The Green Bay Packers released their first unofficial depth chart of 2011 Tuesday, four days before their preseason opener against the Cleveland Browns.
With four preseason games and just under a month before Week 1, take this depth chart with a large grain of salt. Plenty will happen between now and Sept. 4, meaning plenty of names will be moved around.
Here is a look at the depth chart, via Packers.com:
QB: Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn, Graham Harrell
RB: Ryan Grant, James Starks, Dimitri Nance, Alex Green/Brandon Saine
FB: John Kuhn, Quinn Johnson, Jon Hoese
WR1: Greg Jennings, James Jones, Randall Cobb, Brett Swain/Diondre Borel, Kerry Taylor
WR2: Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, Chastin West, Tori Gurley/Antonio Robinson, Shaky Smithson
TE: Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless, Tom Crabtree, D.J. Williams/Ryan Taylor/Spencer Havner
LT: Chad Clifton, Marshall Newhouse, Theo Sherman
LG: Derek Sherrod, T.J. Lang, Adrian Battles
C: Scott Wells, Nick McDonald, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Sampson Genus
RG: Josh Sitton, Nick McDonald, Caleb Schlauderaff
RT: Bryan Bulaga, Chris Campbell, Ray Dominguez
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 Green Bay Packers wasted no time getting busy on the first day of free agency Monday, agreeing to terms with eight undrafted free agents. Here is a list of the eight players, who can officially sign Tuesday morning, and their chances of making the team’s final roster.
Shaky Smithson, WR/KR, Utah: We profiled Smithson on his own tonight, and you can read all about the return specialist right here.
Tori Gurley, WR, South Carolina: At 6-feet, 5-inches, Gurley brings a dimension that no other Packers receiver can: size. His 4.56 forty-yard dash is quite impressive given that size, and the possession receiver could stick if James Jones leaves for greener pastures. Randall Cobb is a lock and free agent Brett Swain should get the first look in training camp, but Gurley has the size and speed to groom into a solid fourth receiver.
Sampson Genus, C, South Florida: Aside from having one of the cooler names of all undrafted free agents, Genus has produced in the Big East. A team captain and first team All-Big East selection, Genus started all 13 games his senior season and was a Wuerffel Trophy candidate, given to the best college football player who “best combines exemplary community service with athletic and academic achievement.” The offensive line surprisingly has become a log jam, so Genus will have his hands full trying to make the roster. Aside from Scott Wells, the Packers do not have a true center (Even Deitrich-Smith and 2010 UDFA Nick McDonald both have the ability to play the position, while free agent Jason Spitz does as well).
Anthony Bratton, SS, Delaware:
Have the Packers found their answer at punt returner?
It sure looks that way after they reportedly agreed to terms with undrafted free agent Antoine “Shaky” Smithson, a wide receiver from Utah, on the first official night of free agency.
While Smithson will not be able to sign with the team until tomorrow morning, Smithson indicated on his Twitter account that he indeed would sign on with the World Champions.
There was no one better in college football at returning punts in 2010, as Smithson averaged 19.1 yards per return (572 yards) and scored twice. He was named a Walter Camp first team All-American punt returner for his record-breaking season, while also starting four games at wide receiver for the Utes.
He ended the season with 25 catches for 383 yards and three touchdowns as a receiver, but Smithson is going to make his living as a punt returner, if anything.