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Young Receivers Primed for Big 2019

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Young Receivers Primed for Big 2019

With all of the recent talk about whether the Green Bay Packers should explore a trade for disgruntled Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown, it's easy to forget what the Packers already have.

Brown is a flashy name and many are still scorned by Green Bay losing the bidding war for linebacker Khalil Mack last offseason.  Sure, at the right price, adding Brown would be a boon for the Packers offense.  But if they don't, the team appears to be in better shape in 2019 than they've been.

Last year was the first season in 10 years that Jordy Nelson wasn't on the Packers roster.  He didn't play in 2015 and by season's end, the receiver group was a total M*A*S*H unit.  Last season, the Green Bay offense sputtered along while three rookie receivers learned the offense.

J'Mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown were all 2018 draftees.  Moore was a fourth round pick but struggled most to get on the field.  Valdes-Scantling appeared on his way to being the best of the rookie bunch, but he also dealt with some struggles.  St. Brown came on late in the season and shows a ton of promise in 2019 and beyond.

The loss of Nelson wasn't lost in any comment sections or even player comments last year.  It was hard to let go of such a steady part of the offense and watch as the young trio dealt with the many bumps in their rookie learning curve.

Learning an NFL offense is something every rookie has to deal with.  Learning to play with a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers is an entirely different thing.  Whether we like it or not, Rodgers has a style and set of preferences that prevail every Sunday.  He has receivers he trusts and those he doesn't.  

A quick glance at last year's stats shows that none of those three rookies caught a ball until week two.  Remember that crazy opener against the Chicago Bears?  That was all done without any contribution from the rookie receivers.  St. Brown didn't catch his first ball until October and wasn't active for several early games.  Moore was even more inactive.

We've done an extensive amount of film breakdown of last season here at Cheesehead TV and with more to come.  One recent piece by our own Dusty Evely focused on every throwaway ball Rodgers threw last season.  Not all were simply attributable to the young receivers not getting open or being where they were supposed to, but that was a common reason.

One thing many eyes will be on this offseason and as we move towards 2019 is how well the young pass catchers are endearing themselves to Rodgers.  And vice versa.  With a new head coach in Matt LaFleur, the expectation is that Rodgers gets the protection he needs, feels comfortable in the offense and plays within the scheme.

That puts the onus on both the receivers and Rodgers to take the success the defense is giving them.  The hope is that the route running improves for all three second-year guys.  After all, they have one of the best examples of receiver footwork in the NFL on their own team in Davante Adams.

Taking the development and potential a step further, Valdes-Scantling caught four balls of 40 yards or more including a three-game stretch where he had one each week.  St. Brown's longest catch and run was 54 yards in his first game against the Detroit Lions.  Expect to see more success via the long ball in 2019 as the receivers hone their speed within the offense.

I can't promise a return of the never ending shot play that we saw so often during the Super Bowl years, but the production from the receiver group should take a nice jump from last year.  Add in that the Packers likely return Geronimo Allison and could also draft a receiver and there's more to hitch the wagon to.  

If anything materializes with Brown and the Packers, you'll read about it first here at Cheesehead TV but if it doesn't, there is still a lot to be encouraged about from the receiver group in 2019.

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Jason is a freelance writer on staff since 2012 and also co-hosts Pulse of the Pack podcast.  You can follow him on Twitter here

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (38) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

The TKstinator's picture

I’d wager that on a lazy Sunday, many of us here are even “more inactive” than Moore.
Now it’s year two for these guys, but it’s year ONE for the MLF offense. Eager to see how that influences things.

Packer Fan's picture

I hope these young players improve and one or two have break out years. But none are true slot receivers. We need to assess Cobb and I think he should go. Sign FA Humphries from Tampa Bay and draft Andy Isabella to both be slot receivers. Humphries will probably cost half what Cobb makes. And he gives some veteran help.

Old School's picture

I think that LaFleur has a pretty strong history of double TE sets, and if that continues then we'll see less of the 3 WR sets than we have in the past.

I also think we threw 640 passes, third most in the league last year, while finishing dead last in rushing attempts. I think we'll see LaFleur move towards balancing that out a little.

Gutekunst drafted three tall WRs last year, hoping that he'd get at least one starter quality guy and one useful backup, and I think he succeeded.

I'm not seeing any real compelling need to improve the WR unit with a free agent or a draft pick. The offense would most benefit from some help on the line, and perhaps one more RB to help Jones and Williams during a very long season. And of course, double TE sets require TEs. We only have two under contract right now.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Dougherty reported in the JSO Sunday morning that Brown wants a new contract.

The TKstinator's picture

Sheesh, what next with that guy?

sonomaca's picture

You can’t make unhappy people into happy people no matter how much money, love, or attention you give them.

Nick Perry's picture

I really like MVS and ESB a lot. I think both youngsters will be much better next season even though they'll be learning a whole new offense. Just an offseason of working on their craft will help, but with a year of learning to read NFL defenses and what those defenses are trying to do, I think they'll take a jump. The question is how BIG of jump.

Still like the Packers to sign a slot receiver in FA. Humphries, Beasley, Crowder, or even Golden Tate. I think Tate and Beasley might be cheaper considering their age, but the Packers need that quickness in the slot.

The Packers have more size than they've ever had at WR right now and I'm looking forward to watching them in this new offense. Something tells me MLF will actaully take advantage of these receivers strenghts like size and speed. Something McCarthy seemed to get away from the last few years. I mean I'm still trying to figure out what the hell McCarthy was doing with Mercedes Lewis. WHY was the BEST run blocking TE in football in 2017 on the bench most of the time in 2018. Especially when neither of the TE's in front of him could block.

LambeauPlain's picture

Not playing Lewis is as big a mystery as only runnung the ball 32% of the time for a team that was one of the best doing it.

I think ML will give Lewis a long look and discuss him with Gutey.

I’d let Kendricks go, keep Graham, Lewis and Tonyan....and hope Hockenson is there at #30.

Old School's picture

Agree on Lewis. He's one of the best blocking TEs in the league, and he's a vet, and he's a smart guy.

Right now he's unsigned. He's kind of old and isn't going to play for the vet minimum. IF we don't resign him, I'm suspecting that indicates a TE early in the draft. LaFleur likes to play the double TE set and that requires TEs.

Tonyan is unsigned, too. We can get him for the minimum.

The only TE on the roster, other than Graham, is Bayliss.

Old School's picture

Nick Perry, I'm suspecting that we're going to see more double TE sets and fewer 3 WR sets. I also wouldn't be surprised to see Jimmy Graham playing as a big slot receiver.....which is where he's been successful in the past. Not in line, not spread out like a WR.

The FAs you named, Beasley et. al, would all cost in the same range as Randall Cobb....about $15 million for two years. Given Cobb's extensive familiarity with Rodgers, it would seem that we'd benefit from just resigning Cobb if we want to spend a bunch of FA money on the position.

We have around $30 million in FA money, and as we've discussed in the past, we could get TWO good safeties and TWO veteran offensive linemen for that money. IF we burn about $8 million in 2019 cap space on a FA at WR then that's $8 million less we have to work with.

I think we'll end up making do with what we have regarding a slot receiver. I see Graham as a big slot, and maybe Brown. We could also see Kumerow there, and I think we'll use the cap money elsewhere.

fthisJack's picture

the problem with Cobb is he can't stay on the field. move on and get a slot receiver in the draft who isn't going to cost much. i wouldn't be unhappy if they drafted Hollywood Brown at 30 if he's there. dynamic slot receiver.

stockholder's picture

Given Cobb's extensive familiarity with Rodgers, it would seem that we'd benefit from just resigning Cobb if we want to spend a bunch of FA money on the position.//// Old School I believe you could be right. But I don't like it. Still you have a point. I also don't like that it gives up on the 3 rookie Wrs behind him. I also don't like the thought of taking a Wr in the first round! ( And the costs there, or a guy taking to long to learn.) When they could pay Cobb. Throwing money at Cobb would keep Rodgers happy. BUT He's lost separation, he could improve his ability to catch again. And he can return punts. Still the time off. has me believing the packers need to move on.

LambeauPlain's picture

ESB mostly played from the slot and was showing exciting promise.

He is a smooth route runner with a huge catch radius.

But what stood out to me on tape was his downfield blocking. Look at some of AJ’s best runs when ESB was on the field and you will see the WR in the play, plowing the road.

And he is just what, 22 yrs old? Huge upside.

nostradanus's picture

MLF and Gute I am sure have been pouring over film and discussing this very subject (among many others)

They most likely have come to the conclusion that Cobb is too injury prone at slot and it is time to explore the possibility that ESB or Kumerow in the slot with a draft choice like Samuel or Isabella would be just fine.

New HC + New Offensive Scheme = New Ideas how to maximize the talents of the same players within a new framework.

Some of these same players that showed promise will fail, but some will blossom!

That is all....

The TKstinator's picture

Go Pack!

The TKstinator's picture

Stay classy, Green Bay.

EddieLeeIvory's picture

Cole Beasley is so much better as a slot guy than Cobb has been.
I don't know what type of $$ the guy will command.

LambeauPlain's picture

Eddie....”so much better as a slot guy than Cobb” based on what?

Certainly not based on production. Cobb is far better in yards total and yds/catch.

And certainly not as a team leader....Beasley is a whiner and very self centered.

4thand1's picture

Beasley= jag.

Skip greenBayless's picture

Agree 4th and 1. Maybe it's just me by all I see in Beasley is another Guido Merkens. Anybody else see the similarities?

Dash

LambeauPlain's picture

Unless Cobb takes a BIG pay cut, he’s gone. But if he does, I’d like to see him back. He’s so intelligent and great after the catch. Always in the right spot and has ESP with #12.

I would load up his K with incentives and hope his 2018 injuries were an anomaly. A better teammate you will not find.

Handsback's picture

I have been an advocate for picking up a vet slot receiver. There's a part of me that wants the Packers to forget about that and keep building up the rookies from last year. I figure one maybe two go into a sophomore slump. If that happens, you still have enough firepower to keep the passing game going strong without signing AB or another slot guy. In fact if the Packers sign a star player I would prefer Bell over Brown. He would fit better in ML's offense and provide greater impact than Brown as a receiver.

PeteK's picture

I think we're under valuing Kumerow. He has hustle, grit and is sure handed.

Samson's picture

He's an UFA, 27 years old & on his 3rd team. He also came from a D3 college. He's another NFL WR project. -- All these reasons point toward him returning to his day job, sooner rather than later.

Johnblood27's picture

WOULD YOU LIKE FRIES WITH THAT?

JUST THE SANDWICH OR WOULD YOU LIKE THE COMBO?

sonomaca's picture

Had he not injured himself, he’d have had a chance to showcase himself. Now, he might be replaced by draft picks or FA’s. Darwin Award winner.

Madfan's picture

Big slot vs. small slot?

On a number of occasions, the Packers have played Finley, Nelson and St. Brown in the slot, giving them a major size advantage over smaller slot CBs.

It will be interesting to see whether LaFleur prefers the larger of smaller slot receivers. Ideally, he would have both.

mrtundra's picture

Most everyone here seems to forget that we signed Allen Lazard, WR-Iowa State, near the end of this past season. I think he will give a lot of competition to the WR group in camp and may work himself into one of the WR spots on the 53 man roster. He was pretty good at Iowa State. Give him a shot and I think he won't disappoint.

Samson's picture

In .... Adams, ESB, MVS, free-agent, draft pick, +1.
Out .... Cobb, Kumerow, Lazard, Redding.
Fence .... Allison, Moore, Davis.

Bottom line truth: The Pack have nothing but some potential after D. Adams. -- Not another WR on the 90 man is a proven NFL player. (Cobb is gone, no matter what)

I'm think'in Gute will shore up this position with a surprise or two (in free agency or a high draft pick). Gute needs to cut the yearly WR riff-raff that the Pack had under TT & MM.

AR will need better WRs to get the Pack back above .500 & into the playoffs in 2019. -- The present group just won't do.

fthisJack's picture

i think Allison has done more than enough to be on this roster next year. he was a guy that had Rodgers trust and is a good route runner and rarely drops the ball. get rid of Davis...he hasn't doen squat except for a couple punt returns but cant stay on the field. that experiment should be over.

sonomaca's picture

This is an excellent tight end class. Might not need too much receiving help if the Pack take one or two.

This is also a deep receiver class, although lacking in top tier talent.

The free agent receiver class isn’t great. Beasley has taken a pounding in Dallas. Not sure how long he’s going to last.

sam1's picture

Like it or not I still thin Cobb will be brought bck. He is still young enough and under contract and he is the only one besides Adams at this point who has Rodgers trust! One more year is my bet and then he gets let go when the other guys up their games.

RCPackerFan's picture

I REALLY like the MVS and EQ. Both are big fast targets and have the potential to be really good! I thought both showed us enough that they have the skills to be really good.
I think Moore has skills, but he has some catching up to do. Well actually he just has some catching to do. He needs to catch the ball. Perhaps a lot of it was he was thinking to much. Which he basically said as much.

With Adams, MVS and EQ we are set up well. Add in Kumerow and we have a really talented group of 4.

That all being said we still need to add to the position though. While I like MVS and EQ do we want to fully trust that they are the guys? We have seen this before with Randall and Rollins. They had very promising rookie years to follow up with basically nothing and both are gone.
I want to see them keep adding to the position and make sure they aren't relying on guys who had good rookie years.
Also, if they do turn out to be the players that we think they are, what happens if one gets hurt. Or a few of them. Continue to add play makers to the position will only make the team stronger.

There are some options in free agency that I wouldn't mind seeing them go after. There are some really good players they could draft too.
Not going to lie, it would be intriguing adding a guy like DK (Thanos) Metcalf to the team.

Jonathan Spader's picture

Can't believe Penny Hart didn't get a combine invite. Here's hoping that hurts his draft stock and the Packers can pick him up in the 5th or 6th round.

Bure9620's picture

I am not of the opinion WR is as big of a need like many. MVS And EQ have big ceilings with their size and Athleticism. I look for big 2nd year jumps from those 2. We have huge needs at FS, SS, RG, EDGE and I would argue we need another DT. Being dominant on the LOS allows Pettine so much flexibility. Daniels is likely on his last year. If Ed Oliver is available at 12, you take him. Oliver and Clark Could be a dominant interior tandem for years to come. I am also in favor of resigning Wilkerson on a reasonable deal.

stockholder's picture

I believe if we fix the OL and it's depth. We won't have to worry about who's playing WR or TE.

Jonathan Spader's picture

Giving Rodgers more time to throw the ball won't help if the WRs can't get open. Of course it matters who is playing WR and TE. Not following your line of thinking here stockholder.

KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

My belief is the Packers are set at WR with the exception of a very good shifty slot receiver. Love the 3 rookie WR's last year and expect huge growth this year. Shocked so many think the Pack need to pick-up a veteran FA. Save cap money for OL, Safety, and OLB. Look what NE does in SB with their slot guy. Unstoppable! The Pack needs the same kind of talent at slot. Priority even before TE on offense.

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