While the big cut to the final 53 is still over a week away, I thought I would finish my roster breakdown today, in advance of the Packers pre-season matchup with the Indianapolis Colts. The Packers defense will clearly have the toughest deliberations by the personel staff, primarily because of injuries. By position....
Defensive Line: The suspension of Johnny Jolly hurt, he was very productive in 2009 but the Packers hope the front three of Ryan Pickett, B.J.Raji and Cullen Jenkins will remain stout against the run. Second round pick Mike Neal is a lock to get into the rotation up front and it's likely only two more will stick. Justin Harrell is on perhaps his last gasp to show the team he was worthy of being a first round pick. Jarius Wynn, Anthony Toribio are holdovers behing challenged by Ronald Talley and 7th round pick C.J. Wilson, a practice squad candidate.
Linebackers: This will be a veteran group that could get spiced up by an undrafted free agent. Nick Barnett, A.J. Hawk, Brandon Chillar, Clay Matthews and Brad Jones are all safe. Brady Poppinga and Desmond Bishop might squeeze in another year as a primary backup althought Bishop might be trade bait for help at either running back or in the secondary. Frank Zombo, the undrafted rookie from Central Michigan has earned additional playing time because of his hustle all camp and he could find a spot on the final 53. Likely cut victims include Cyril Obiozor, Alex Joseph, Rob Francois and Mauirce Simpkins.
Defensive Backs: Al Harris and Atari Bigby could both begin the season on the physically unable to perform list, meaning the Packers won't have their services until after the 6th week. Tramon Williams and rookie Morgan Burnett will have their jobs at the start, joining Charles Woodson and Nick Collins. Will Blackmon will stay as the primary punt returner and backup at safety. Brandon Underwood and Pat Lee are battling for the primary nickel job and both should survive. Derrick Martin is a valuable special teams player. The bubble is big in this group to include veteran holdovers Jarrett Bush and Charlie Peprah and free agents Sam Shields and Anthony Levine.
Specialists: Only one decision to make here with Mason Crosby on track again this summer and Brett Goode returning to handle the snapping. Tim Masthay and Chris Byran are neck and neck for the punting job but neither has kicked in an NFL regular season game. Their stats are nearly identical, each with 4 punts so far, Bryan has averaged 45.3, Masthay 46.3 with one touchback and one downed inside the 20. I'd give the slight edge to Masthay.