Aug 13, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots strong safety Malcolm Butler (21) defends against Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams (17) during the first quarter in a preseason NFL football game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
* = starter; + = roster spot
* Randall Cobb
* Davante Adams
+ Ty Montgomery
+ Jeff Janis
+ Myles White
Aug 29, 2015; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb (18) catches a pass during warmups prior to the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Unfortunately, there is one key name missing here: Jordy Nelson.
In what has become a yearly ordeal, the preseason claimed more big names to injuries that seem unnecessary. This time Green Bay’s top receiver was one of the players to be hit by that disaster.
Not having Nelson, his statistical impact, and his otherworldly rapport with Aaron Rodgers will be a major downer for 2015, but it doesn’t mean the end for the team. Even without Nelson, there is plenty to like in terms of pass-catching talent in green and gold this season.
Leading the way again will of course be Randall Cobb.
Cobb had a mightily impressive season in 2014; 91 catches (career-high; 9th-tied) on 126 targets (career-high; 25th), 1,287 yards (career-high; 11th), 12 TDs (career-high; 4th-tied). He garnered 24 plays of 20+ yards and converted 71 first downs of his own. While Nelson handled the majority of the outside work, Cobb did his damage in the slot; according to Pro Football Focus’s Sig Stats regarding YPRR from the slot, Cobb easily led the league with 106 targets and 1,067 yards (3rd-best yardage since 2008) there to end up with an average of 2.13 YPRR. His work in the slot combined with Nelson’s contributions to give Green Bay a dominant inside-outside receiving tandem that helped lead the way for the Packers’ offense to sit atop the league in scoring offense in 2014 (30.4 PPG).
With the Nelson injury, we see the “MVP of the offseason” Davante Adams get pushed into the #2 slot. His season last year was highly inconsistent, but there were multiple games where he showed signs of being able to be another strong option in the passing game. Including the playoffs Adams had five games with at least five receptions and 50+ yards, and he saved his best performances for games with the highest stakes; vs the eventual-champion New England Patriots in a Week 13 win (6 catches on 12 targets, 121 yards) and in the divisional playoff victory over the Dallas Cowboys (7 catches on 11 targets, 117 yards, 1 TD). All reports out of Green Bay seem to be that he’s ready to take a step; let’s hope the high praise he’s received from coaches comes to fruition.
Aug 29, 2015; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver Ty Montgomery (88) runs for extra yards after catching a pass against Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Nolan Carroll II (23) in the first quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
After Adams things are less clear, but there’s tangible excitement to look forward to.
The only sure thing for a roster spot out of the remaining group is this year’s third round pick Ty Montgomery. Now when I say sure thing, don’t mistake that for cemented belief in his abilities as a receiver alone; it isn’t. A good portion of the information that circled around about Montgomery since he was drafted revolves around his inconsistencies as a pass-catcher, but he’s shown enough across his work since joining the team to be an explosive “Randall Cobb-esque” receiver that can also help in the muddled return game too. That, plus his high draft status, guarantee he makes the 53.
From here, things are rougher.
Janis has been a preseason darling two years in a row, but can it translate into the regular season? With no Nelson, Green Bay may feel they have to believe he has. Having Rodgers tossing him passes will undoubtedly help, but he’ll need to show he’s ready or he’ll never see the field (just like last year). But his potential impact is enough that he will be given a chance to show it.
Aug 29, 2015; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jeff Janis (83) catches a touchdown pass against Philadelphia Eagles defensive back E.J. Biggers (38) in the fourth quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
White isn’t an overly dynamic option, but Green Bay has had him around for two seasons now and he’s been showing he belongs on a roster somewhere, even if it isn’t here. In the last two preseason games, White grabbed three touchdowns and was the most consistent option at receiver (albeit with Nelson, Cobb and Adams all not playing much — if any — in those games). The only way I see him not making it onto the 53 with Nelson being out all year is if Green Bay goes with only five receivers AND they love the potential of the next guy too much.
The next guy is Abbrederis. The Wisconsin product has barely seen any training camp or preseason action in his two seasons due to injuries, but reports tend to be positive in terms of how the Packers feel about him. Could that be enough to give him a spot?
With the way I’m envisioning the Packers’ gameplan to work (a bit more emphasis towards running, plus less spread out formations overall), I only see five receivers making it.
Number five, in my opinion, will be White.
But I do think Abbrederis is a lock for the practice squad, should no other team jump at the chance to grab him.