Barring injuries, the following 23 players are all but guaranteed to be part of the final 53: Aaron Rodgers, Brett Hundley, Ty Montgomery, Aaron Ripkowski, Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, David Bakhtiari, Bryan Bulaga, Jason Spriggs, Corey Linsley, Lane Taylor, Martellus Bennett, Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark, Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Jake Ryan, Kevin King, Ha Ha Clinton Dix, Morgan Burnett, Josh Jones and Mason Crosby.
Barring injuries, the following 16 players are very likely to be part of the final 53: Jamaal Williams, Lance Kendricks, Richard Rodgers, Jahri Evans, Ricky Jean Francois, Dean Lowry, Montravius Adams, Kyler Fackrell, Blake Martinez, Jayrone Elliott, Vince Biegel, Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins, Davon House, LaDarius Gunter and Kentrell Brice.
That leaves 51 players to fight for 14 spots. Nine weeks before the start of camp, here’s a quick look at the battles shaping up at each position:
QUARTERBACK: Unless one of them really shines in the preseason, or God forbid either Aaron Rodgers or Brett Hundley gets hurt, second-year man Joe Callahan and undrafted free agent Taysom Hill will likely be vying for a spot on the practice squad. Coach Mike McCarthy really likes Callahan, but it’s hard to imagine GM Ted Thompson not preferring the much more talented Hill if he shows potential.
RUNNING BACK: Since Thompson was hired in 2005, receiver/returner Cory Rodgers is the only fourth-round pick who failed to make the 53 as a rookie. And he was pathetic. You can be sure steady Jamaal Williams won’t be pathetic, so that’ll likely leave one spot up for grabs between draft picks Aaron Jones and Devante Mays and talented undrafted free agent Will Stanback. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see one or even both of the losers wind up on the practice squad.
FULLBACK: Second-year man Joe Kerridge can play in the NFL, but he’s going to need to be great on special teams to earn a spot on the 53. The Packers already have Aaron Ripkowski at the position – not to mention veteran tight ends who are very capable of lining up in the backfield.
TIGHT END: The No. 3 tight end, be it Lance Kendricks or Richard Rodgers, could find himself on the trading block at the end of the summer – but only if second-year man Beau Sandland or undrafted free agent Aaron Peck show legit potential in training camp. Otherwise, the Packers will go into the season with the deepest and most experienced group of tight ends in the league.
WIDE RECEIVER: While there’s no proven talent after Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams and Randall Cobb, the competition between holdovers Geronimo Allison, Jeff Janis and Trevor Davis and draft picks DeAngelo Yancey and Malachi Dupre should be intense. Allison probably showed enough last season to stick on the 53, so the final spot or two could come down to special teams. That might give Janis (gunner) and Davis (returner) an edge heading into camp. On the other hand, the rookies probably have more potential as receivers.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Barring injuries, the starting five are set. Veteran Jahri Evans wasn’t signed to compete at right guard. It’s his job to lose. Jason Spriggs will be the No. 3 tackle and Don Barclay figures to be the first man off the bench at all three interior positions. That means holdovers Kyle Murphy, Lucas Patrick and Jacob Flores will be battling sixth-round pick Kofi Amichia and a bunch of undrafted free agents – highlighted by Adam Pankey – for one or two spots. Murphy’s versatility and Amichia’s signing bonus give them a clear edge heading into camp.
DEFENSIVE LINE: Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark are locks, and it’s hard to imagine Dean Lowry, Ricky Jean Francois and third-round pick Montravius Adams not making the 53. That leaves little room for anyone else, including Letroy Guion, whose 4-game suspension might turn out to be a good thing. Thompson would be able to activate the 30-year-old in October should an injury occur. Holdovers Christian Ringo and Brian Price will play in the NFL, just probably not in Green Bay.
LINEBACKER: With Clay Matthews and some of the safeties expected to see snaps inside, don’t be surprised if only three pure inside linebackers make the 53. Jake Ryan is a lock, and Blake Martinez should be safe for another season. Joe Thomas played pretty well last season, but the coaches might prefer a bigger body. That could be undrafted free agent Cody Heiman, who ran under 4.6 at 233 pounds. If the Packers go light inside, there could be room for as many as six outside linebackers. And with Kyler Fackrell, Vince Biegel (if his foot is OK) and Jayrone Elliott fairly secure, that would be good news for holdover Reggie Gilbert and undrafted free agent Johnathan Calvin.
SECONDARY: The top five corners figure to be veterans Davon House, Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins, LaDarius Gunter and first-round pick Kevin King. That would probably leave one spot open on the 53. Holdovers Josh Hawkins and Herb Waters would compete against a bunch of talented undrafted free agents led by David Rivers, Donatello Brown and Lenzi Pipkins. If healthy, Demetri Goodson would probably be the favorite for the No. 6 job, but he’s still rehabbing from knee surgery. Thompson ended last season with five safeties on the 53, but that might not happen again. Marwin Evans will need to show great improvement to earn an encore with the Packers.
SPECIALISTS: Another August, another battle at punter. Holdover Jake Schum will try and fend off undrafted free agent Justin Vogel. And don’t be shocked if for the second straight summer the team’s punter doesn’t arrive until September. Unproven long snapper Derek Hart will be competing against the resume’ of Brett Goode, who’ll once again be relaxing in Arkansas just waiting for the phone to ring.
WAY TOO EARLY FINAL 53
RB (4): Ty Montgomery, Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones and Aaron Ripkowski
TE (3): Martellus Bennett, Lance Kendricks and Richard Rodgers
WR (6): Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, Geronimo Allison, Trevor Davis and Malachi Dupre
OL (9): David Bakhtiari, Bryan Bulaga, Jason Spriggs, Kyle Murphy, Corey Linsley, Don Barclay, Lane Taylor, Jahri Evans and Kofi Amichia
DL (5): Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry, Ricky Jean Francois and Montravius Adams
LB (10): Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Kyler Fackrell, Vince Biegel, Jayrone Elliott, Johnathan Calvin, Jake Ryan, Blake Martinez, Joe Thomas and Cody Heiman
DB (10): Davon House, Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins, LaDarius Gunter, Kevin King, Herb Waters, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Morgan Burnett, Kentrell Brice, and Josh Jones
SP (3): Mason Crosby, Jake Schum and Brett Goode