The Green Bay Packers have a glut of wide receivers on their roster, and head coach Mike McCarthy doesn’t know which ones or how many will still be around when the team opens the season on Sept. 11 in Jacksonville.
“You’d like to think you’d have six receivers coming out of it,” McCarthy told reporters before Saturday morning’s practice. “Maybe it will be five. The players will decide that.”
Some had speculated that Green Bay would keep seven receivers but McCarthy clearly is not thinking that way. And it means that at least one of the players the Packers have drafted over the past three seasons will not be on the roster opening day.
Seemingly the only two players guaranteed a spot are veterans Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. Nelson missed all of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), and is now on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list due to a “hiccup” in his other knee.
“I see him putting everything he has into it. That’s the way he goes about his business,” offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett said when asked what he expected of Nelson when he came back. “You talk about being a true pro. That’s Jordy Nelson. So he’s going to do everything he possibly can classroom-wise, rehab-wise and then when he steps back on the practice field he’ll be ready to play.”
Cobb is coming off a disappointing season for him when he was forced to be the No. 1 wide receiver and wasn’t always able to deliver. He led the team in catches with 79, but his 829 yards were the fewest for him in a full season since his rookie year of 2011.
The other three or four spots will come down to third-year receivers Davante Adams, Jeff Janis, and Jared Abbrederis, 2015 third-round pick Ty Montgomery and 2016 fifth-round pick Trevor Davis. All five have obstacles to overcome.
For Adams, it’s his sophomore slump. Tabbed as the “offseason MVP” by McCarthy in the spring and summer of 2015, Adams didn’t have the season many expected. He averaged just 9.7 yards per catch on his 50 receptions after being at 11.7 as a rookie. The former Fresno State star appeared on the verge of a bounce back in the playoffs, grabbing four passes and a touchdown against Washington in the Wild Card game before a knee injury ended his season.
“[I’m] leaving everything negative behind me, bringing the positive things forward and growing on that,” Adams said this week. “[I’m] just ready to compete with myself and continue to get better. Because I know the sky is the limit. I know my potential is there, I just got to make sure I’m capitalizing.”
For Abbrederis and Montgomery, it’ll be about staying healthy. The latter played in just six games last season before an ankle injury ended his year. And he remains out, joining Nelson on the PUP list. Abbrederis, the former Wisconsin standout, missed all of his rookie season with a torn ACL, and then most of training camp last summer due to a severe concussion. When on the field, Abbrederis is among the best route runners on the team.
Janis is the most talked about among the young guys, largely because he’s an athletic freak. He had a breakout game against Arizona in the playoffs, catching seven passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns, including one that sent the game into overtime. But he’s not always where he’s supposed to be and hasn’t necessarily been able to gain a lot of traction with quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
“We want all our football players to just be consistent,” Bennett said this week. “That’s the goal. We always talk about controlling the controllables, and how we go about doing that. The main thing is being fundamentally sound … and that’s what we’re working on right here and right now.”
If any of the young guys has turned heads in the first week of camp it’s Davis. A speedster that the Packers clocked at 4.3 seconds in the 40-yard dash, the Cal product had a leaping one-handed catch on the first day. He’s the type of receiver that was missing when Nelson went down last year – a guy that can take the top off a defense. But he’s still learning. And despite the competition, the other receivers are willing to help.
“Whenever I have a question, whenever I need to learn anything, I can go to them,” Davis said after a recent practice. “Just knowing I can come to them any given time and they’re great at teaching me. They’re great at teaching every single receiver here. It’s the best situation. It’s great, really.”