The Green Bay Packers coaching staff will need to cut the team roster from 80 to 75 on Aug. 31, and then again to 53 players by Sept. 4, four days before the Packers open the 2011 NFL season with a home game against the Saints.
While the Packers have approximately 40 locks (by my estimation), there are plenty of players fighting for both active roster spots as well as practice squad spots. Here are five players who could surprise by being suited up on Sept. 8.
Brandian Ross, CB: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was intercepted just 11 times during the 2010 season, so when it happens people take notice. Ross, an undrafted rookie free agent, picked off Rodgers on Family Night last Saturday and returned it for an interception.
With Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Sam Shields and Davon House all assumed locks to make the team, Ross will have his work cut out for him. He will most likely be competing with Brandon Underwood, Pat Lee, Josh Gordy and Jarrett Bush for two roster spots. Helping his cause is the fact that Ross played safety for two years at Youngstown State, before shifting to cornerback.
He has the size (6-feet, 191 pounds) and now has the attention of coaches and fans alike. Should he continue his impressive streak of play in the coming weeks, he just might find himself a roster spot. After all, a year ago Sam Shields was an undrafted free agent cornerback, and that turned out fine.
Brandon Saine, RB: Not much has been said out of training camp regarding Saine, another undrafted rookie. The Ohio State Buckeye finished his career with 1,408 yards and 17 touchdowns and ran a 4.43 forty-yard dash at his pro day, but a lack of top end speed and durability concerns left him undrafted.
The date was October 5, 2009.
Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre’s first game against his former team, the Green Bay Packers, had been overshadowed by the five turnstiles in front of Aaron Rodgers. The Packers allowed eight sacks after left tackle Chad Clifton left with an ankle injury. Daryn Colledge and T.J. Lang unsuccessfully attempted to stop defensive end Jared Allen, who finished with 4.5 sacks, and three other defenders recorded sacks in the 30-23 loss.
Fast forward 22 months, to 2011 Packers training camp, and the Packers can actually say their offensive line is a strong suit on their already high-powered offense.
Mainstays left tackle Chad Clifton, center Scott Wells, and right guard Josh Sitton have proved their worth and are locked into starting roles entering the season. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga, who took over for Mark Tauscher midway through last season, seems to be locked into his position as well.