With all eyes focused on the final day of roster cuts, the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints square off in the final game of the preseason Thursday night at Lambeau Field. Both squads scaled their rosters down to the league-required 75 players Tuesday, but have to cut 22 more players by Saturday at 4 p.m. ET.
Most of the key starters on each team will likely sit, both to avoid injury and allow players on the fringe the chance to impress coaches and general managers for a spot on the 53-man roster or the 10-man practice squad.
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy will have several position battles to monitor, most notably along the offensive line and the linebacker and receiving corps. Green Bay will need to find another receiver to make up for the loss of Jordy Nelson, who is out for the season with a torn ACL.
Saints head coach Sean Payton also has some difficult decisions to make on the defensive line, at receiver, and in the secondary. The Saints will be without injured defensive end Anthony Spencer for the entire season. Spencer signed a one-year deal with New Orleans in April.
With injuries up and down the offensive line, the Packers welcomed starters like guard Josh Sitton (ankle), tackle Bryan Bulaga (ankle), and tackle David Bakhtiari (knee) back to practice on Tuesday, however none are expected to play against New Orleans. The only missing starter was guard T.J. Lang (concussion).
Green Bay rookie receiver and draft pick Ty Montgomery may still be feeling the effects of a hamstring injury, and neither he nor Davante Adams are expected to play versus the Saints.
New Orleans, while trimming the roster, placed rookie cornerback P. J. Williams on injured reserve. With their seasons done, in addition to the cuts made, the Saints opened up a number of spots for several young players at running back and receiver and in the secondary.
Top free safety Jairus Byrd remains on the Saints’ PUP list, and should he stay there heading into the regular season he must automatically sit the first six games.
Players to Watch
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel posits that with linebacker Clay Matthews playing inside and outside, the Packers may have some more room on the outside for undrafted rookies James Vaughters and Jermauria Rasco.
On the frontline, despite the starters returning to practice, the Packers are expected to start Jeremy Vujnovich, Lane Taylor, JC Tretter, Josh Walker, and Don Barclay on the offensive line. And Garth Gerhart, Andy Phillips, and Matt Rotherma will be available on the bench, according to The Journal-Sentinel.
The battle at receiver comes down to five players: Jeff Janis, Myles White, Jared Abbrederis, Larry Pinkard, and Ed Williams. Second-year receiver Abbrederis could be cut unless he impresses against New Orleans, as he’s missed most of camp after suffering a concussion on the first day.
And rookie quarterback Brett Hundley, who fired off an impressive 315 yards and two touchdowns against Philadelphia last week, figures to get the start with Aaron Rodgers done until opening day against the Chicago Bears.
Byrd’s designation on or off the PUP list, along with Williams’ injury, gives Pierre Warren, Kenny Phillip, and Jamarca Sanford a chance to make New Orleans’ final roster, according to The Times-Picayune. The Saints have until Saturday to decide what to do with Byrd.
Along the defensive line, Bobby Richardson, Tavaris Barnes, Ashadd Mabry, and Kaleb Eulls are all in contention for the rotation, The Picayune added.
The Saints also traded receiver Jalen Saunders to New England on Tuesday, which freed space for rookie running back Marcus Murphy and allows more depth behind Mark Ingram, C.J. Spiller, and Khory Robinson.
Kickoff time: Thursday, 7 p.m. ET
TV Channels: WVUE (New Orleans) and NBC (Green Bay)
Live Online: NFL Game Pass