Green Bay Packers trim roster to 53

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Bob McGinn, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Saturday, August 31, 2013

Note: A list of cuts made league-wide is available here.

GREEN BAY—Running back Alex Green and linebacker Dezman Moses, significant contributors for the Green Bay Packers one year ago, were released Saturday as general manager Ted Thompson shuffled the deck to reach the 53-player limit.

Two fifth-round draft choices, tight end D.J. Williams and linebacker Terrell Manning, also were among the 22 players departing on waivers.

Quarterback Vince Young and tight end Matthew Mulligan, easily the most seasoned veterans signed by Thompson in the last eight months, were let go as well when not long ago it seemed they were destined to make it.

During their 1-3 exhibition season, the Packers appeared to have better backup players on defense than offense. That was reflected in decisions resulting in just 23 players on offense compared to 27 on defense.

Since the National Football League increased the roster size to 53 in 1993, the Packers have never gone into opening day with only 23 on offense. Coach Mike McCarthy did have 24 in 2007, '11 and '12, but in the last six seasons under Mike Holmgren the Packers averaged 27 on offense.

“The quarterback's health and not having to count on as many receivers is what caused the change,” an executive in personnel for an NFL team said Saturday night. “They're banking on the quarterback more than they are the guys up front…his health and his ability to get rid of the ball.

“Otherwise, Vince Young is still on that team.”

Young played himself off the team Thursday night in Kansas City with an abominable performance.

“It doesn't surprise me,” the scout said. “He's only been at it for less than a month. But I don't think the other guy is a world-beater, that's for sure.”

He was referring to B.J. Coleman, who for now is an injury away from replacing Aaron Rodgers.

Young still would be on the top of that scout's emergency board at quarterback. He said released quarterbacks such as David Carr, Rusty Smith, Jimmy Clausen and Seneca Wallace all were better than Coleman.

A fifth veteran from the 2012 squad, nose tackle Jordan Miller, probably was one of the more difficult cuts.

One draft pick, wide receiver Charles Johnson of Grand Valley State, was released but is expected back on the practice squad Sunday.

Seven rookie free agents were waived, including wide receivers Tyrone Walker and Myles White, tight end Jake Stoneburner, center-guard Patrick Lewis, fullback Jonathan Amosa, linebacker Donte Savage and safety David Fulton.

Seven “street” free agents also were on the cut list, including tackles Andrew Datko and Kevin Hughes, center-guard Garth Gerhart, cornerbacks James Nixon, Loyce Means and Brandon Smith, and safety Chaz Powell.

Personnel officials worked into the wee hours Saturday night and into this morning watching tape to find players on the waiver wire better than their own.

Teams have until 10 a.m. today to make waiver claims, and then will be notified by the league office within an hour if they were awarded a player.

If the Packers put in claims for two players, they could prioritize the claims and inform the NFL that they want just one.

Newcomers on Green Bay's 53-man roster include two rookie free agents, one “street” free agent, two holdovers from the Packers' practice squad in 2012 and Johnny Jolly, who spent three years on the team's reserve/suspended list.

“It's a great feel-good story,” one personnel man said, referring to Jolly. “The guy legitimately was a good player before he started messing up.

“I kind of felt all along if he showed signs of being the old Jolly and he stayed out of trouble he'd make it. You could see a lot of rust, but you also could see he was knocking off the rust every week.”

If Mike Neal is counted as half defensive end and half outside linebacker, the Packers' 53 includes 7 1/2 defensive linemen and 9 1/2 linebackers.

After keeping just six defensive linemen in their first four years with the 3-4 defense, the Packers added rookie Josh Boyd as well as Jolly to the mix.

“In a lot of ways they might be looking for guys later this year but also next year,” one scout said. “I wouldn't say Boyd showed a lot but he's one of those guys. They have some pieces that might not be around.”

The contracts of B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett, C.J. Wilson, Neal and Jolly all expire after this season.

Moses played 63.7 percent of the snaps in the final 10 games as a rookie, finishing third on the team in pressures with 19. But after suffering a turf-toe injury a few days into training camp he continued to play on but wasn't effective.

“To me, he was an up-and-coming guy based on last year,” said one scout. “He gave them some pass rush. That's kind of weird for them. Usually they don't give up on people.”

Instead, the Packers went with rookies Nate Palmer and Andy Mulumba as backup outside linebackers. Both are faster than Moses but weren't as strong at the point of attack as he was in 2012.

Jarrett Bush survived a challenge from Nixon, who hurt his ankle in the second exhibition game and never returned.

“Nixon's very raw covering people but he can run,” one scout said. “He'll be on their practice squad.”

At safety, free agent Chris Banjo earned the No. 4 berth after not being signed until camp was three days old.

“They need help at safety,” said one scout. “Everything after No. 1 (Morgan Burnett) is a question mark.”

The seven-man corps of tight ends was whittled to four after Mulligan, the best blocker, and Williams lost out to Andrew Quarless and Brandon Bostick.

“I think they probably just got tired of waiting for D.J. to ascend,” said one scout. “Tremendous athlete, but never quite got over the hump. Bostick kind of flashed.

“As long as they felt Quarless was healthy he was going to be around. They figure that he's healthy, then that's their blocker (over Mulligan). He kind of steps into (Tom) Crabtree's role.”

Green, a third-round pick in 2011, led the team in rushing last season (464 yards) and in the exhibition season (72). His 3.4 average this summer was better than any back, too.

He lost out to James Starks, who had an injury-free camp, and fourth-round pick Johnathan Franklin.

“Green's OK but he's not special,” one scout said. “They kept Starks for power situations not knowing exactly where the kid from Alabama (Eddie Lacy) is at quite yet, and they always have Randall Cobb.

“I'm assuming they're giving Starks one more time with this injury go-round.”

Manning never demonstrated the big-play capability that he did at North Carolina State. Sam Barrington seemed more reliable.

“Barrington was just OK,” said one scout. “Maybe they don't think Manning's up side is there anymore. Manning's not a great player, by any stretch.”

Last updated: 11:19 pm Saturday, August 31, 2013

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