scary looking lower body injury.
There’s a not impossible situation where the Packers would cut Marcedes Lewis with designs on brnging him back while working out injured reserve maneuvers, but that could be overthinking things. This is a settled position by and large.
I still think the Packers keep nine players here, but last night clouded the waters between two roster contenders. Justin McCray went all but wire to wire, a strange situation for a player thought likely to be on the 53 man roster. Most teams don’t like to expose payers they intend to keep to injury.
Lucas Patrick, meanwhile, was invisible. Does that mean the Packers have decided how they feel about him? It could be he’s got his job locked up. Keep a close eye on this one.
This is another settled position group, though it was nice to see Kingsley Keke flash repeatedly on Thursday night. He uses his hands so well and seems to have gotten better every week.
Ty Summers is in, James Crawford is out. The difference between the two was stark on Thursday. Summers looked like he belonged while Crawford looked lost. The question here is how injuries will affect the Packers’ plans going forward. How long will Curtis Bolton be out? And what linebackers will become available in the next 36 hours? The Packers linebacker group could look much different on Monday.
Elsewhere in the linebacking corps, Markus Jones put a heck of a game on tape after arriving late in the preseason from Baltimore. I don’t think it’ll be enough to push him to a roster spot, but he made it a much harder decision than it otherwise would have been. That’s all a player on the bubble can ask for.
No wholesale changes here, but Chandon Sullivan’s profile continues to rise. It was interesting to see him take snaps at both cornerback and safety last night. Versatility is never a bad asset for bubble players to offer.
At safety, I think Will Redmond is ahead of Natrell Jamerson, though it’s probably close and may not matter given the presence of Ibraheim Campbell. Nevertheless, he remains one of the team’s best (and most untold) stories. A 2016 third-round pick by the San Francisco 49ers, Redmond was badly injured during his first training camp. He spent his rookie season on injured reserve. An ankle injury sent him to injured reserve (and ultimately out of San Francisco) in his second season. From there, he spent another training camp with the Kansas City Chiefs, only to again find himself on the outside looking in. He joined the Packers’ practice squad a few days later and finally appeared in a regular season game last November, nearly three full years after he was drafted. Now, he’s very close to making a team’s opening roster for the first time. It’s hard not to root for him.
Mason Crosby hardly endeared himself to fans (or likely coaches) with a missed PAT on Thursday, but he seems to have held off Sam Ficken’s challenge.
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not to wonder how many potential Week 1 Packers players are currently members of other teams. It’s not hard to imagine as many as three completely new players joining the team, given the holes at linebacker, running back, and cornerback.
Injuries to Oren Burks and Curtis Bolton have ruined the Packers’ depth behind Blake Martinez. Brian Gutekunst will surely be considering his options from teams throughout the league.
Though both Dexter Williams and Tra Carson ran hard on Thursday, running back is probably the most fungible position in the NFL. There’s little reason for either of them to consider their jobs secure, however well they may have played in their final outings.
And even with a seemingly well-defined depth chart, the Packers were signing cornerbacks to the very last. Gutekunst added two right before the final preseason game. What’s to say he’s done now?
No matter who he adds, though, there will be plenty of tough calls to make. We’ll be back with a full breakdown podcast after the final cuts are in.