Some Surprises Emerge as Packers Trim Roster to Initial 53

Chandon Sullivan Roster Cuts

Getty Green Bay Packers defensive back Chandon Sullivan was a surprise keep during Saturday's initial roster cuts to 53 players.

Characteristic of the final hours leading up to the cutdown deadline, the Green Bay Packers made their choices and put together an initial 53-man roster that, according to general manager Brian Gutekunst two weeks ago, is comprised not simply of the best available but the players that “make the best team.”

Green Bay will continue to adjust its initial cutdown in the days leading up to Thursday’s NFL season kickoff when the Packers take on Chicago Bears, the reigning NFC North champions, at 7:20 p.m. CT inside Soldier Field.

Before that showdown arrives, though, take a look at a breakdown of the 53 players left standing as well as a number of others who found themselves on the wrong side of the bubble before 3 p.m. CT rolled around Saturday.

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QB (2): Aaron Rodgers, Tim Boyle

DeShone Kizer getting cut with a bit of a surprise, but not necessarily unwarranted. Boyle emerged as the clear-cut backup during the exhibition games, seeing limited reps in the preseason finale against Kansas City that seems to signal the Packers believed he would be the No. 2 guy. As for Wilkins, the rookie offered a similar versatility to Kizer but was never a threat to either him or Boyle for a roster spot.

RB (3): Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, Dexter Williams

Dexter Williams created room for doubt with lackluster preseason outings, despite a nice touchdown run in the finale against the Chiefs, but the Packers are invested in their rookie rusher and proved it when they axed challengers Tra Carson and Keith Ford. No mistake about it, though, that Jones will be the primary force of the Green Bay backfield. Jamaal Williams supplies a suitable backup while the younger Williams develops in the system. By midseason, the latter could be regularly fitting into the offense.

FB (1): Danny Vitale

The return of the fullback to Green Bay is now solely in the hands of an obvious talent in Vitale. While he missed some time with a calf injury, leaving practice on Aug. 10, Malcolm Johnson did little to challenge as the other fullback. An injured Johnson (shoulder) was waived Saturday.

WR (6): Davante Adams, Geronimo Allison, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Jake Kumerow, Darrius Shepherd, Trevor Davis

As an undrafted rookie, Shepherd proved better than he was assessed to be during draft time and found himself on the right side of the bubble in a crowded receiver group. J’Mon Moore being cut wasn’t as much of a surprise as Allen Lazard, who shined for six catches and 114 yards with a touchdown catch during exhibition action.

Another big omission: Equanimeous St. Brown, who suffered a high ankle sprain in the third preseason game against Oakland and was officially put on IR instead of the initial roster. A tough break considering he was poised to be an impact player at both special teams and receiver.

TE (4): Jimmy Graham, Marcedes Lewis, Robert Tonyan, Jace Sternberger

Graham’s finger injury and Lewis’ age (35) are both problems the Packers will need to confront in the not-so-distant future, but Tonyan and Sternberger both offered up good camps and preseason outings, despite Sternberger losing a large chunk of time after suffering a jaw injury during a nasty hit in joint practices with the Houston Texans early in August. A stable with these four should serve the Packers well in double-tight sets, even if Graham’s timetable for returning has not yet been made clear.

OL (9): David Bakhtiari, Lane Taylor, Corey Linsley, Billy Turner, Bryan Bulaga, Elgton Jenkins, Alex Light, Lucas Patrick, Cole Madison

The Packers decided not to move away from Taylor, who would have been expensive to cut. He would also have been expensive to have as a backup behind Jenkins, who seems to have fallen back to the second option.

Madison was one of the nicer success stories of the Packers’ preseason, with the lineman returning after a year after from football to beat out Justin McCray for a roster spot. McCray, meanwhile, was traded to the Cleveland Browns for a 2020 seventh-round draft pick.

DL (6): Montravius Adams, Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry, Kingsley Keke, Tyler Lancaster, Fadol Brown

Brown outlasted the challenges of James Looney and Olive Sagapolu, despite injury limiting his preseason work. But the trio of him, Keke and Lancaster offer a solid set of reserves for never-in-doubt starters Adams, Clark and Lowry.

OLB (4): Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, Rashan Gary, Kyler Fackrell

Adding the Smiths in the offseason and drafting Rashan Gary took the Packers outside linebackers from 0 to 100 before training camp even started. Expectations are high for this group, which will have an important role in boosting the Packers defense in 2019. Fackrell is the only returning piece, who in his third pro season last year was Green Bay’s sacks leader (10.5).

ILB (4): Blake Martinez, Oren Burks, Ty Summers, James Crawford

A group that was in question with injuries ended up going with a rather plain picture. Summers has been mostly good in the preseason, while Crawford still needs to find a defensive spark to become more than a special teams asset, but the Packers were given little choice with Curtis Bolton, who was waived/injured, suffered a knee injury against the Raiders.

CB (7): Jaire Alexander, Tramon Williams, Josh Jackson, Kevin King, Tony Brown, Ka’dar Hollman, Chandon Sullivan

Sullivan was seen as a challenger to Hollman for a bulk of the preseason, but his abilities can be useful in a number of ways — as he played at safety during the preseason finale. Keeping him is a bit of a surprise, but not a bad one by any means. He was good enough to find a home on another roster, and now he won’t have to look. Brown has drawn the praise of his teammates, including Rodgers, while Jackson will continue rehab for his foot injury in hopes of playing in the opener.

S (4): Adrian Amos, Darnell Savage, Raven Greene, Will Redmond

Nothing surprising about this group, other than maybe that Redmond snuck into a fourth spot that was up in the air. He helped his case as a gotta-keep player when he made a second-most seven tackles against the Chiefs in the preseason finale.

Specialists (3): Mason Crosby, JK Scott, Hunter Bradley

Crosby’s 13th season in Green Bay was solidified earlier Saturday when promising booter Sam Ficken was cut, officially ending a kicking competition that never really got away from Crosby despite Ficken doing plenty to be worthy of a job elsewhere.

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