Green Bay Packers: 10 Quick Takeaways from Initial 53-Man Roster

Jan 16, 2021; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers guard Ben Braden (64) against the Los Angeles Rams during the NFC Divisional Round at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 16, 2021; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers guard Ben Braden (64) against the Los Angeles Rams during the NFC Divisional Round at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

By 3:00 on Tuesday, the Green Bay Packers’ initial roster was set. Of course, throughout the season, NFL rosters remain fluid and can change from week to week. Heck, we might even see Green Bay’s roster change in the next few hours.

But before any of that takes place, I have 10 quick thoughts on how the Green Bay Packers’ initial roster was constructed.

Possible concern over Za’Darius Smith’s status for Week 1?

Matt LaFleur already told us that Smith’s current back injury could put his Week 1 status in jeopardy–and I think the fact that Green Bay is rostering five edge rushers confirms the possibility that he won’t play.

In addition to Za’Darius, Preston Smith, and Rashan Gary, the Packers also kept Jonathan Garvin and Chauncey Rivers–both of whom certainly proved that they were deserving of a roster spot. But if Smith is healthy, does Green Bay only keep four edge rushers as many expected?

Packers go light at safety–so Vernon Scott must be healthy

After keeping five safeties on the roster last season, at least for the time being, the Green Bay Packers are going light at the position this year with only four. Both Christian Uphoff and Innis Gaines displayed some playmaking abilities on defense and special teams, but both had issues as well–which is to be expected from young and inexperienced players.

Uphoff’s overall grade from PFF ($$) ranked 22nd out of 33 eligible Green Bay Packers players, while Gaines ranked 18th and led the team in missed tackles. Green Bay rostering four safeties also tells me that Vernon Scott should be good to go for Week 1. Sure, they could still stick him on IR and add Gaines or Uphoff, but leaving yourself susceptible with only three safeties before then doesn’t seem like the prudent move.

Cornerback depth is thin

This is a deep Green Bay Packers team overall, but the cornerback depth can be questioned. Isaac Yiadom is primarily a special teams player who has struggled in coverage. Shemar Jean-Charles was picked on this preseason, allowing 10 completions on 12 targets. Kevin King has battled injuries, and while Eric Stokes is an exciting prospect, he is still a rookie and will likely endure a learning curve.

Now, this of course doesn’t mean that this unit can’t be good. Green Bay does still have Jaire Alexander, and if King is healthy and Stokes continues to trend upward, they will be just fine. But on paper, I’m sure you can understand where I’m coming from.

Ben Braden

Once Ben Braden was no longer in the running for the starting guard role, we all should have recognized that the chances of him being cut just grew. But what I’m more surprised by is that Green Bay still cut Braden, knowing that they were going to cut Cole Van Lanen as well as and then place David Bakhtiari on the PUP list.

With Braden’s versatility and the way OL coach Adam Stenavich talked about him, I thought for sure that would be enough to keep him on the roster–especially when you factor in those other moves.

Green Bay Packers without Bakhtiari for at least six weeks

David Bakhtiari is officially on the PUP list, which means he can’t return for the first six weeks of the season. Assuming everything goes well with his recovery during that span, he could return by Week 7, but odds are he will need a ramp-up period, so realistically, we may not see Bakhtiari on the field until Week 8. Fortunately, the Green Bay Packers have Elgton Jenkins to lean on in Bakhtiari’s absence.

light. Related Story. Packers Place David Bakhtiari on PUP List

Jake Hanson surprises us all

This is hands down the biggest surprise of the initial roster–I mean, talk about flying under the radar. Hanson was on the practice squad in 2020 before being placed on IR. This summer, he rarely stood out or was even mentioned, and the lasting image that many of us have is the botched snapped and delay of game against Buffalo.

But the numbers show that he allowed only two pressures this preseason — none of which were sacks — and he had the second-best pass-blocking grade of any offensive lineman. Green Bay was in need of a backup center; I just assumed that would be Lucas Patrick and Jon Runyan.

The importance of special teams 

Maybe we are all just more focused on the special teams unit, but even within the Green Bay Packers organization, there appears to be a greater emphasis on that phase of the game, and the initial roster reflects that. Kabion Ento and Innis Gaines, who many thought could be on the roster, were likely left off because of their inconsistent tackling abilities–which obviously isn’t a good trait for a special teams player.

They instead went with Yiadom and his nearly 500 career special teams snaps. Malik Taylor had 210 special teams snaps in 2020 alone, and Green Bay went five deep at linebacker, with Isaiah McDuffie, Ty Summers, and Oren Burks all being prime special teams contributors. Not to mention that Chauncey Rivers had the seventh most special teams snaps this preseason.

Keep your eyes on Dennis Kelly

We don’t know the severity of Dennis Kelly’s injury — although LaFleur would allude to it potentially impacting Kelly’s Week 1 status — but over the last week, I discussed the idea of him possibly ending up on IR. With the more flexible IR rules, Kelly could return after three weeks. If this does happen, then Green Bay could elevate — assuming they reach the practice squad — either Braden or Van Lanen to fill his roster spot for the time being.

Kurt Benkert

Many are concerned that after his preseason performance, another team is going to come along and claim Kurt Benkert before Green Bay can sign him to the practice squad. Some good news, however, is that Atlanta has already set their 53-man roster, and it includes three quarterbacks. The Falcons were in need of a backup, and head coach Arthur Smith runs a similar offense as LaFleur, which would have made the transition smoother for Benkert.

Another team to watch is Dallas, who has former Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn on staff as the defensive coordinator. Quinn was the Falcons head coach during Benkert’s first few NFL seasons.

Hunter Bradley on the hot seat?

The Green Bay Packers have already released JK Scott after trading for Corey Bojorquez, so if I’m Hunter Bradley, even though I’m on the initial 53, I wouldn’t feel too comfortable just yet. Several long-snappers were released on Tuesday, and with Bradley’s well-known struggles, this is certainly a position that Green Bay could still look to upgrade.