The Green Bay Packers head into training camp next week primed at receiver – especially with their top three, Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and James Jones, who should all be healthy and ready to pick up where they left off last season.
Cobb and Jones were the standouts in 2012. Jones led the league in wide receiver touchdowns with 14 and Cobb led the Packers with 80 catches for 954 yards. They were stellar the entire season.
Nelson was on track to repeat his 2011 performance when he rolled up more than 1,200 yards receiving. But then he got hurt, and hurt again. He never got back to the Jordy Nelson that Packers fans have come to know and love. What helped the Packers when Nelson went down was that Greg Jennings came back after being out most of the year to pick up the slack that the loss of Nelson brought about.
This year, there is no Greg Jennings and though Donald Driver didn’t play much at all in his final year with the Packers, he did provide a veteran presence.
So, the question must be asked: Should the Packers suffer injuries among their big three – Cobb, Nelson, and Jones – will the team be deep enough to battle through without a drop-off in talent?
Beyond the big three, the Packers are unproven, though talented. The first man up would be Jarrett Boykin, a young player with size and the hands that coaches really like. He does have some experience, having appeared in 10 games last season, catching five passes for 27 yards. He will unquestionably get a lot of playing time in training camp and in the preseason games as coaches have to get him ready to play in the event that one of the big three go down.
Next in line, as far as the depth chart goes, is Jeremy Ross, the dynamic returner who turned a few heads last season when he filled in for Randall Cobb on the return teams. A big receiver with an uncanny knack for hitting holes and finding seams on the returns last season, the coaching staff is also impressed with his receiving skills. He could take over for Cobb on special teams and will certainly get a good look from the coaching staff. His value would soar if he could take over for Cobb, and he would also be in line for playing time as a receiver if called upon.
Bringing up the rear of the receiving depth chart are two rookies drafted in the later rounds of this past spring’s NFL Draft – Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey - as well as four undrafted receivers in Sederrik Cunningham, Alex Gillett, Tyrone Walker and Myles White.
Not a lot is known about any of these receivers, but it is the two drafted rookies who will most likely get the longest looks during training camp. My guess is that unless Johnson and Dorsey burn up the field, one of them may make the team while the other may be tucked away on the practice squad.
On the other hand, the Packers are known for finding golden nuggets among undrafted free agents. Many have already been impressed with the skillset White brings to the table. If there is any undrafted player who could make the team it might be White.
So, as we look beyond the top three receivers, the Packers have players with potential, but nobody who could be looked at as an immediate contributor. Should the Packers suffer injuries early on to their top receivers, the backups are going to have to learn in a hurry.
We can only hope that the injury bug stays away from the receivers and that the top three stay healthy, while the others have the time to develop.