Many big roster battles in spotlight during Packers-Seahawks tussle

Wayne Larrivee

Running back James Starks. Photo: Image by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Many big roster battles in spotlight during Packers-Seahawks tussle

CREATED Aug. 23, 2013

The third week of the pre season is called the dress rehearsal around the NFL.

Well, sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t.   
This is the final week to determine the fates of a lot of players.  Teams have to cut from 90 to 75 this coming week, down to 53 players the following week.  Decisions are at hand especially considering next week the starters and key backups will play limited minutes if at all.
The roster battles don’t just involve those who are trying to make the team.  Preseason sorts out your starting lineup and sub-package personnel as well.
To that end, along the offensive line it is time to determine if Don Barclay has beaten out Marshall Newhouse at right tackle.  Will rookie David Bakhtiari be solid enough to hold down the all important left tackle spot?
At wide receiver Jeremy Ross, Jarrett Boykin and Tyrone Walker are competing to fill out the receiver corps beyond the big three.  
Rookie 7th round picks Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey returned to the field this week off injuries, but one figures they do not have the time to move up the depth chart appreciably at this point.  My guess is they will redshirt on the practice squad this year.
At running back, what to do with veterans Alex Green and James Starks and is Johnathan Franklin going to be able to contribute in a specialist role on third downs?
At tight end Jermichael Finley is on the verge of a big season, but behind him I think Matthew Mulligan (elbow injury this week) will be the blocking tight end in the running game.  
D.J. Williams has had some costly drops, Brandon Bostick looks the part, Andrew Quarless is a question mark in terms of health, rookie Jake Stoneburner has flashed and Ryan Taylor is special on special teams.   It will be interesting to see how many tight ends they keep this year.
At quarterback, can Graham Harrell hold off Vince Young?  
Mike McCarthy said that quarterback room got a whole lot more competitive when Young arrived.  B.J. Coleman is coming off his best showing this past week in St Louis.
Defensively they have numbers on the line and at linebacker.  Will they go with just three at safety, and how does that impact cornerback?
If you include Mike Neal as a defensive lineman, I count seven staying on that three-man line.
At outside linebacker I believe Andy Mulumba has shown enough, even though a knee problem might keep him out tonight.  
Question is, if Neal has a role in pass rush situations at outside linebacker, where does that leave Dezman Moses?  Moses beat the odds to make the team as a rookie free agent last year and a restricted free agent could ultimately beat him out this year (Mulumba).
Inside linebacker is well stocked with the starters being Brad Jones and A J Hawk.  
Robert Francois, Jamari Lattimore and Terrell Manning all made the team a year ago.  Have 7th round pick Sam Barrington or rookie free agent Jarvis Reed done enough to unseat one of the backups?  I think not.
In the secondary, there are three safeties who are locks in Morgan Burnett, M D Jennings and Jerron McMillian.  One of two cornerbacks who make the team could slide over to help in a pinch—Jarrett Bush and Micah Hyde.
The cornerback position appears well stocked if Tramon Willimas returns from his knee injury by the opener.  
Davon House has had his ups and downs.  Sam Shields has been very good all the way, Casey Hayward returned to practice this week and Hyde has been the standout rookie in the secondary. I count six corners making the team with two of them, like I said, having the ability to cover at safety if need be.
Oh and lest I forget, after looking like he was about to nail down the kicking job, Mason Crosby missed three times in a competitive kicking situation at practice the other day, so for at least this week the great kicking derby with Georgio Teveccio continues.  
Also the return job remains wide open with Ross, Hyde, and Franklin all in contention.
So offensively my roster breakdown is:
- Three quarterbacks. Vince Young makes it, and so does Harrell.
- Four running backs. Eddie Lacy, DuJuan Harris, Johnathan Franklin and one of Starks or Green.
- One fullback (John Kuhn)
- Eight offensive linemen
- Five wide receivers, Nelson, Randall Cobb, James Jones, Jeremy Ross and Tyrone Walker and Finley, Mulligan, Taylor and one other at tight end.  
That’s 25 players on offense.
Defensively: seven on the line, nine linebackers, three safeties and six corners.  That’s 25.
Special teams: a kicker, punter and deep snapper to round out the 53-man roster.
Having said all of that, tonight’s game is about roles for players who figure to make the final 53-man roster.  
Next week’s game is for the five or so jobs still up for grabs to make the final roster.