Bubble Trouble: Which Packers can make or break their roster chances in preseason finale?
While much of the Packers' initial 53 appears locked into place, several individuals have chances to play their way on (or off) the roster during the preseason finale.
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On Saturday, the Green Bay Packers will take the field for the last time before final cuts. At this stage of the process, players have gone through 16 full-speed practices and two exhibition games, enough data points for the team's decision-makers to properly evaluate most of its personnel. Accordingly, the Packers already know how the majority of their initial 53-man roster will shake out before their preseason finale.
But while a significant percentage of the 53 appears locked into place, a handful of roster spots remain in the balance. These spots, some critical to the success or failure of the 2023 Packers, do not have a clear front-runner at this point. Some jobs will come down to two candidates at the same position. Others could plausibly go to players on opposite sides of the ball. When it comes to the fringes of the roster, the possibilities can seem endless.
With that in mind, today's edition of The Leap will highlight the Packers who can make or break their roster chances during Saturday's preseason tilt against the Seattle Seahawks.
For the most part, the Packers haven't gone light at tight end under head coach Matt LaFleur. Not only does the position play a significant role in LaFleur's Kyle Shanahan-derived offense, but multiple special-teams units rely on tight ends to fill out their ranks. Given all of those considerations, one can usually assume Green Bay will retain at least four on their 53-man roster.
But a season-ending knee injury to Tyler Davis has turned those assumptions upside down. Though the reserve tight end never appeared on more than 16% of offensive snaps during either of his two seasons in Green Bay, he played on the majority of the special-teams snaps. The Packers don't have another Davis-esque figure to fill that void, at least not at tight end where the entire room features two highly drafted rookies (Luke Musgrave and Tucker Kraft), a veteran with an atypical body type for the position (Josiah Deguara), and a former undrafted free agent who failed to crack the roster a year ago (Austin Allen).
Musgrave and Kraft will make the cut due to their draft statuses while Deguara has a home in Green Bay as the de facto fullback and most experienced pass catcher. Allen doesn't have the same assurances, at least according to his head coach.
"We're lucky we have other pieces on our team and we're pretty deep at the wide-receiver position. We'll adjust as need be," LaFleur said when asked if the team might keep only three tight ends. "We've used offensive linemen there in the past. That's not something that's totally off the table."
Allen does have a few factors working in his favor. At 6-foot-8, he offers easily the largest frame among the Packers' tight ends. Allen also has a Relative Athletic Score of 8.06, suggesting a higher upside than one might expect.
Still, Allen has to give the Packers a reason to keep him on the 53. Flashing in the preseason finale seems like a minimum requirement for the tight end to survive cutdown day.