* = starter; + = roster spot
* Jordy Nelson
* Randall Cobb
* Davante Adams
+ Ty Montgomery
+ Jeff Janis
+ Jared Abbrederis
+ Geronimo Allison
The group that came up the shortest on offense last season is poised for a major resurgence.
First off, we’ve got the return of Nelson. It has been a slow and cautious approach to his return from his preseason ACL tear last year, but for a player of his caliber getting reps in the preseason means a lot less than the end of roster guys. We haven’t seen much beyond some bare minimum practice activities (mainly due to an unrelated injury slowing him down), but he’s had time to heal and should be good to start the year. If he can return to even a semblance of the player we all remember (i.e.: a top-5-caliber WR), this offense should jump immediately back into top-10 quality.
With Nelson back to work on the outside, Cobb should be able to jump back to being one of the most dangerous slot receivers the league has to offer. With Jordy out in 2015, teams were able to gameplan around stopping Cobb, and the young guys left to take Nelson’s place on the outside couldn’t take advantage of the one-on-one coverage they routinely saw themselves matched up against. It also didn’t help that Cobb had to deal with an assortment of his own injuries, including a shoulder problem sustained in the preseason and then the punctured lung (which was possibly caused by being mic’d up) that knocked him out of the playoff game versus Arizona. With improved play around him and better health luck, expect the Cobb of old to show himself yet again.
Behind Cobb is where things are somewhat harder to discern, though.
After a tough season that saw him vastly underperform heightened expectations (at least in part also due to injury issues), Davante Adams was a guy who could conceivably (in my estimation at least) have found himself fighting for a roster despite his high draft status two years ago and all the praise he received around this time just last year. Luckily for him, it has seemed that he’s done enough to start the year as the de facto #3 receiver going into this year; hopefully he can show us more of the positive play he’s flashed at times in the past, and I think he will be given plenty of opportunities to do so — especially if Nelson ends up having any more setbacks.
Montgomery has had about as bad injury luck as any of the guys in this group. He showed signs of being a dynamic option in the mold of Cobb last year, but unfortunately sustained an injury that never healed properly and essentially ended his year right around the time the team began to fall from their surprising 6-0 start to 2015. He has had to deal with more health issues this offseason too, but managed to get himself back on the field in the preseason. If he can put the injuries behind him, he’ll be a guy the team can line up anywhere to attack the defense.
Back on the topic of injuries, Abbrederis has fought through plenty in his two seasons so far; a torn ACL and concussion issues kept him from even being considered for a spot on the team in most of that time. Towards the end of last season however, he managed to find his health as everyone else was stuck in their own injury purgatory, and performed admirably to give Rodgers a slot option that wasn’t seeing constant focus from the defense like Cobb. His best game was his last one, putting in 4 catches (12 targets) and 55 yards to help a massively disadvantaged unit almost steal away a game they honestly shouldn’t have had any shot in. Should his health hold up, he’ll be another useful underneath weapon for Rodgers in 2016.
The preseason darling for two years, Janis finally got to see field time in 2015 (albeit almost entirely due to injuries around him). As a receiver he did little for most of the year, however; based on that work alone, he surely would have been dropped had injuries not created such a dire situation around him. Of course, that’s easy to forget after his signature performance against the Cardinals (7 catches, 145 yards, 2 TDs; that performance also included essentially two Hail Mary catches on the final drive to help send the game into overtime), but besides that he only had 2 catches across the entire year. Add in his recent hand injury and it would be hard to see him grab a spot on this crowded roster in most cases. What saves him though is his special teams ability; he turned himself into one of the best in that regard on the entire team, both as a returner (with multiple big returns on the year) and as a gunner (he made a handful of explosive tackles to end return attempts). With his work on that unit combined with his exciting receiving potential, he should find himself safe on the roster even despite the limitations his hand injury will cause early on.
That’s already six players — usually seen as a lot of spots for this position — but with the propensity of teams like Green Bay to run a lot of 3+ receiver sets, it isn’t out of the question to see a team consider bringing in as many as seven players, and we could definitely see that happening here.
Of the three remaining guys, it would seem the choice falls between Davis and Allison for that possible 7th spot. Davis has the pedigree of being a 5th rounder in this past draft with the element of speed, something the team sorely lacked at WR most of last year. Allison on the other hand has been the one showing the team exciting ability instead of just having it be projected to this point. Both have practice squad eligibility, so either could conceivably end up there. The issue may be that a talent-needy team may try to poach them from there or waivers if given the shot, and for a team that saw about as much flux as possible at this position last year, risking allowing quality talent to leave just isn’t a smart move — and the Packers know it. With Allison showing a good deal more so far than Davis, the likelihood of him being picked up seems higher, so that could be enough to swing this spot towards Allison, with Davis hopefully surviving on the practice squad while he improves on his skills.