The Packers Have a Mess at WR
The Green Bay Packers currently have seven wide receivers on their active roster.
Of those seven, one was inactive on Sunday (Michael Clark), two played a single snap each on offense (Jeff Janis and Trevor Davis), and one other (Geronimo Allison) saw his first target in almost exactly a month.
The highest paid member of the group (Randall Cobb) didn’t have a single pass come his way, while the most accomplished player (Jordy Nelson) put up 17 yards on five receptions, a 3.4 yards per catch average.
Even Davante Adams, the presumptive number one receiver, managed just 42 yards on four catches as he received the full attention of the Tampa Bay secondary.
To be sure, much of this lack of production is attributable to the loss of the best quarterback in the known universe, but with seven players from one position group on the roster, it sure seems like the Packer should be getting more return on their investment.
While production may improve when Rodgers returns, the Packers are still going to have some headaches at this position in the near future as they weigh questions of age, price, and performance. Let’s take a quick look at each receiver on the roster for a bit of prognostication.
“Is he a true number one receiver?” is one of the dumbest questions in sports, but let’s entertain it just so we can conclusively say this: Adams is definitely a number one receiver. What does that mean? Who knows, but within the context of a stupid, contrived debate, Adams fits the bill.
Adams has remained relatively productive even without Rodgers under center, stepping up as Hundley’s favorite target. Our friends at Lombardi Avenue noted Tuesday that Adams is putting up very similar numbers to what we saw from Jordy Nelson in 2013:
He couldn’t be doing it at a better time, either. The Packers need desperate help through the air and Hundley is the only one producing. What’s more, he’s set to hit free agency next spring, and if he can produce with Brett Hundley, he can produce with anyone.
Without question, Nelson has been the hardest hit by the loss of Aaron Rodgers. His season can be neatly divided into Aaron Rodgers and Brett Hundley sections:
With Rodgers: 20 catches, 240 yards (12.0 avg), 6 TD
With Hundley: 23 catches, 170 yards (7.4 avg), 0 TD
Post-ACL injury, Nelson became the ultimate zone attacker, feeling out soft spots in the defense and settling in while Rodgers extended plays in the pocket. And that works fine… when Aaron Rodgers is healthy.
Without Rodgers, Nelson has had to beat defenders one-on-one again, and it doesn’t seem like he’s capable of separating quickly enough for Hundley to find him. Until Rodgers comes back, it’s unlikely we’ll see a lot more production from one of the great receivers in Packers history.
Nelson said prior to the 2017 season he’d like to play up to two more years. His cap figure is in excess of $12 million next year, and if he intends to play, he could be a prime candidate for restructuring.
Outlook: Should improve if Rodgers returns, but long term is murky
Early in the Packers’ Week 10 win over the Chicago Bears, Randall Cobb got loose on a quick slant, nabbed a pass, and burst into the open field. There was naught but green grass and a single defender with a bad angle in front of him. It had all the trappings of a foot race to the goal line.
Instead, Chicago linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski ran Cobb down and tackled him just inside Bears territory. The Packers stalled on offense and settled for a field goal just a few plays later.
In 2014, it would have been inconceivable for Cobb, who posted a 4.46 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, to be caught from behind by a linebacker, but in 2017 it feels routine. Cobb hasn’t been an explosive player in several years, and his production seems out of alignment with his salary.
Restructuring his deal is almost certainly a fool’s errand; Cobb has little incentive to do so. If the Packers are hoping to recoup some of what they’re spending on receivers, there’s probably only one way forward with Cobb and it ends with him leaving Green Bay.
Outlook: Tough conversations ahead
There’s little to say about Allison. Playing with a receiver who seems to get to his second read about twice a game, Allison won’t figure to get many opportunities until Rodgers returns.
Allison wasn’t getting heavy usage while Rodgers was healthy, but he still remains a bright spot due to his unique physical dimensions and slippery route running. He’s a promising, low cost option for the Packers going forward, especially if changes come elsewhere in the position group.
Outlook: Short term meh, but bigger things ahead
Jeff Janis and Trevor Davis
These two pretty much have to be evaluated together because they do virtually the same thing. You could start calling them Jeff Davis and Trevor Janis and it wouldn’t make any difference. Both are dynamic special teams players with electrifying speed prone to astonishing mental lapses. Both would be exciting to see more regularly on offense, and it remains surprising that no one has found any way to get them involved.
Janis is a free agent after this season and Davis is a 2016 fifth round pick who’s barely made a peep on offense. It’s safe to say both face relatively uncertain futures in Green Bay.
Outlook: Reply hazy, try again
The Packers’ ultimate mystery at wide receiver, Clark is presumably only on the active roster right now because another team attempted to sign him away. Everyone raves about his performances in practice, and he was somewhat productive in the preseason (four catches for 34 yards), but beyond that we know very little about him beyond his impressive physical attributes.
Outlook: Very tall