The following is the third installment in a series of stories that’s examining the Packers’ roster position by position. The series continues with the wide receivers and tight ends.
GREEN BAY – Training camp rosters are always full of young wide receiver hopefuls trying to make a splash and catch on in the NFL.
That dynamic could be as competitive and intense this year as it’s been in Green Bay in quite some time.
The Packers signed a whopping five undrafted rookie receivers immediately after this year’s draft, and they join a group that already included 2013 draft picks Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis, 2014 draft pick Ty Montgomery, and practice-squad/active-roster veteran Myles White to sort out the depth chart beyond Green Bay’s big three.
Barring an injury, the top trio of Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams isn’t changing.
Nelson, who sat out the offseason program following hip surgery but plans to be ready for camp, and Cobb put together an historic season last year, setting franchise records for combined catches (189), yards (2,806) and touchdowns (25).
Adams, meanwhile, didn’t take long to usurp the No. 3 receiver spot last year from the since-departed Jarrett Boykin. He had his two biggest games in the season’s two biggest wins, topping 100 yards against both the Patriots and Cowboys, and he earned praise this offseason from QB Aaron Rodgers for his sharpness and work ethic.
Another who appeared to step up his game in year two in the spring was Janis, who took advantage of Nelson’s absence in OTAs to get more snaps with Rodgers. A seventh-round, Division II speedster with two impressive touchdowns in last year’s preseason, Janis was pronounced ready to play by Mike McCarthy as last year wound down.
More on WR Jeff Janis
Abbrederis is coming off a season-ending knee injury, so his work in the offseason was limited, but the Wisconsin native and fifth-round draft pick has expressed confidence he’ll be full speed for his second training camp.
Montgomery missed a large portion of OTAs due to Stanford’s school calendar, but the third-round pick made a strong impression once he arrived.
All three of the draft picks from the last two years could get looks as return men as well, which could help establish the pecking order.
It’s not even a given all three will make the team, though, not with only five or six roster spots available, plus White and a slew of young talent looking to compete.
The undrafted class has some notable credentials, as Ricky Collins was a D2football.com All-American at Texas A&M-Commerce and Missouri’s Jimmie Hunt caught six passes for 169 yards against Alabama in the SEC title game. Javess Blue and Adrian Coxson have traveled tough roads before, switching schools during their college careers and still succeeding, while Larry Pinkard became one of Old Dominion’s all-time leading pass catchers.
The tight end position remains young, with veteran Andrew Quarless the only one of six tight ends on the roster who’s not a rookie or second-year player. His production has been steady the past two years following his lost season of 2012, but he’s facing potential NFL discipline for an offseason arrest.
That would put an even greater burden on the young tight ends, and it’s 2014 third-round pick Richard Rodgers who could be ready to break out.
Like Adams, Rodgers came through in some of the season’s most important games, catching 10 passes for 98 yards and a TD through Week 17 and the two playoff contests. Provided his blocking improves, he’ll see the field plenty in his second year.
Alabama-Birmingham’s Kennard Backman was added in the seventh round this year as a potential downfield threat, while undrafted rookie Mitchell Henry (Western Kentucky) could be noticed at times during OTAs. Fellow undrafted rookie Harold Spears (New Hampshire) was signed just before the offseason-concluding minicamp.
Second-year pro Justin Perillo missed time during OTAs with an undisclosed injury, but he moved his way up from the practice squad to the active roster at midseason last year. Having been mentioned at times by Rodgers the QB for his work in practice, Perillo could make a roster bid with productive special-teams play.
Countdown to Camp: Position-by-position roster series