Outside linebackers (4): Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Andy Mulumba, Nate Palmer.
A year ago, the Packers entered the regular season with Matthews, Perry, Dezman Moses, Erik Walden (who was suspended for the first game) and Frank Zombo (who opened the year on the physically unable to perform list). Plus, Jones and Lattimore were still inside/outside players and hadn’t been moved inside full-time. After Saturday’s decision to cut Moses, who was claimed by the Kansas City Chiefs (and GM John Dorsey, the former Packers exec), it’ll be a fairly empty room for position coach Kevin Greene. Neal would be the fifth outside ‘backer, but according to Capers, his time will be split between there and the line.
“He’s a hybrid guy. You’re going to see him playing defensive line some, you’ll see him playing outside some, which has kind of been our goal,” Capers said. “It’s really been about 50-50. We chart those reps and it’s been pretty close to 50-50.”
Moses’ undoing can be traced to a calf injury that cost him most of the offseason and a toe injury that didn’t sideline him for a ton of time but bothered him throughout camp. He played more than 400 snaps on defense last season, started six games and had four sacks, so it was no surprise that the Chiefs snapped him up. If there’s a cut that has the makings of a regrettable decision, letting Moses go would seem to be it.
“He missed some time in the offseason with a calf and he’s had a toe that he’s had to deal with during camp,” Capers said of Moses before the cutdown. “I think he’s done fine. I think he knows a lot more now about what it takes to go out and play and play at a winning level than he did last year at this time.”
Cornerbacks (6): Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Casey Hayward, Micah Hyde, Davon House, Jarrett Bush.
While Williams played only one snap of preseason football – albeit a good one, as he intercepted a pass on that singular snap – and Hayward reinjured the hamstring against Seattle that had kept him out for the first three weeks of camp, this is arguably the deepest position on the roster. Williams appears to be a go for the opener, and while Hayward seems unlikely to play, Shields is a bona fide starter, House has been inconsistent but has improved, and Hyde was a revelation as a rookie fifth-round pick.
If Hayward can’t play against the 49ers, the Packers will still have four legit cover guys at their disposal, with Bush, the team’s special-teams ace, on call in an emergency. Hyde gave up some plays in preseason, including a 57-yard deep ball in St. Louis, but was resilient and has the coaches’ confidence with his coverage and blitzing abilities.
“I think Micah's played more plays this preseason than any other guy. We've done that purposely, to try to give him opportunities. I think he's taken advantage of the opportunities,” Capers said. “He's performed well, and showed up, made plays in the run game and pass game. He's certainly proven he deserves an opportunity to show us what he can do.”
Safeties (4): Morgan Burnett, M.D. Jennings, Jerron McMillian, Chris Banjo.
Burnett’s hamstring, which he injured against Seattle, will be a major topic of conversation throughout the week if he’s not at his customary safety spot at practice Monday. He’s the leader in the back end, has a new $24.75 million contract and is far and away the team’s best player back there. Playing without him would mean Jennings and McMillian, who appeared to finish in a dead heat in their competition to start next to him, would then both be forced to start, and the undersized 5-foot-10 Banjo would be one snap away from playing.
“Obviously we know a lot more about (Jennings and McMillian); they both played around 600 plays last year. I think they've both had good camps,” Capers said. “You can see, in my mind, you can certainly see a difference in both of them, those guys, this training camp as compared to last training camp, when neither one of them had played a single play. So, that experience of having gone through it and been there before, I certainly feel a lot better with those guys heading into the opener this year than I did a year ago.”
Banjo, who went to the same school as Thompson, signed four days into camp and was one of the pleasant surprises of the summer, overcoming the team’s unofficial height requirement to make the 53.
“Because he and I both went to the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas and Mustangs stick together,” Thompson replied when asked why Banjo earned a spot. “Sometimes, you just need an opportunity and we were looking for a safety after our rookie minicamps and stuff. We kept kind of looking and all of a sudden we brought him in for a workout – him and a couple of other guys – and he ran well. So we decided to sign him and the rest is him. He plays hard. He plays fast. He’s a good football player.”
Specialists (3): Mason Crosby, Tim Masthay, Brett Goode.
Goode and Masthay appear on top of their games. Masthay punted an alarming 28 times in preseason and averaged 45.9 gross yards and 37.0 net yards. Goode is almost always on the mark and was particularly impressive one day in camp when he had to snap for three kickers attempting 11 field goals apiece – 33 snaps, into the wind. But the focus is appropriately on Crosby, who was able to stave off Giorgio Tavecchio and Zach Ramirez but must kick well to keep his job and earn back the money he gave up as part of a pay cut.
While Crosby’s now $800,000 salary will be guaranteed if he’s on the roster next Saturday, Thompson wouldn’t publicly commit to him being the opening-day kicker on Sunday.
“We look to get better at any position at any time. That’s not a knock on Mason. Mason has done a good job,” Thompson replied. “’Are you confident?’ The NFL is a fluid business, especially this time of year. But Mason is our kicker.”
Injured reserve (5): Bryan Bulaga, DuJuan Harris, Sederrick Cunningham, Kevin Dorsey, Jarvis Reed.
Bulaga contemplated playing with a torn ACL before wisdom prevailed. Harris’ patellar tendon injury, which surfaced in the offseason and returned against Seattle, was a blow to McCarthy’s plans on offense. Cunningham dislocated his wrist on the second day of camp but the team apparently decided he was worth keeping around. Dorsey and Reed were waived/injured and are merely on the list until an injury settlement is reached.
Physically unable to perform list (4): Derek Sherrod, Jerel Worthy, JC Tretter, Sean Richardson.
All four players will miss, at minimum, the first six weeks of the season. Then, a three-week window opens during which each player can start practicing at any time. Once he does, it starts a three-week clock at the end of which will leave the Packers with the choice to activate him to the 53-man roster, release him, or put him on season-ending injured reserve. McCarthy had been saying Sherrod was “close” for weeks, but he won’t be able to practice until mid-October at the earliest. Worthy tore his ACL in the Dec. 30 regular-season finale and could miss the year. Tretter broke his ankle in the first organized team activity practice and may end up taking the pro equivalent of a medical redshirt. Richardson’s career is in doubt because of a neck injury.
Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today” on 540 ESPN, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.