It wasn’t long ago that the Green Bay Packers were blessed with a trio of veteran wide receivers that made other NFL teams envious. Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Davante Adams not only were talented, but had the trust of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. While Cobb and Adams, along with Geronimo Allison remain, Nelson was shown the door. Many have questioned Brian Gutekunst’s decision to part with Nelson, especially the past two weeks. With both Cobb (hamstring) and Allison (concussion, hamstring) nursing injuries and not able to go, the Packers were forced to rely on Adams and tight end Jimmy Graham quite a bit in the passing game. The Packers were also forced to give more playing time to their trio of rookie wide receivers, meaning those receivers are being forced to mature quickly.
Being a wide receiver and playing with Rodgers is never an easy task. Sure, you are playing with the best quarterback in the NFL, but Rodgers expects a lot from his wide receivers. He detests mental mistakes and expects a lot out of his pass catchers. If you aren’t on the same page with him, he will let you know it or even worse, not get you the ball. Just ask Jeff Janis.
That is what Packers rookie wide receivers J’Mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Equanimeous St Brown are dealing with right now. With Cobb and Allison out, Rodgers and the Packers have had to depend on the three rookie wide receivers. Out of the three rookie wide receivers, Valdes-Scantling has made the biggest mark so far.
Valdes-Scantling, who was selected in the fifth round, has had some downs. Those downs have drawn the ire of Rodgers, but instead of moping, he bounced back up and learned from his errors. While he has been a standout on special teams, he has started to make his mark in the Packers passing game as well. The past two weeks he has hauled in 10 passes for 171 with one touchdown. The Packers are utilizing his speed and size, he is 6’4”, not only on the outside opposite of Adams, but also in the slot. Making mistakes is never a good thing when playing with Rodgers, but he does respect it when you learn from your errors. That is what it looks like Valdes-Scantling is doing and he is making his mark as well as learning on the go.
While Valdes-Scantling has been the standout of the Packers rookie wide receivers, Equanimeous St Brown has contributed as well. Against the Detroit Lions in week five, St Brown had 3 catches for 89 yards. Although he only had one catch against the San Francisco 49ers, it came at a very crucial time. With the game tied 30-30, Rodgers hit St Brown with a back shoulder pass. That catch led to Mason Crosby’s game winning field goal. Rodgers seems very comfortable with St Brown and is developing a good chemistry with the big target from Notre Dame.
J’Mon Moore was the highest draft choice of the three Packers rookie wide receivers, but he has been the least productive. Moore struggled in training camp with drops and has yet to win Rodgers trust. However, last week in the Packers win over the 49ers, he did have his first career reception. There is no reason to give up on Moore, but he is going to need to start to develop, especially with how well Valdes-Scantling and St Brown have performed.
It wouldn’t be farfetched to believe that Rodgers would like to still have Nelson on the Packers roster. The two were one of the best duos in Packers history. But in the long run, especially if Rodgers plans to play into his 40’s, the development of the current Packers rookie wide receivers is vital.
It is highly doubtful that Randall Cobb will return next season. His production has dropped and this season, he is showing that his body is breaking down. Allison has developed into a solid wide receiver, but he doesn’t have the speed that the Packers rookie wide receivers possess.
Adams is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL and if even just one of the Packers rookie wide receivers develops, Adams and whomever it is, could be one of the best duos in the NFL. Rodgers will need to deal with the mental mistakes now, but in the end, these three rookie wide receivers might extend his career.