Pre-season game number three is for the starters to get in their final big, tune-up for the regular season. Mike McCarthy will play the 1's the entire first half in Cincinnati Thursday night with second and third stringers taking over at intermission in what will be their last shot for many. NFL teams have to cut rosters to 75 players by Monday and General Manager Ted Thompson likely won't take the entire weekend to start whittling.
Why not take it all the way down to 53? Four weeks of camp are in the books and here's my spin on how the final roster might take shape.
Quarterbacks (2) Aaron Rodgers is a pretty safe bet as reigning MVP. Graham Harrell is getting tons of love from inside Lambeau Field, not much outside from fans or the media. Unless he tanks big time against the Bengals and Chiefs, he'll assume the back-up job. Don't put it past the Pack to bring in a veteran QB if Harrell really struggles. Rookie B.J Coleman will be cut but is a practice squad candidate.
Running Backs (5) Before even taking a snap, Cedric Benson is the front runner for the primary ball carrying job. Alex Green appears safe, John Kuhn made the Pro Bowl last year. James Starks is piling up more injuries than yards it seems but Brandon Saine is still hurt too. Those will probably be the five. Fullback Nic Cooper piled up a ton of yards as a running back at Winston-Salem and might find a way into this group. Marc Tyler has been healthy but not good enough, Jon Hoese and Du'ane Bennett never had much of a shot.
Tight Ends (4) Jermichael Finley will be joined by D.J. Williams who has had a very nice camp, Ryan Taylor, a special teams demon and Tom Crabtree, a dependable player who's hands have failed him at times this summer. Andrew Quarless is almost a lock for the PUP list. Thanks for coming Brian Bostick and DeMarco Cosby.
Wide Recivers (6) When all is said and done, the same half-dozen will be back, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Randall Cobb, the ageless Donald Driver and perhaps, one more. Diondre Borel had the inside track until an injury last week. Tori Gurley has lovable size and knowledge of the system. That's a toss up. I'll go with Borel. The young receivers have all had their moments, Jarrett Boykin, Shaky Smithson, Dale Moss, Curenski Gilleylen and Andy Brewer are jettisoned.
Offensive Line (9) If something happens to any of the starting five, I'd be worried. Marshall Newhouse must continue to grow at left tackle but the others are all solid, T.J. Lang, Jeff Saturday, Josh Sitton and Bryan Bulaga. The only dependable backup in my eyes is Evan Dietrich-Smith, mister everything in a pinch. I'll give veteran Reggie Wells a shot who arrived as a tackle and has played guard. Rookie Andrew Datko was progressing until his concussion but should stick. Can't count on Derrick Sherrod until perhaps, mid-season, another PUP list candidate. My sleeper favorite is Greg Van Roten, a bit undersized but Ivy League smart. Rey Dominguez has been hurt, Sampson Genus, Tommie Draheim, Don Barclay, Shea Alard and Herb Taylor can all turn in their playbooks.
Defensive Line (7) An ultra-competitive group. You can scratch Mike Neal for four and Anthony Hargrove for 8 games because of suspensions. Ryan Pickett and B.J. Raji are the anchors, Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels are the draft picks to stick, Daniels Muir has been surprisingly good and has earned a spot. The final two spots will go to holdovers C.J. Wilson who has shown improvement, and Jarius Wynn although Wynn will be the first to go when the suspensions expire. Lawrence Guy, Johnny Jones and Philip Merling will go, Merling has disappointed in two stops after getting released by Miami.
Linebackers (9) You need a bunch in a 3-4 scheme with backups working special teams. Desmond Bishop is a likely IR candidate but may fall under the new rule that could get him back at some point in November. Clay Matthews, A.J. Hawk, D.J. Smith and top pick Nick Perry are your starters. The next four are Erik Walden, although he'd have to miss week one on suspension, Dezmon Moses, the free agent surprise of the season, Jamari Lattimore and yes, Brad Jones who has found a way to survive, barely. That leaves room for one more. Veterans Vic So'oto, Robert Francois or draft choice Terrell Manning? I'm leaning toward the quiet but effect Francois. Frank Zombo's litany of injuries have caught up to him.
Defensive Backs (8) This has been a really good backup battle beyond the front liners of Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams and Morgan Burnett. Davon House led the way and might recapture the other starting job once the shoulder heals, either way, he's on the team. Jarret Bush sticks, as does draft picks Casey Hayward and Jerron McMillian. Again, only room for one more. Sam Shields missed time with injury after showing so much promise as a rookie in the Super Bowl year before dropping off last season. Anthony Levine is a two year practice squad player with ability. M.D. Jennings started fast in camp but is fading fast, Dion Turner, Micah Pellerin, Otis Merrill, Sean Richardson and Brandian Ross are real long shots. I'll give Shields one last shot but keep the phone numbers of Levine, Richardson and Ross handy.
Specialists (3) Mason Crosby, Tim Masthay and Brett Goode had the luxury of winning jobs sans competition. All three are solid.