Juwann Winfree could prove important to Packers offense

Juwann Winfree was, once again, turning heads at Packers minicamp on Tuesday.

Brace yourselves, Cheeseheads. Another article about the Packers wide receiver room incoming.

At this point, there's probably not much I can write about that hasn't already been written.

You know of the three veterans who will be relied on (Randall Cobb, Allen Lazard and Sammy Watkins). You know of the draft picks who are expected to make a splash (Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs). Much has even been made about Amari Rodgers and what his role might look like next season.

But Juwann Winfree has really flown under the radar up until this point.

If you remember, Winfree turned heads during the start of last year's training camp before injuring his shoulder. He then made a few appearances during the regular season, catching 8 balls for 58 yards.

A 2019 pick of the Denver Broncos in Round 6, Winfree possesses the raw talent and potential to make plays. He's shifty and athletic, but struggled with consistency in his play and availability.

But Winfree has a lot of confidence in himself. According to him, his coaches do too.

"They believe in me, they know I can ball," Winfree said at OTAs earlier this summer. "They see what attributes I bring to the table. For me it's just making that next step of showing I can play every position and I can be counted on every single time."

His confidence was, once again, on display during the first day of open practice at Packers mandatory minicamp.

If you were anything like me during Tuesday's Packers minicamp open practice, you tuned into Twitter for the live practice updates. It seemed like every time I refreshed my feed, Winfree's name popped up.

Making big plays, turning heads as a gunner on punt coverage and being first in line during drills and reps - that's exciting stuff to see from a young player.

Now, look, I get it. It's June. None of this really matters too much in the grand scheme of things.

But between his raw athletic ability, the confidence he oozes and the organization's need for talented receivers that can play, Winfree could very much be a player who contributes heavily to this Packers offense.

And the more options the Packers have at that position, the better.

__________________________

Gunnar Davis is a lifelong Packers fan and a recent graduate of Simpson College, where he was a 3-year letterwinner on the offensive line and graduated with a degree in multimedia communications. You can follow him on Twitter at @Gunnar57Davis.

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6 points

Comments (43)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
mnbadger's picture

June 08, 2022 at 12:23 pm

Thank you for more material regarding receiver position. However, it's either time for JW to get a shot or get shown the door. If coaches trust him, AR damn well better trust him. If coaches don't trust him, show him the door.
If ST is his forte, put him in there and turn him loose. Otherwise, let him go find greener pastures and move on.
No more talk. This year has to be about action. GPG!

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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

June 09, 2022 at 11:15 am

You don't think COVID and the injury situation on the offensive line last year has shown the importance of keeping depth players on the practice squad? Even if he doesn't make the initial 53, having a player that knows the offense as well as he should by now is great depth to have. He cost next to nothing to keep on the roster, there is no reason to show him the door. His issues were not with coaches trust, or #12's trust, they were with injuries and consistency. Keep him around as long as you can to see what he can contribute either as a backup or a practice squad player.

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Leatherhead's picture

June 09, 2022 at 11:42 am

If he doesn't make the initial 53, he might not be available for our practice squad. Other teams could offer him a spot on their 53 man squad. Also, if we keep him on the practice squad, and we keep Toure on the practice squad, is that all the WRs we're keeping on the practice squad, or should we keep more?

I agree with keeping him around on the 90 man roster. Talk him up. Tout him. Maybe showcase him in some preseason games. Hopefully, we might get a Day 3 pick for him. Or, we might get hit with a rash of injuries in training camp and we'll need him on the initial 53.

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dobber's picture

June 09, 2022 at 01:24 pm

"If he doesn't make the initial 53, he might not be available for our practice squad."

Keep the guys who make you better and figure prominently into your future.
Cut and be prepared to lose the rest.
Don't look back.

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Leatherhead's picture

June 09, 2022 at 01:52 pm

The sad fact of the matter is that we're going to say goodbye to some good football players. I know that's hard to believe, considering the general incompetency of our personnel department that people say we have, but this roster is pretty freakin' good, IMO.

We're not going to cut our rookies. We're not cutting Amari. We're not cutting Cobb, who is a favorite of Rodgers. We're not cutting Lazard. We're not cutting Watkins unless he just stinks up the joint in training cap, which is unlikely.

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ricky's picture

June 08, 2022 at 12:55 pm

The problem is with the assumptions many are making about which WR's are a lock to make the team. I'm thinking primarily of Cobb and Wilkins. Even though Rodgers effectively demanded the Packers sign Cobb, he wasn't a factor in the passing game. The team brought him back at a smaller contract. However, according to OvertheCap, if he is cut, he'll cost the Packers over $4 million in dead cap. Cutting Watkins would cost them $350,000 on the cap, but would save them $1.4 million. So, Watkins could be gone if he doesn't do what it takes to make the team. Add in Winfree's ST's ability, and he could make the team. Not exactly a prediction, but if the younger and hungrier player overtakes the vet, don't be surprised.

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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

June 09, 2022 at 11:21 am

There is no Wilkins on the team. Cobb was a factor in the passing game, being a reliable target to move the chains on some key 3rd downs. He can still be that. Anybody assuming a lock right now is just being silly. There is the entire summer and early preseason to determine the final squad. No reason to even speculate at this point. It's likely that injuries will also affect this group at some point, which will give an opportunity to someone who might not otherwise have gotten that.

See D Back starting at LT as a 4th round rookie, B Bulaga being the youngest player to ever start in a super bowl, etc.

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jannes bjornson's picture

June 09, 2022 at 12:30 pm

Tauscher, , Myers, Newman, Daniels.......

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Leatherhead's picture

June 08, 2022 at 01:06 pm

We have a plethora of pass catchers with potential at the position.

If Juwaan Winfree makes much of any contribution this year, it'll be because of injuries AND poor performance by people ahead of him, which would be bad for the team. Ideally, Watkins and Lazard and Amari Rodgers will be our Big 3, getting most of the snaps and targets. Watson and Doubs will be developed slowly.....they aren't going to start Day 1 and get 10 targets.

As the season progresses, I suspect we'll decide we want Watson on the field more at the expense of one of the Big 3. Or a guy could get hurt.

As regards Winfree specifically, unless one of the guys ahead of him is already on IR by the time we cut to 53 men (which would be bad for the team), he's not going to make the cut. IMO, the Win/Win scenario is that Winfree has a fantastic summer, and somebody trades a Day 3 pick for him. He gets to play somewhere and the Packers get some compensation for a guy who wasn't going to make the team anyway.

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Coldworld's picture

June 08, 2022 at 03:51 pm

Injuries typically do shake the WR room up in most summers and seasons, but if Winfree can stay healthy and produce he’s going to get a shot. Outside of Lazard, we have an older, injury prone Cobb and Watkins, who is also an in season injury risk. After that it’s really rookies and a couple of guys who’ve seldom played but who should know the system.

Any player who can perform on STs is going to have a leg up and any player who can run routes effectively and catch the ball before September is going to make a strong case for being in the field in September this year. Winfree had apparently learned all positions by the end of last year. He’s the one non vet potentially able to play all WR positions. If he keeps it up and earns ST favor, I can see him not only making the roster but earning snaps.

We need an active guy who can help on STs and fill in wherever an injury occurs at the very least. I don’t see the rookies being ready for that general utility initially. I can easily see Winfree making this team unless all the rookies catch fire. As Rodgers implied, that’s not very likely. Realism is key.

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Leatherhead's picture

June 08, 2022 at 05:12 pm

Injuries do play a big part of what happens at WR.

The Packers can keep 6 WR on the 53, and dress 5 on gameday. Our putative starters are Watkins and Lazard, and since we play quite a bit of 3 WR formations, our #3 and #4 guys have to be ready and they'll get some snaps and a few targets. #5 is unlikely to get snaps unless you run a play for him to see what he looks like in a game. #6 will be inactive.

#3 and #4, at this point, are probably Amari and Watson. Combined, these two guys caught 4 passes for us last year, and I'd expect that number to be a lot higher this year, like maybe around 70 or more.

#5 is Doubs, and #6 is Cobb. If everybody is healthy and ready to play, it'll be the coach's decision about who to sit. Toure starts the season on the Practice Squad.

That's the way it looks to me, Coldword. I don't see how the math works to accommodate a special teams guy, or a guy like Winfree. You're going to keep 6 on the 53, I think those six, barring injury, are going to be Lazard, Watkins, Amari, Watson, Doubs, Cobb.

If one of those guys is already on IR by the start of the season, then maybe there's a tiny crack of a chance for Winfree, but other than that, it just doesn't add up for me.

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Coldworld's picture

June 09, 2022 at 08:31 am

This year is a somewhat unusual one for WRs as far as the Packers are concerned. We have one piece, Lazard, but he’s not going to carry the team and he’s not a player who looks well suited to playing all the WR roles. In fact, he’s got a particular niche that would suffer were he to do so.

Behind that you have Cobb, who is effective but not likely to play the majority of snaps and Watkins, who is younger but has been serially injured. Both can contribute but again, due to health, are likely to be used for specific purposes and protected and need an active alternative on game day.

Then you have raw players, Rodgers, Watson, Doubs and Toure and Winfree and Taylor. The first group have a lot to learn. Expecting Watson to master the entire route tree this summer is ridiculous (though it’s what they asked of Rodgers last year). Hopefully the goal is to get these players comfortable in specific roles initially, and Rodgers comfortable with them in those roles.

Taylor was excellent in the preseason last year then promptly ditched for ESB who wasn’t and now isn’t here. Why baffles me but it happened. Someone isn’t a fan. I don’t know what he did wrong. Winfree was by far the standout before that. He showed excellent Vision, hands and ability to create space. Then he got injured and never got to play with Rodgers once he returned. That’s just very unfortunate timing.

The interesting thing is that Winfree looked like a player who can play all the positions. Look at this roster and Winfree may be the only one capable of doing so effectively at this point, though Doubs might be the next most likely possibility, but that’s a huge, maybe naive, ask by September.

Finally, we have STs. This year STs standouts have a better chance than usual of tipping the balance I think. We talk a lot about LBs, S and TEs on STs, but the other core source is often WRs. If Winfree or Taylor can shine as Gunners or elsewhere, then that makes them attractive to keep. Lazard, Cobb and Watkins aren’t going to be core STers. An extra ST relevant WR would be very useful. If that WR is also capable of filling in at all WR roles then particularly so.

That’s the route for Taylor, Winfree or Toure absent injuries during camp/preseason and after. Let one of them grab it, but if they do, don’t be surprised to see that player in the roster and getting snaps. Such a player might, with smart coaching, actually help the likes of Watson and Doubs develop faster through focusing on what they do best at this point. Let’s hope attrition doesn’t play to big a part in winnowing the competition.

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Leatherhead's picture

June 09, 2022 at 10:12 am

You keep saying "special teams".

Winfree is not a punter, kicker, holder, or long snapper. He's not a guy who is an interior blocker on punts and placements. He's not our returner. So I'm thinking that you're thinking "gunner" on punts and kickoffs. My solution would be to punt the ball out of bounds, and kick it through the endzone, thereby making gunners irrelevant. You, apparently, would rather give our opponents a chance to return so that our superduper special teams demons can "make a play", but you don't seem to acknowledge that they're just as likely to "make a play" for the other team.

We're keeping Watkins, Lazard, Amari, Watson, Doubs, and Cobb. Toure will start the season on the practice squad. Winfree and Taylor are not going to make the team. Of course, injuries during training camp could change that, but unless one of those six is on IR by the opener, Winfree and Taylor are just about finished in Green Bay. We didn't draft three WRs because we're so high on the guys on the bottom of the roster.

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Coldworld's picture

June 09, 2022 at 11:36 am

There are other roles for WRs on ST other than KR&PR. I suspect Doubs may be the punt returner. It’s possible Watson returns kicks. If so, one or two obvious ST gunner candidates are otherwise occupied, for example. The praise earned by Winfree so far has been as a gunner. There are more ways to contribute as a WR than just as a returner.

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jannes bjornson's picture

June 09, 2022 at 12:00 pm

Three man competition for the #6 spot between Winfree, Rodgers and Taylor. Toure' may shine as #7 or end up
on the P squad. One of these guys may be traded? As you have stated, there is a probability somebody is injured early in this season or Summer Camp. A good problem to have.

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GregC's picture

June 08, 2022 at 04:24 pm

That's where I'm at with Winfree too. At best he is the #6 WR right now, and if Doubs has a good camp, Winfree is #7 and doesn't even make the team unless someone ahead of him gets injured. Always good to hear about a young player who is exceeding expectations though. The Packers are lacking in star quality at WR, but the depth is not terrible. Malik Taylor also has a shot to be a decent option if needed.

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Roadrunner23's picture

June 08, 2022 at 01:22 pm

Let’s hope Winfrey is the sleeper superstar we’ve been waiting for at wide receiver and not another Kabian Ento, all promise but no production.
I am in Winfrey‘s corner I think he has the ability to take over in the Allen Lazard role next year if he leaves in free agency. But first he hast to make the team this year, I hope he does

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Coldworld's picture

June 08, 2022 at 03:54 pm

Ento hasn’t played a game. Hard to produce if you aren’t active or even on the roster. I’d say this is his make or break year. He has cover skills but can he show both a willingness and ability to tackle?

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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

June 09, 2022 at 11:28 am

How can an undrafted guy be "all promise but no production." He was always a project and a prospect, changing from WR to CB. These are bottom of the roster guys and once a while a Tramon Williams or Sam Sheilds emerges, but that's the exception, not the rule. Every off season there are a number of articles highlighting roster fringe guys that make a couple of plays in practice, training camp or even preseason. Only rarely does it translate to actual snaps during the season b/c there is a reason these players weren't drafted.

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mbpacker's picture

June 08, 2022 at 02:00 pm

I hate to bring it up but Cobb and Watkins have injury histories and older vets. Hope they can stay healthy but its a long season. Hope some of the receivers can ball out on ST's so we have them in house if needed. Also, Tunyan isn't a given to be back at his former level. Need as many players that can receive as possible. GPG!

4 points
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Mike Rossmeier's picture

June 08, 2022 at 03:15 pm

I think last year he just had bad luck. One bad drop and I saw Rodgers miss him while open.
He's stuck with it - I'll pull for him.

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Swisch's picture

June 08, 2022 at 08:13 pm

Agree that in a way it doesn't matter much in June, but in other ways it matters a lot.
We are in great need of wide receivers who know the offense and have some experience in the NFL.
If Juwann Winfree is ready to come into his own; if he can get open, catch the ball and make some moves downfield, as well as block; plus play special teams, then he could be a treasure for the Packers.
Also, we always need guys who are enthusiastic and determined and love to play football.
It doesn't matter when a player is drafted, or where he comes from, I'm going to get excited about him if he has a good attitude looks promising for making a significant contribution.
I hope Winfree is so good that they're reluctant to play him on special teams.
As far as I can tell, there are many question marks at the position of wide receiver for the Packers, so much so that starting jobs are there for the taking.
P.S. Glad to hear from other fans as to what they think about Winfree as far as speed, hands, shiftiness, and blocking. Is there any reason he can't be at least a WR2?

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GatorJason's picture

June 08, 2022 at 05:20 pm

The Packers have not had a true WR2 since 2017 when Jordy was a descending WR1 and Adams was a rising WR2. Cobb was also on the team but not able to get open consistently enough to warrant being called a true WR2.

Rodgers said Allen Lazard could move from being WR goon/garbage role receiver to WR1. Not really. He is what he is, a big, strong WR/TE hybrid who plays a very physical game. I think Lazard's goon duties helped him when targeted because DB's were conditioned to think of him more as a blocker/screener than primary target. If the Packers starting treating him as a primary target, DBs would be contesting every throw.

Winfree is intriguing but agree with others he must win his way on the 53. If he can stay healthy (available) and make plays on ST (productive), he can climb from WR6 to a rotation receiver. No more free rides on the development squad. There are others who deserve a chance on the development squad if they do not make the initial 53.

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Swisch's picture

June 08, 2022 at 05:23 pm

I think Lazard could be a WR2, and this is the season for him to show it.

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Leatherhead's picture

June 08, 2022 at 05:33 pm

I think he's been WR2 on a very good offense since 2019, when he broke free of the pack and claimed the job with some nice catches on the road in Detroit. Since then, if he's healthy, he starts. We were the league's #1 offense in 2020, and he was our WR2.

He IS a WR2, and a better than average one, and he wants the Packers to acknowledge that.

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Swisch's picture

June 08, 2022 at 06:22 pm

You may be right, Leatherhead.
Maybe $10 million per year for four years, with incentives.

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Leatherhead's picture

June 08, 2022 at 07:17 pm

If MVS is worth $10 million for one year...........And St. Brown just signed a FA offer too, so I'm sure Lazard is saying "wait a minute".

Flash....while checking with Spotrac, they just said that Lazard signed a 1 year, $4 million deal.

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Swisch's picture

June 08, 2022 at 08:16 pm

That would seem to give Lazard this season to prove he's worth $20 million per year.

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dobber's picture

June 09, 2022 at 10:36 am

I think the Packers want to wait to see if they've improved on Lazard with their draft picks. Why sign him to that kind of money if it turns out he's getting replaced sooner rather than later? He's not going anywhere...yet.

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Gbfan55's picture

June 08, 2022 at 09:10 pm

I agree. Lazard has proven his worth every time he has been given the chance. He has done the 'garbage/goon' duties cause that is what the team needed. He is well worth what MVS was given. Why would you not want that kind of player?? I hate for him to leave Green Bay but if we won't appreciate what he brings to a team maybe someone else can...and the offensive passing at GB for the last few years has been focused on Adam's. I bet if Kupp where on the team with Adam's he would not even have the stats he has today... Adams was the go to guy.. I get why but it doesn't show the true talent of any other receivers

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MainePackFan's picture

June 08, 2022 at 06:55 pm

I think you make reasonable points, but why do we need a WR1? Didn't many in here spend the whole offseason complaining that AR was too locked in on DA?

How about we have a WR1 and a WR1A? I have confidence that Lazard is fully capable of making plays in clutch moments. Same with Cobb and Watkins.

Send Watson and Doubs deep just like you did with MVS and the rest will take care of itself. We have weapons, we just don't have DA. As much as we all loved him, that might not turn out to be a bad thing. Time will tell who steps up.

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Swisch's picture

June 08, 2022 at 08:23 pm

I do like the idea of spreading the ball around, although Cooper Kupp showed in the Super Bowl that it's good to have a superstar wide receiver to go to in the clutch.
The key is to have a WR1 who will share the targets, as Kupp seems to do.
It was great having Davante until it went too far, as shown in the first half of the Lions game at the end the season. That was embarrassing to both Davante and Rodgers.
Their last dance was highly exclusive between the two of them. It came back to severely hurt the Packers in the playoffs.

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dobber's picture

June 09, 2022 at 09:39 am

When Winfree was active in 2021, he WAS a rotation WR. He outsnapped AmRod and Malik Taylor whenever active, and was comparable with ESB. Played about 75% of the offensive snaps against Arizona. They like this guy. Even if he doesn't make the 53, which feels like an uphill climb, he's a PS candidate.

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jhtobias's picture

June 08, 2022 at 05:25 pm

Why for two years has their been all this hype about this man ? I guess the tyler davis hype train news was slow today

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porupack's picture

June 09, 2022 at 05:51 am

And, your definition of hype is what?

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dobber's picture

June 09, 2022 at 09:41 am

Jared Abbrederis, Jeff Janis, ESB, Reggie Begelton, Jake Kumerow--there's an OTA sweetheart every year.

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Swisch's picture

June 08, 2022 at 05:46 pm

Ain't it grand to be able to comment on action on the field, however limited it may be, but still football?

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Grandfathered's picture

June 08, 2022 at 06:33 pm

If both Cobb and Watkins are healthy at the start of the season , I could see keeping 7 WR and only 3 TE or 3 Safeties.I think Winfree beats out Toure and Taylor.

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Grandfathered's picture

June 08, 2022 at 06:41 pm

By the way folks, I've never seen so many misspellings and incorrect names on a comments board. Its Sammy Watkins, Juwann Winfree, and Christian Watson. There is no Wilkins, Tunyan, or Winfrey.

6 points
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Pantz_Burp's picture

June 08, 2022 at 07:02 pm

R-E-L-A-X. 😁

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HarryHodag's picture

June 09, 2022 at 08:29 am

Good job by Winfree to turn heads.

I'm going to take the moment to go off a bit on what I call the national sports media dopes. Add Judy Battista from NFL.com to the list. She had a list of five teams that helped their QB's and three that didn't. Guess where Green Bay ended up? Why? Because....they didn't draft a wide receiver in the first round!
According to her logic because they didn't draft a receiver in the first round there's no way the Packers can match the production from Adams and MVS.

So Judy: did you notice the Packers COULD have drafted Watson in the first round? Would that six pick difference have made him a sure-fire superstar? Watson graded out a first round talent. The dopes focus on an illogical argument that if you draft someone in the first round they are superstars. Of course she also forgets that Davante Adams was drafted in the second round.Those two first round picks, Walker and Wyatt, are very likely to upgrade the defense, which Judy, also helps the quarterback.

Also, totally missing from the hit piece was a mention of Sammy Watkins. Sammy has been injured, yes, but he's been a starting-level receiver in the league for many years. Did you forget that fact Judy?
I don't know who started the "no number one receivers makes the Packers a lesser team" line of horse poo but they also forget something else: WITH Adams the Packers lost to the 49'ers in the playoffs.
They also continued to win during the season when Adams was hurt.

Sorry to blow my stack but I've had enough. The dopes don't do their research, look at random numbers without context then come up with this grand illusion that the Packers are on the skids because they haven't done what the media wants.

1 points
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Coldworld's picture

June 09, 2022 at 08:36 am

Once I used to follow such sources. Not for a long time though. It’s all about talking and not about detailed knowledge these days. It’s just easy content rather than insight.

1 points
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Leatherhead's picture

June 09, 2022 at 11:52 am

Hodag, it's all entertainment. It doesn't matter if it's sports, news, sitcoms, dramas.....it doesn't have to be true, it doesn't have to be right, it doesn't have to be fair, it doesn't have to be insightful......it just has to be something people will watch, or listen to, or read.

Hell, you're a radio guy. You know that.

If you want to know about a team, go to their fansites and read for a little while. Go to footballsfuture.com and read what their fans think. You'll surely get a clearer picture than Judy is giving you. Of course, there are nitwits on every fan board, but there's plenty of people who know what they're talking about, too.

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