Packers’ surplus of receivers creates plenty of competition
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Green Bay Packers wideout Davante Adams says the addition of veteran Randall Cobb has made it easier to provide leadership to the team’s younger receivers.
But it’s also made it tougher for those receivers to crack the 53-man roster.
Adams said much of what he learned came from watching Cobb and Jordy Nelson earlier in his career. Adams noted that he doesn’t have to be the only veteran offering advice to teammates such as Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard or rookie Amari Rodgers because Cobb can make similar points.
“A lot of times I don’t have to even say that much because he’s saying the same thing,” the All-Pro receiver said. “Sometimes I’ll look over to him and we’ll be like, ‘You want to say it or me?’ And he’ll jump in and give his two cents about Amari’s route or something ’Quez could have done better, Allen could have done better.”
Cobb, who previously played for the Packers from 2011-18, returned to Green Bay at the start of training camp in a trade that sent an undisclosed draft pick to the Houston Texans.
Adams believes the arrival of another veteran has raised the level of intensity among receivers in training camp. He said “this year has been the most competitive that room has been probably since I first got here.”
Indeed, Cobb’s addition meant there was one fewer available spot for a receiver on the roster, creating one of the Packers’ most intriguing position battles heading into their second preseason game, a weekend matchup against the New York Jets.
Adams is the clear-cut No. 1 receiver after becoming the first player in NFL history to collect at least 100 overall catches and 18 touchdown receptions in the same season last year. Valdes-Scantling is back after leading the NFL in yards per catch last season. Cobb joins a group that also features Lazard and Rodgers.
That leaves Devin Funchess, Equanimeous St. Brown, Malik Taylor, Juwann Winfree, Reggie Begelton and Chris Blair potentially competing for just one open roster spot. The Packers added one more player to the mix Friday by signing Damon Hazelton, an undrafted rookie free agent from Missouri who was released by the Houston Texans last week.
“As you guys have probably documented, there’s five guys who probably have a spot sewn up,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers told reporters this week. “I’m not sure if we’re going to keep six, keep seven. Do we keep two quarterbacks, three quarterbacks? It allows for extra spots at some of those places. If it is six, there’s a lot of guys in the mix.”
Funchess is the most experienced receiver outside that top five after catching 21 touchdown passes for Carolina from 2015-18, but he fractured his collarbone while playing for Indianapolis in the 2019 opener and hasn’t played a regular-season game since. He caught six passes for 70 yards in the Packers’ 26-7 preseason loss to Houston last week but injured his hamstring in practice Wednesday.
St. Brown caught 21 passes as a rookie in 2018, missed the 2019 season with an ankle injury and had seven receptions plus a touchdown last year. Taylor caught five passes and scored one touchdown last season while also helping out on special teams.
Taylor had five receptions for 50 yards against Houston while St. Brown and Winfree were out with injuries.
“Obviously Funch had a big night the other night,” Aaron Rodgers said. “Malik was on the active roster last year. EQ was on the active roster last year. Reggie did a nice job on the (practice) squad most of the year and has come back and been a better player. Juwann Winfree has had one of the better offseasons, one of the most improved guys. There’s a lot of opportunity for those spots.”
Those receivers will likely be catching passes from Kurt Benkert and Jake Dolegala on Saturday because Jordan Love is doubtful with a shoulder injury and the Packers don’t plan to use Aaron Rodgers in any preseason games.
But even if the game won’t feature much star power, it has plenty of importance for receivers seeking to prove their value.
“It’s real competitive,” Adams said. “I feel like coaches made it pretty apparent they were going to let guys duke it out and see what happens based on how they performed, how they picked up the offense and all of that. So, it’s been good man. It’s been a lot of fun.”
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