GREEN BAY — Geronimo Allison had been waiting patiently all season for his opportunity, knowing full well there was no guarantee it would come in 2016.
Then, the Packers informed the undrafted rookie receiver in the hours leading up to last Saturday’s noon kickoff against Minnesota that his role was about to grow exponentially.
The Packers were going to be without Pro Bowl receiver Randall Cobb, who had been questionable due to the lingering ankle injury he first sustained against Seattle two weeks ago. In Cobb’s place, the offense was turning to Allison, who had played roughly 40 offensive snaps in his first seven NFL games.
The 6-foot-3, 202-pound receiver made the best of his career-high 43 snaps against the Vikings, catching four passes for 66 yards. Only veteran Jordy Nelson was targeted more by quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
“We try to preach to our young kids right off the bat, if you’re not playing right away, don’t get frustrated,” said Nelson, who had a team-high nine catches for 154 yards and two touchdowns.
“That’s a guy who came off our practice squad and continued to develop. He’s getting a lot of practice reps and was able to make some plays for us. Every year, there’s young guys who come down the stretch who make big plays for us.”
Allison, promoted off the practice squad on Oct. 25, caught his first career touchdown pass during a relief appearance for an injured Cobb against Atlanta on Oct. 30, but he had played sparingly for the past two months until Saturday.
Still, the rookie wasn’t rattled when the Packers called him to make his first start as the No. 3 receiver. Rodgers got him involved on the second series when Allison came open on a 15-yard pass out of a bunch formation to spark a five-play, 61-yard scoring drive.
Allison, later lining up in the slot, went uncovered on a wheel route up the sideline to haul in a 32-yard pass from Rodgers to spark another late touchdown-producing drive.
“Geronimo has done a really good job,” Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. “Going back to Atlanta, when he gets an opportunity, he gets in there and makes plays. I can’t really say enough about him. It’s really what your young players need to do.”
Allison also converted two third downs on the same series in the third quarter. First, he displayed good hands on a diving reception on third-and-10 and good awareness coming back to the ball on a scramble drill to make an 8-yard catch on third-and-4.
The former Illinois receiver flashed a lot of the same potential when he caught six passes for 119 yards during the preseason and it nearly earned him a spot on the Packers’ initial 53-man roster.
Offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett reflected on Allison’s training camp on Monday, saying “it seemed like every practice we had, he was making a play.” After working behind the team’s veteran receivers for most of the regular season, Allison’s playmaking ability shined through against the Vikings.
“‘G-Mo’ stepped in huge,” tight end Jared Cook said. “A lot of times when the coverage was shifted or even when Aaron extended plays, ‘G-Mo’ did a great job of finding windows, finding open spots, and getting upfield. He had a great game.”
McCarthy said the coaching staff had the big picture in mind in making the decision to deactivate Cobb against the Vikings, adding that “you’re going to have to chain him down to keep him off the 46-(man gameday roster).”
Cobb told reporters on Monday that he’s hopeful his layoff on Saturday will improve his chances of playing in this Sunday’s NFC North title game against Detroit.
The Packers will take the week to determine Cobb’s outlook. In the meantime, Allison is staying ready for whenever he’s called upon next.
“You never know what you’re going to be presented with,” Allison said. “I’m always watching Jordy, Davante (Adams) and Randall, and trying to pick up things to help me better myself as a player and as a man. Anything that they’re doing well, I try to take it from them and implement it into my game to be successful.”