This is the third in a series of stories that’s examining the Packers’ roster, position by position, leading up to training camp. The series continues with the wide receivers and tight ends.
GREEN BAY – Barring injury, the three wide receivers who will take the lion’s share of the snaps for the Packers in 2017 are no mystery.
Jordy Nelson is coming off NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors and could be even better than he was last season (97 catches, 1,257 yards, league-best 14 TDs) now that he’s another year removed from reconstructive knee surgery.
Randall Cobb would like to shake off back-to-back years of nagging injuries and stay healthy enough to return to his 2014 form. But he still proved what he can do in a pinch, catching 18 passes for 260 yards and three TDs in the playoffs last season with Nelson missing two of three games.
Davante Adams believes he’s just scratching the surface following his 75-catch, 997-yard, 12-TD campaign in 2016, and he proved he can be the go-to guy at times, posting five 100-yard games (four regular season, one postseason) after recording none the prior year.
So there’s your big three. The intrigue at the position is how it will shake out after that.
Among Jeff Janis, Trevor Davis and Geronimo Allison, the Packers have three young players who have all enjoyed breakout moments. Janis and Davis could factor into the return game on special teams, while at 6-3, 202, Allison brings a long, slender body type different from most of his receiving mates.
Then there’s practice-squad holdover Max McCaffrey, who was on the active roster for the NFC title game in Atlanta, two new draft picks in fifth-rounder DeAngelo Yancey of Purdue and seventh-rounder Malachi Dupre from LSU, plus three undrafted rookies in Marshall’s Michael Clark, Georgia Southern’s Montay Crockett and BYU’s Colby Pearson.
That’s a ton of competition for three, maybe four roster spots. The Packers had seven receivers on the active roster at times last year, and during the June minicamp, receivers coach Luke Getsy said he believes the Packers have more than seven who can help win games.
How many will actually make the team remains up in the air. Yancey comes in with an impressive yards per catch average in the Big Ten last year (19.4), while Dupre flashed legitimate ability during OTAs in the spring, prompting Head Coach Mike McCarthy to compliment him on how quickly he’s picked up the offense.
At 6-6, 217, Clark is the most intriguing at first glance of the undrafted bunch, but he was injured throughout the spring and missed a lot of practice time. Pearson will be catching passes from his old college QB, Taysom Hill.
Meanwhile at tight end, no position received a bigger overhaul in the offseason with the free-agent signings of Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks.
Bennett’s off-beat and outgoing personality is well-documented, but it was his passion and competitiveness that made the strongest early impression on Aaron Rodgers. Kendricks arrives with a background similar to last year’s new but since-departed tight end, Jared Cook, an accomplished veteran who has never been to the postseason nor played with a quarterback anywhere near Rodgers’ caliber.
Richard Rodgers enters his fourth season as a quiet, steady presence whose offseason was overshadowed by the new guys. His pass-catching production dropped off in 2016 compared to the prior year, but he’s a player the quarterback has repeatedly voiced confidence in.
The team’s two youngest tight ends are both undrafted prospects in Montana State’s Beau Sandland and Fresno State’s Aaron Peck.
Sandland was a rookie last year signed to Green Bay’s practice squad at midseason, while Peck is a rookie who had his best collegiate season last year after missing 2015 due to injury.
COUNTDOWN TO CAMP ROSTER SERIES
QBs: All four have goals in mind
RBs: Competition with five rookies behind Ty Montgomery