It’s just one preseason game, so deep breaths are required. On the other hand, even before Thursday night, when a trio of young receivers announced themselves to Packers Nation, the pass catching numbers were going to leave some talented players off the final roster.
What if Green Bay pre-empts the final cut question by attempting to deal a starting receiver to a needy team in August? Would a thin team like the Cowboys be interested in Geronimo Allison? If the Patriots are turning to Eric Decker and Cordarrelle Patterson, wouldn’t they prefer a player who might actually be able to help them? The Patriots and Packers love to deal.
There are nine players with legitimate chances to make the team and the only locks going into training camp were Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, and Geronimo Allison. J’Mon Moore felt like a fourth simply because of his draft position and Trevor Davis, as the team’s most dynamic punt returner, had a case for fifth. That’s before we get to the wildly explosive Marqueze Valdes-Scantling, the big-bodied Equanimeous St. Brown, and last year’s fifth-round pick DeAngelo Yancey.
Then, Jake Kumerow broke out in training camp, earning the seal of approval from Aaron Rodgers and hauling in a 52-yard touchdown late against the Titans. The inconsistent but tantalizingly talented Valdes-Scantling absolutely balled out against Tennessee, with a 51-yard bomb, a 15-yard touchdown, and a 100-yard game in his pro debut.
St. Brown once again showed the consistency catching the ball, but we saw more of that 4.4s speed that makes his size/speed combination so intriguing. If there’s a player with the inside track to the WR4 job, it just might be EQ.
And even on a night when Moore struggled to finish catches, there’s no way he’s making it through waivers and he did flash his quickness and instincts. If he had come down with a few of the catches he let slip away, he may have been headlining this list instead of being a footnote.
Yancey clearly looks like (one of) the odd man out, but that still only cuts the roster down to eight receivers. Davis has been dealing with injury and it’s hard to argue he’s done anything as a receiver to warrant consideration above the rookies. There’s an intellectually honest case MVS and EQ have already shown more ability as receivers in their short tenure than Davis has in two seasons. It’s important to note Davis was a Ted Thompson draft selection, not one of Brian Gutekunst’s so his draft position may not save him.
If Davis gets the axe, that still leaves seven.
Don’t the Packers have exactly the kind of team that could afford to deal a more veteran player and accommodate multiple rookie receivers? Without Allison, EQ slides in opposite Davante Adams with Cobb in the slot. That leaves Jimmy Graham, Lance Kendricks and Marcedes Lewis as capable receiving threats at tight end. Add those guys to a stable of capable running backs, each with pass catching ability, and this team could be even more balanced than the 2014 version that won Aaron Rodgers an MVP and nearly took the Pack to the Super Bowl.
Speaking of that 2014 team, they had a Pro Bowl lead receiver, a standout slot, a stud in the backfield, and two rookies playing snaps out wide with a rookie tight end. It would be easy to forget now how inconsistent Adams was as a rookie, so much so that he was benched at times for Jeff Janis. Richard Rodgers provided steady hands, but not much else. That season was all about Nelson and Cobb with Lacy providing the balance and Starks the relief.
Adams could be a top-5 receiver this season and Jimmy Graham has the potential to torch teams in the middle of the field, even if it’s not quite the same way Cobb lit up opposing secondaries inside. That said, Cobb still has some juice and looks back to his old tricks so far in camp. From a pass-catching standpoint, there’s a solid case this is a deeper team, with quality players at every level, including out of the backfield.
From a composition standpoint, two rookies might need to contribute in order to succeed on a Super Bowl contender.
Allison may be more consistent and reliable, but is the relative difference between him and say EQ, really that big? Is it the difference between winning and lose a game? Probably not. With these young receivers showing so much upside, the Packers may consider them ready sooner than originally thought. And getting some value from the only player Green Bay could legitimately find a new home for makes some sense.
It’s not that it’s the prudent path, but it could make some sense if these young receivers continue to excel. Again, we only have one preseason game, Family Night, and practice reports to go on, but these receivers are ahead of the curve. With Aaron Rodgers and a deep stable of other playmakers on offense, starting a rookie isn’t the end of the world. We’ve seen it work. Plus, Gutekunst would be getting value for a player who may not be marginally that much better than options the team would have had to cut anyway. How much would it really be? Who cares? A conditional sixth? An extra seventh? Anything would be better than simply cutting a quality player outright.
It’s not likely to happen. These types of camp battles tend to sort themselves out on their own, but so far this dynamic group of nascent pass catchers have made life difficult for McCarthy and company to stack the depth chart. A deal like one with Allison could relieve the pressure while ramping up the competition for a starting spot, thus elevating the play of EQ, Kumerow, MVS et al even more and allowing the best players the opportunity to really shine.