Instant Takeaways from Packers initial 53-man roster

ASHWAUBENON, WISCONSIN - MAY 31: Head coach Matt LaFleur of the Green Bay Packers speaks with general manager Brian Gutekunst during an OTA practice session at Don Hutson Center on May 31, 2023 in Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
ASHWAUBENON, WISCONSIN - MAY 31: Head coach Matt LaFleur of the Green Bay Packers speaks with general manager Brian Gutekunst during an OTA practice session at Don Hutson Center on May 31, 2023 in Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

The Green Bay Packers initial 53-man roster for the 2023 season is set for the time being. Here is a look at who made the team at each position, along with my instant takeaways from how it was constructed.

QB: Jordan Love and Sean Clifford

RB: Aaron Jones, AJ Dillon, and Emanuel Wilson

WR: Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, Jayden Reed, Samori Toure, Dontayvion Wicks, and Malik Heath

TE: Luke Musgrave and Tucker Kraft

FB: Josiah Deguara

OL: David Bakhtiari, Elgton Jenkins, Josh Myers, Jon Runyan, Zach Tom, Rasheed Walker, Yosh Nijman, Caleb Jones, Sean Rhyan, Royce Newman, and Luke Tenuta

IDL: Kenny Clark, TJ Slaton, Devonte Wyatt, Karl Brooks, Colby Wooden, and Jonathan Ford

Edge: Rashan Gary, Preston Smith, JJ Enagbare, Lukas Van Ness, Brenton Cox, and Justin Hollins

LB: De’Vondre Campbell, Quay Walker, Isaiah McDuffie, Eric Wilson, and Tariq Carpenter

CB: Jaire Alexander, Rasul Douglas, Keisean Nixon, and Carrington Valentine

S: Darnell Savage, Rudy Ford, Dallin Leavitt, Anthony Johnson, and Jonathan Owens

ST: Anders Carlson and Daniel Whelan

– The Packers opted to go with only four cornerbacks on the initial 53-man with Eric Stokes starting on the PUP list. The team will construct it’s practice squad on Wednesday, once players clear waivers, and with the practice squad elevation rules, that allow teams to elevate a player up to three times on game day, the Packers can bring up someone to make sure they have the depth they need. Stokes will have to miss at least the first four games of the season.

– By releasing Orzech, it gave the Packers an extra roster spot to put Luke Tenuta on it, someone the team really likes and who was having a nice training camp prior to his injury. The plan will be to move him to IR, thus opening up a roster spot for the team to bring back Orzech. From a procedural standpoint, putting Tenuata on IR before the 53-man roster was set would have ended his season. But by going on after the roster is set, he is able to return after a minimum of four games.

– I thought for sure that Patrick Taylor was going to be the third running back on this team. He played way more special teams snaps than Emanuel Wilson, held his own as a blocker, and caught more passes—all things that both Matt LaFleur and Brian Gutekunst mentioned would be deciding factors in the third running back battle. However, where Wilson showed more upside in comparison to Taylor was as a ball carrier, with very good vision and burst. LaFleur has said he will have to continue to work on his consistency on special teams and as a blocker, but he must have shown enough improvement to give the team confidence that he can be a reliable contributor in those areas. As has been the case with many of the moves made by the Packers, they are taking a swing on a player’s upside.

– I went into greater detail here on why the Packers moved on from Pat O’Donnell, but in short, there were salary cap savings and Daniel Whelan gives them a potential upgrade with the power he packs. There is some risk in relying on a rookie holder and rookie kicker, but the Packers are willing to weather those ups and downs Justus as they are at other position groups.

– The Packers have a long standing tradition with undrafted rookies making their initial roster, which now includes 19 straight years of that happening with Wilson, Brenton Cox, and Malik Heath all making the team. Cox led the team in pressures per PFF this preseason and comes with a ton of upside at a premium position. Heath, meanwhile, consistently made plays since he arrived in Green Bay, including a number of contested catches, along with being able to play inside and out, and being a very capable blocker. He could enter Week 1 as the Packers fourth receiver on the depth chart.

– There weren’t really any huge surprises – maybe a few moderate ones – in terms of roster cuts made. But I will say I moving on from both Corey Ballentine and Innis Gaines was not something I thought would happen, given that each player has shown an ability to be a key special teams contributor.

– With only two true tight ends on the roster – Josiah Deguara is technically a fullback – Brian Gutekunst told us a few weeks ago that the Packers would be keeping their eyes on the tight end waiver wire market. However, I’m not sure that an addition is guaranteed either. Matt LaFleur said that the team would also be comfortable going into the season with three tight ends given their receiver depth and comfortability using a sixth offensive lineman – something the team did previously when without Marcedes Lewis – in certain situations. In short, how the Packers handle this position group is going to be fluid and dependent upon who is available.

– The Packers went heavy at a few different position groups including offensive line, interior defensive line, linebacker, and edge rusher. In order to do so, and to have the math workout, that meant going light at tight end, special teams at long-snapper, and cornerback.

– From a skill-set standpoint, rostering Jonathan Ford is a bit redundant when you have TJ Slaton. However, he was very steady this summer, generating a consistent push in the run game for much of training camp. For a team that has plenty of pass rush options, even though Ford may be the sixth interior defender, there is a role for him – albeit a small one – because of his potential impact against the run.

– The Packers ended up rostering Royce Newman. He’s had some rough moments this summer, but he checks the boxes in terms of what we know the Packers covet at the position, having experience and being versatile.

– We saw just a small glimpse of Grant DuBose because of injury and all that missed time didn’t leave him enough opportunities to standout and make the initial roster. I imagine he will be a priority for them to get to the practice squad. He was able to make a few plays in practice and has shown he can be a willing blocker. Missing all of offseason programs and half of training camp is a lot for a rookie who also has to adjust to the NFL and learn a new playbook.

– For a team going younger, rostering Justin Hollins, a veteran on an inexpensive one-year deal at a deep position group, was never a guarantee. However, early on it was clear that he was going to be a part of this roster. With Rashan Gary out, Justin Hollins saw his share of snaps with the starters and continued to hold up well as both a pass rusher and run defender.

– Tariq Carpenter took a lot of lumps at linebacker this summer, and even appeared to be behind undrafted rookie Jimmy Phillips on defense at times. However, he is still a core special teams contributor and will have the opportunity to continue growing into his new role. In choosing Carpenter over Tarvarius Moore, I imagine that Carpenter only being in his second season played a huge role in that decision, especially for a team trying to go younger.

– Even in a draft class with 13 selections, Brian Gutekunst found a way to roster most of them – which he often does – with 11 of those players making the team along with three undrafted rookies. Also, all 11 of the Packers 2022 draft picks made the team as well. Green Bay’s average age is 24.9 years old, making it the youngest roster in the NFL over the last six seasons, according to Daire Carragher of Packer Report.