First off my sincerest apologies for the headline but I wanted to make it tight end centric and couldn’t think of anything that wasn’t a joke my 8-year-old self (and let’s be honest, probably my 28-year-old self as well) would laugh at. The 53 man roster was announced this week (depth chart here) and the two biggest eyebrow raisers were the tight end overload and relative lack of offensive line depth. Some quick thoughts about the team makeup followed by a season prediction (I might have done a game-by-game spreadsheet for the entire league predicting final records, don’t judge me):

  • Quarterback: To little surprise Aaron Rodgers performed well in camp and will be the starter opening night, Matt Flynn seems to be taking this all in stride. In actual news the release of Graham Harrell caught some by surprise as McCarthy had his own Sophie’s Choice to make as it came down to a 5th TE or 3rd QB but Harrell made it to the practice squad, a move I like since assuming Flynn moves on next offseason Harrell could be in a good spot to step into the role having a couple full years in the system.
  • Running Back/Fullback: Ryan Grant opens up at starter but I expect plenty of James Starks along the way and with any luck the kid from Hawaii morphs into a rich man’s Brandon Jackson, a development that isn’t out of the question considering his college offense had him standing next to a QB in the shotgun damn near every snap which sounds familiar. While last year’s team was a lovable one for those of us who still value the fullback this year isn’t just John Kuhn who god love him we can only hope any carries he gets come in routs.
  • Wide Receiver: Same old same old with this group which is just fine, still find myself surprised at how happy I was for James Jones to re-sign (something that will surely be forgotten following his first drop on 3rd and 5 that hits him in the hands).
  • Tight End: As mentioned before McCarthy’s dreams came true and the Packers will carry five TEs which some might view as a good problem to have as they seem to have hit on a couple finds in DJ Williams and Ryan Taylor, the latter of which will join Tom Crabtree on special teams. Considering all the sets McCarthy uses with the TE in the backfield just consider this filling the void with them not carrying an extra couple fullbacks. I like the decision.
  • Offensive Line: Feels a bit like they’re putting a little too much faith in getting another 16 games out of Chad Clifton with their only carrying eight of the big uglies but hope for the best and who knows, Bulaga learned the trade at a decent clip, a few more weeks of work and Derek Sherrod could be able to spell him a bit (Marshall Newhouse is listed as the current LT backup but things change). I will admit that seeing TJ Lang as a starting lineman caused a brief panic but that’s probably because I most closely associate him with the Viking game a couple years back when he had people convinced Jared Allen was one of the best defensive players in the NFL. I suspect he’ll be fine out there, I mean they won a Super Bowl with Daryn Colledge. The right side remains strong so the only cause for concern out there is health.
  • Defensive Line: Just six guys in this rotation which you would have to figure is the biggest cause for concern heading into the season, especially since I will become the 984th person writing a Packer season preview to mention that Mike Neal’s health conjures up cold sweats remembering Justin Harrell. Personally I’m just hoping that they employ some more sets with Raji and Howard Green on the field at the same time since who doesn’t love fat football guys? With any luck after meeting at Jay Cutler for the 9th time in a game they’ll have a synchronized dance ready to go.
  • Linebackers: Too many of them to name here since Ol’ Ted went with ten (can’t blame him after going through so many last year I’m still surprised they didn’t track down George Koonce to make a return). Just look at the chart, can honestly say I’d never heard of this So’oto cat until he wrecked shop against the Chiefs last week so with any luck he can become the new Zombo and not let wearing #97 build in him an insatiable desire to consume Purple Drank.
  • Defensive Backs: They’re re-airing Super Bowl XLV tonight so I plan on paying close attention to the work done by Pat Lee and Jarrett Bush since I need reminding that they can be competent NFL players, otherwise cornerback could be one injury away from creating another disturbing domino effect like we saw when Al Harris got hurt and the Packers gave up a combined 2,000 passing yards to the Steelers and Cardinals. Tough not to be excited about the return of Morgan Burnett, Charlie Peprah did some fine work in the postseason and now provides excellent depth.
  • Specialists: Tim Mastay’s been kicking the shit out of the ball in what I’ve seen of the preseason and read about coming out of camp, we’re one strong Week 3 performance away from me dubbing him the Hester Killer. Mason Crosby of course returns and with Randall Cobb now around to return kicks and the kickoff line being moved up it’s quite possible that the team’s weak link from 2010 could approach at least mediocrity.

And now because it’s never a waste of time to make guesses as to how the most unpredictable sports league will turn out before the first game is played I did map out the Packer season and came up with a 12-4 mark. The losses I foresaw will come in Atlanta (angry team playing at home on Sunday night, it’s possible Falcon fans might even show up and be excited for this one), San Diego (they’re good), Detroit (it’s Thanksgiving and the Lions will still have a playoff berth in sight although my in-depth calculations have them finishing at 9-7 and just out) and in New York against the Giants. The NFC ended up playing out for me with the Packers and the Saints both with 12 wins so what the hell, let’s give them a win over New Orleans at Lambeau in the rematch of this Thursday’s game and then revenge is exacted against the Super Chargers in Indy.

(You didn’t really think I was going to pick someone else did you? The Pack is Back!)