7 biggest takeaways from Packers’ first 53-man roster of 2021

All the important takeaways from the Packers’ initial 53-man roster in 2021.

After a month of training camp and three preseason games, the Green Bay Packers made the hardest decisions of the summer and cut the roster down to 53 players. While having a 16-player practice squad eases some of the pain of losing players, the process is still a difficult one.

While the surprises were few, the first roster still provided plenty of clues about Matt LaFleur’s football team.

Here are all the biggest takeaways from the Packers’ initial roster of 2021:

USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie rankings, Aug. 31: Giga Chikadze continues featherweight climb

After the biggest win of his career, a third-round TKO at UFC on ESPN 20, Giga Chikadze continues his steady climb at featherweight.

After the biggest win of his career, an impressive TKO of fellow striking specialist Edson Barboza, [autotag]Giga Chikadze[/autotag] continues his steady climb up the 145-pound rankings.

Chikadze (14-2 MMA, 7-0 UFC) entered UFC on ESPN 30 as an honorable mention in the USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie featherweight rankings, but after his third-round finish of the Brazilian veteran, a move was clearly in order. In the updated list, he rises to the official list at No. 13, setting him up for a top contender in his next outing.

While it may not be the meteoric rise the Georgian was hoping to see, it certainly would seem he’ll get a shot against a top contender in his next outing.

Following UFC on ESPN 30, take a look at the updated featherweight rankings, as well as divisions across the sport, by using the dropdown menu above. We promise you there will be no Jake Paul.

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Fantasy football: 3 players who won on NFL cut-down day

Which players are the biggest winners from the NFL’s roster cuts?

NFL cut-down day is a wild roller coaster of emotions for players and fans alike, but the unfortunate outcomes for some create huge opportunities for others. In fantasy football, it’s imperative to be able to take advantage of this cracked-open doors on draft day.

1) WR Marquez Callaway, New Orleans Saints: While it was already known for weeks that wide receiver Michael Thomas (ankle) wouldn’t be ready for Week 1, some reports gave an encouraging outlook for his return date. The Saints made it official by placing him on the Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform list, which guarantees he will miss the first six weeks. In this case, it will be only five games, since New Orleans is on its bye in the sixth week. Then Thomas has to shake off the rust. Callaway, who enjoyed a strong preseason, gets at least a five-game runway to show he can do it when games actually matter. Don’t be afraid to invest in the middle rounds of drafts.

It’s not too late to sign up for The Huddle and dominate!

2) RB Kenneth Gainwell, Philadelphia Eagles: The release of veteran Jordan Howard makes Gainwell the primary backup to Miles Sanders. Boston Scott showed last year he doesn’t have the chops to be a traditional rusher and should remain entrenched in a third-down role if something where to cost Sanders time. Gainwell figures to spell the former Penn Stater, whose resume over the past five years of combined NFL and collegiate ball shows one season with more than 180 carries and just two years with over 200 total touches. Handcuff the pair, and non-Sanders owners should treat Gainwell as a high-upside speculative buy early in the second half of their drafts.

3) QB Mac Jones, New England Patriots: The first-rounder outplayed Cam Newton in training camp and preseason action, so Bill Belichick rewarded him with the starting job by outright releasing Cam Newton. Jones isn’t likely to be a regular fantasy contributor, but he will stabilize the overall offense. It was the right decision, and gamers can treat him as a fringe matchup play. The honorable mention goes to this backfield, because Newton is no longer around to steal a dozen scores. Huge win for fantasy footballers!

Why Vincent Gray is sure freshman CB will be a stud for Michigan

Michigan football junior cornerback Vincent Gray shares what he’s seen from freshman Ja’Den McBurrows in fall camp.

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — When you’re a cornerback with offers from the likes of Alabama, LSU, Georgia and Ohio State, chances are you’re a stellar player. But Fort Lauderdale (FL) St. Thomas Aquinas’ Ja’Den McBurrows was overlooked by the recruiting services, as he was rated but a three-star recruit, the No. 554 overall prospect according to the 247Sports Composite and the 43rd-best cornerback in the country, the recruiting site says.

However, his offer sheet begs to differ.

McBurrows has been making a strong impression as a freshman in fall camp. And while his time is likely a little ways away, he’s impressing a veteran in junior corner Vincent Gray.

“Yeah, Ja’Den’s really good – that’s my boy, that’s my young dude,” Gray said. “He’s really good. I can’t wait to see what he does here, too. He’s got a couple things to work on, but he’s gonna be really good here.”

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But what makes McBurrows so good so early? Gray sees someone with pure instincts mixed with some savvy in being able to read opposing receivers.

While McBurrows will likely have to wait for Gray, DJ Turner and Gemon Green to move on before he gets his turn, it appears he has what it takes to be one of the next great corners in Ann Arbor.

“He has a great knack for breaking on the ball,” Gray said. “Just naturally breaks on the ball. He knows how to read routes, short routes. Plays the ball really well and he’s been making plays.”

Fans will certainly be excited to see a talent with such an offer sheet get his opportunity, but there’s equal excitement about incoming five-star Will Johnson and highly-coveted three-star Myles Pollard in 2022.

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4 Cardinals who are surprises on the 53-man roster

These players who made the final roster initially might not be able to get too comfortable with other roster moves sure to come.

The Arizona Cardinals made final cuts to get to the requisite 53 players on the roster on Tuesday. They actually left the roster at 52 with two players also on the COVID list.

A few players initially have made the team who are surprises.

They can’t get too excited because there are still transactions to be made. Offensive lineman Justin Pugh and cornerback Robert Alford are sure to come off the COVID reserve soon. When both return, one player will have to be cut as of now.

There could also be waiver claims, trades and free agent signings after players have cleared waivers.

Who are the players who are at least mild surprises for the roster?

Listen to the latest from Cards Wire’s Jess Root on his podcast, Rise Up, See Red. Subscribe on Apple podcasts or Spotify.

Latest show:

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Why Michigan football’s culture change goes beyond hopes and smiles

Some really good practical examples of why current players have bought in. #GoBlue

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — If you talk to a Michigan football player, they will tell you that the culture has completely changed inside Schembechler Hall. Given the moribund aura around 2020, that’s the least you could hope for.

That’s been the talk of the team since spring ball, with just about every Wolverine noting how much different things are compared to before.

“Oh yeah. The culture is amazing. When I wake up, I look forward to coming in, getting treatment, watching film, because everybody’s here,” junior tight end Erick All said. “Everybody has a smile on their face, everybody’s ready to have a better season.”

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“Oh, I feel it. Everybody feels it,” junior defensive tackle Chris Hinton said. “Everyone just has an extra pep in their step when it comes to practice, meetings. You feel the culture change around this building.

“We have a lot of trust in Coach Mac and the new staff. Like I said, the new staff is young – really young – so they relate to us a lot. Just do football, do life, what you’re going through – things of that sort. When you trust somebody, you’re gonna give your all.”

While both players above expounded a bit on what it means, it goes deeper than just liking the coaches or having smiles on their faces.

Junior left guard Trevor Keegan notes that a big part of the change includes players who wouldn’t have consorted with each other now getting to know their counterparts on the team they might not have been quite as familiar with.

“100%, yeah. Players, the coaches, the team camaraderie,” Keegan said. “We got dudes talking to dudes that wouldn’t even talk to each other two years ago. Now, spirit’s up, hopes are high and we’re determined this year.”

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Hinton confirms what Keegan says, noting that a big part of the change is the fact that last year, players couldn’t hang out together in the building, especially during meal times. With the pandemic raging, many meetings were virtual, and if players were getting food, it was a grab-and-go situation.

However, now it’s all quite different, but not just because new friendships are being forged. It all started back in January when Jim Harbaugh let many of his longtime staff members go in favor of bringing in younger coaches. Himself eager to right a sinking ship, Harbaugh gave a speech to the team that encouraged the downtrodden to bound together.

“Honestly, I think the first team meeting we had after the season,” Keegan said is when he first noticed the culture change. “Coach Harbaugh said, ‘If you’re gonna hop on the train, don’t miss it. Just stay on it and keep going.’ First spring practice, it’s been rolling.”

That was true for Keegan, but for Hinton, it was more forged when new defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald arrived, encouraging more participation in what the players wanted to see happen on that side of the ball. The inclusive nature of having a younger, yet storied NFL-level coach coming in and relating to the players certainly helped someone like Hinton — who had been recruited by and played under Don Brown — buy in.

“(I) probably first noticed the culture change the first meeting he had with us in January,” Hinton said. “(Macdonald) came in, we had a defensive meeting. Laid down what he envisioned and he said, ‘What do y’all envision this to be? Because it’s y’alls defense at the end of the day.’ And the guys really soaked that up and really appreciated that he was really giving us the keys to the defense – I mean, we all know that he’s the coach though! But having us put a blueprint in the defense.”

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RECAP: Vincent Gray, Chris Hinton, Trevor Keegan, Erick All (8/31)

Michigan football players share their thoughts on the culture changes, the new defense and more in a 5-minute highlight video.

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August 31, 2021:

• Vincent Gray
• Christopher Hinton
• Trevor Keegan
• Erick All

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In accordance with Michigan football policy, the media isn’t allowed to upload more than 5 minutes of footage from any press conference. But we found our way around that. Giving you the best of every press conference, we cut out the questions to give you the straight answers, with the most interesting parts of each media availability taking center stage. WolverinesWire presents our new series: RECAP in five minutes or less.

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Topics include:

• Defensive changes in the secondary
• What Vincent Gray has seen from Daylen Baldwin
• Why Gray is happy about the scheme changes
• Culture changes on the team
• How previous personal struggles are helping current players
• Impressions of Mike Macdonald
• How practice should help in games


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Vanderbilt vs East Tennessee State Prediction, Game Preview

Vanderbilt vs East Tennessee State prediction and game preview. Saturday, September 4

Vanderbilt vs East Tennessee State prediction and game preview.

Vanderbilt vs East Tennessee State Broadcast

Date: Saturday, September 4
Game Time: 8:00 ET
Venue: Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, TN
Network: ESPN+/ SEC Network+

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All of the CFN Fearless Predictions

Vanderbilt (0-0) vs East Tennessee State (0-0) Game Preview

Why East Tennessee State Will Win

The Bucs went 4-2 in the FCS spring season with a tough defense – especially against the run – and with enough of a pass rush to matter.

They might not have had the most explosive of offenses, but they were able run well enough to get by and come up with enough clutch plays in close games to have a good early season.

Now the D gets to deal with a Vanderbilt offense that struggled to score last year. putting up 17 points or fewer in seven games and averaged just 330 yards per game.

The ground attack had a hard time moving, and East Tennessee State has the returning part to continue to make it a struggle.

Week 1 College Football Schedule, Predictions

Why Vanderbilt Will Win

The Commodores should be able to throw the ball a bit. Ken Seals is a veteran passer – Mike Wright brings more mobility; he’ll see time, too – with a potentially dangerous receiving corps to work with. New offensive coordinator David Raih has NFL experience with passing games – this should get moving.

It won’t take a whole lot of points to get this done. East Tennessee State doesn’t score enough, it doesn’t move the chains, and it doesn’t have enough weapons for an SEC team to worry about.

Week 1 College Football Expert Picks

What’s Going To Happen

New Vandy head coach Clark Lea knows how to handle a defense. It’ll look great right away as it gets the parts in place against a Buc attack that won’t get down the field enough to create a scare.

East Tennessee State’s defense will make this a fight for a half, but the other side won’t provide any help to take advantage of any key opportunities.

Vanderbilt vs East Tennessee State Prediction, Line

Vanderbilt 37, East Tennessee State 10
ATS Confidence out of 5: COMING

Must See Rating: 1.5

5: The Many Saints of Newark
1: Space Jam: A New Legacy

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Texas A&M vs Kent State Prediction, Game Preview

Texas A&M vs Kent State prediction and game preview. Saturday, September 4

Texas A&M vs Kent State prediction and game preview.

Texas A&M vs Kent State Broadcast

Date: Saturday, September 4
Game Time: 8:00 ET
Venue: Kyle Field, College Station, TX
Network: ESPNU

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Texas A&M (0-0) vs Kent State (0-0) Game Preview

Why Kent State Will Win

Who led the nation in total offense last season? Alabama? Nope. Clemson? Nope. Kent State averaged over 600 yards and 50 points per game with a high-powered attack that gets just about everyone back.

The FlashFast style is just dangerous enough to make this fun, and it starts with the guy who could be among the best quarterbacks the Aggies will face all year.

Dustin Crum hit 74% of his passes last year – and continued to run well – as he turned into an interesting pro prospect under Sean Lewis, soon to be one of the hotter head coaches going.

The Golden Flashes get everyone back on an All-MAC-caliber O line, few teams have more super seniors, and it’s all going to be turned loose.

However …

Week 1 College Football Expert Picks

Why Texas A&M Will Win

Welcome to the Kent State defense.

The offense will score points in bunches, but the defense seems to do everything possible to give them all back as soon as it can.

It’s full of experience and the pass rush is outstanding, but if you want to run the ball against this group, enjoy.

A&M has the running backs to go off. Expect big dash after big dash as the ground attack eases in new starting quarterback Haynes King. He won’t have to press or force any throws.

What’s Going To Happen

In a total contrast in styles, A&M will be deliberate as it slows things down to the pace it likes to play, and the Golden Flashes will go at warp speed to try keeping everyone moving.

But A&M will have its share of quick drives, too.

Kent State will get on the board early, but the Aggies will score, too, and they’ll keep on scoring. The A&M D will settle in midway through the second quarter.

Week 1 College Football Schedule, Predictions

Texas A&M vs Kent State Prediction, Line

Texas A&M 52, Kent State 20
Texas A&M -28.5, o/u: 68
ATS Confidence out of 5: 2.5

Must See Rating: 3

5: The Many Saints of Newark
1: Space Jam: A New Legacy

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