Which Rookie FAs Have Roster Shot?

OLB Dezman Moses (Benny Sieu/USP)

At least one rookie free agent has made the Packers' 53-man roster every season in general manager Ted Thompson's tenure. That trend will likely continue this year with one sure thing, one maybe and one possible surprise to make the team.

For the Green Bay Packers' undrafted free agents, this is the final stand. Thursday's preseason finale at Lambeau Field against the Kansas City Chiefs will be their last chance to impress in game action.

"This is an important game for a number of individuals. There will be a lot that comes out of this," said Packers coach Mike McCarthy. "As far as setting the schedule and spending time with the personnel department, just how we're handling Friday afterwards, make sure the game's evaluated by everybody, and then we'll make our decisions from there. So, yes, this is an important game."

Having cut five players on Friday, the Packers will execute two separate roster reductions over the next five days. Many of those cut likely will be rookie free agents, of which 14 such players participated in practice Sunday.

The best bet to survive the final reduction of those players is Dezman Moses, who is as close to a lock as a rookie UDFA gets. Out of Tulane, the outside linebacker has worked with the No. 2's for much of training camp and has been a No. 1 on the four core special teams units, which should only help his cause.

Still, Moses is taking nothing for granted with one week to go.

"It's nerve-wracking, but you can't control it," he said. "The only thing that you can do is play your best every day. You go out there and focus and give it your all, and you hope and pray that they see that and see something that they can use or they need you around here for. As far as worrying about it too much, you can't really do that because it will affect your play.

"I'm working hard. I take this very personal. This is what I've always wanted to do all my life. To be here and have this opportunity, I'm so grateful. I don't take any day for granted — any meeting, any practice. When I go out there, what you put on film, that's you, that's your resume. Whenever I go out there, I take it very personal. I want to show everybody the type of player I am. I still have a chip on my shoulder. I was undrafted and I felt that I was a better player than some other guys. You have to think that to play this game because it's very competitive."

Moses got the type of all-around endorsement from McCarthy on Sunday after practice that would suggest a roster spot is imminent.

"I've felt really from Day 1 that he was pretty natural at the outside linebacker position," said McCarthy. "I've seen him improve on special teams, particularly the things that he hasn't been asked to do, so he's a raw, young player that's getting better on special teams. And there's some things just in the sub-packages that he's had an opportunity to get some reps at that I think he's grown. But I think we all are excited with his football ability. He's a tough, physical football player, but he's still a very young, raw player."

Fellow outside linebacker Vic So'oto was the same type of player a training camp ago. He solidified a roster spot as a rookie free agent in the final preseason game of 2011 with a monster game that included 1.5 sacks and a game-winning interception return for a touchdown.

Safety Sean Richardson of Vanderbilt could do the same this year at a position that is very much unsettled headed into the regular season. Richardson made his presence felt on Thursday night against the Bengals with a fumble recovery and is tied for third on the team with nine tackles in the preseason.

The backup safety spots are very much a competition with Richardson, rookie fourth-round pick Jerron McMillian, second-year player M.D. Jennings and practice squad holdover Anthony Levine in the running for what could be two spots. Richardson is the biggest safety on the roster at 6-2, 216 pounds. Morgan Burnett and Charles Woodson are the starters in the base defense.

As for a possible surprise to the roster, like Jennings was a year ago, wide receiver Jarrett Boykin of Virginia Tech has been making a push. Even at the deepest position on the roster, Boykin has become part of the discussion should the Packers choose to keep six receivers. Diondre Borel and Tori Gurley, in a battle for what could be the final receiver spot, have failed to separate themselves with subpar preseason performances.

Said Boykin, "I know there's still a lot of stuff I need to go out there and prove, so it's pretty much go out there for this last game and lay it all on the line. I mean, this is what it all comes down to. So, throughout this week, I just want to train well so I can be well-prepared for when the game comes."

Boykin has been one of the few productive players among the backups on offense during preseason game action. In the second game against the Browns, he caught five of six passes thrown his way, including a gain of 25 yards. He is tied for the team lead in the preseason with eight catches. More importantly, his head appears to be in the right place among a talented group of receivers.

"I just want to be a complete player," he said. "I mean, I want to be good at every aspect of the game besides catching the ball. I can block better, and I can contribute more on special teams."

The Packers are scheduled to cut 10 players by 3 p.m. Monday to get their roster down to 75 players. They have until 8 p.m. Friday to establish their initial 53-man roster before the regular season opener at Lambeau Field on Sept. 9 against the San Francisco 49ers.


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Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at matttevsh@hotmail.com

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