GREEN BAY — The Green Bay Packers entered Thursday night’s preseason finale against the Los Angeles Rams at Lambeau Field with 87 players on their roster. Of those, a whopping 28 didn’t dress for the team’s 24-10 victory — 14 on offense, and 14 on defense.
Led by starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who finished the preseason having played in two games (three series, 26 snaps), the Packers’ inactive list looked like a Who’s Who of their most important players.
While that might not have been a surprise given coach Mike McCarthy’s history of playing it safe with this top players at the end of preseason, the NFL’s offseason rule change to eliminate the intermediate roster reduction to 75 players before the final preseason game surely helped. The Packers now must make 37 roster moves to get to the 53-man limit by 3 p.m. Saturday.
“I think the new format works for everybody,” McCarthy said after the game. “I definitely prefer this format.”
Taking the night off on offense were Rodgers; wide receivers Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams and Randall Cobb; tight end Martellus Bennett; running back Ty Montgomery; and the starting offensive line of left tackle David Bakhtiari, left guard Lane Taylor, center Corey Linsley, right guard Jahri Evans and right tackle Bryan Bulaga.
Bulaga suffered an ankle injury last week before last week’s game at Denver, but even had he been healthy, he wouldn’t have played. Offensive players who sat out because of injuries were fullback Joe Kerridge (calf); backup center/guard Don Barclay (ankle); and backup guard/center Lucas Patrick (concussion).
On defense, injuries were a slightly bigger factor, though again, many of those who didn’t dress probably wouldn’t have played even if they were healthy. Sitting out were linemen Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry (knee); outside linebackers Clay Matthews (groin), Nick Perry (ankle) and Jayrone Elliott (back); and safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (knee) and Morgan Burnett. The only would-be starters who dressed were top inside linebackers Jake Ryan, Blake Martinez and Joe Thomas.
The other defensive players who didn’t dress were all injured: cornerback Kevin King (groin), defensive tackle Montravius Adams (foot), safety Jermaine Whitehead (hip), cornerback Demetri Goodson (knee), linebacker Vince Biegel (foot) and linebacker Jordan Tripp (concussion). Biegel and Goodson remain on the physically unable to perform list and appear likely to start the year on the in-season PUP list, meaning they will miss at least the season’s first six games.
King, the Packers’ top draft pick, practiced on Tuesday, so it’s unclear when he suffered his injury or whether his availability is in question for the Sept. 10 regular-season opener against Seattle.
“The goal tonight was to play the 60 men that were active and try to create as many opportunities as possible on offense, defense and special teams,” McCarthy said. “We knew it was going to be tough when we got to this point and that’s exactly what the next 48 hours lays out in front of us. We’ve got a lot of work to do and from that we’ll make the best decisions possible. But this has been a heck of a camp and it’s been a heck of a 90-man roster.”
Taking it on the run
The Packers went heavy on the pass during the first half, but during the second half young running backs Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones and Devante Mays got plenty of work.
Williams, who had two carries for minus-3 yards in the first half, carried five straight times to start the second half and ended with 31 yards on 11 carries. Jones finished with eight carries for 48 yards. Mays had six carries for 18 yards.
“If I was going to be judgmental, I wish I’d have run the ball more in the first three games,” McCarthy said. “Tonight is what we needed to do.”
For the preseason, Jones led the running backs with 19 carries for 105 yards, followed by Williams (25-61) and Mays (16-43). The Packers may have to keep all three given how limited their preseason work was.
“Just wait and see how it goes,” Jones said. “Hopefully I’m back here. I feel like I did enough to be here.”
Getting his kicks
Rookie Justin Vogel averaged 46.5 yards and 4.83 seconds of hang time on his first six punts, then mis-hit his final attempt, a rolling 49-yarder with 3.38 seconds of hang time.
Those numbers might have been good enough for Vogel to lock up the job.“I thought he did a heck of a job,” McCarthy said. “The last one wasn’t what you’re looking for, but up to that point I thought he ball placement was exactly what we were looking for. He had a really good two days of practice this week and it carried right into tonight’s game.”
Said Vogel: “I felt like I did everything I could do. It’s out of my hands. But it’s kind of like draft day all over again, you’re sitting around waiting for a call — or this time, probably not a call.”
Outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks, who agreed to terms Wednesday, was not at the game but figures to be ready to go when in-season practices begin Monday. Asked if he’s looking forward to getting the two-time All-Pro in the fold, McCarthy replied, “I’m excited, no question about it.” … Wide receiver Geronimo Allison (concussion) and safety Kentrell Brice (shoulder) were the only players to leave the game with injuries. Brice was injured while covering a punt late in the fourth quarter, which was surprising given he’s a quasi-starter on defense. … Cornerback Davon House, who missed the first three preseason games with a hamstring injury, played one series. “I took today as if I was playing the whole game,” House said. “So even though I did only play one series, the mentality of the whole process was different, kind of like it was a real game.”