While most eyes were on Jordan Love in the Green Bay Packers’ preseason opener against the Houston Texans on Saturday night, another offensive player who hasn’t seen live game action in a while stood out both on the field and in the box score.
In a week where the main reason Devin Funchess was in the news was for his use of a racial slur following Family Night at Lambeau Field, the 27-year-old wideout let his play do the talking against the Texans, collecting six passes for 70 yards, including snagging this Jordan Love pass over the middle for 15 yards late in the first quarter.
Funchess has been working his way back up to game speed, having missed the better part of two full seasons after breaking his foot early in the 2019 season as a member of the Indianapolis Colts and opting out of this past season due to concerns over COVID-19. When he was at his best and healthiest in 2017, Funchess led the Carolina Panthers with 840 yards receiving on 63 catches for eight touchdowns.
Having Funchess healthy, motivated, and playing with the reigning NFL MVP could cement his spot not only on the 53-man roster but as a productive member of the offense. If rosters were being decided today, Brian Gutekunst would have a hard time keeping Funchess on the outside looking in. If Funchess’ unfortunate comments last week are truly a one-time thing that the Packers are willing to forgive him for, it seems like his spot is secure.
Is Funchess a lock yet? No, certainly not, and a lot could change before Green Bay plays the New Orleans Saints in Week 1 on Sept. 12. With that being said, where does he stand in the pecking order?
- Davante Adams
- He’s the best wide receiver on the planet. I’m pretty sure he’s going to make the team.
- Marquez Valdes-Scantling
- If he can put it all together, the Packers’ best deep threat and poised for a huge season.
- Amari Rodgers
- Imagine Green Bay finally spending draft capital on a wide receiver and then cutting the guy. That wouldn’t go over well. The good news is that Rodgers appears to look the part in his rookie season.
- Randall Cobb
- Unless Gutekunst wants his MVP quarterback to get on his golf cart and high tail it out of town, Cobb is a lock to make the team. He has a proven rapport with Aaron Rodgers, who may give the veteran a few extra looks to prove the worth of his acquisition. Plus, Cobb should be an excellent mentor for Amari Rodgers.
- Allen Lazard
- The fact that Lazard didn’t suit up for the first preseason game is a great sign, and just a year after battling to make the team. He hasn’t got much publicity so far, but he’s in a contract year and will be looking to make the most of 2021.
The biggest question is exactly how many wide receivers the Packers will keep. In 2020, Green Bay opted to keep five wideouts on the initial 53-man roster — Adams, Lazard, MVS, Equanimeous St. Brown, and Malik Taylor. Taylor, St. Brown, and Juwann Winfree are all still in the mix, but Taylor has been the standout of that trio, especially considering the latter two have been bitten by the injury bug in training camp.
It will be an interesting decision to make if the Packers decide that they want to keep six wideouts. Funchess would more than likely be the more productive player within the offense, but when you’re looking that far down the depth chart, special teams begin to become an increasingly more significant factor. However, considering his last two seasons, it’s tough to envision a player like Funchess lining up on the kick coverage team. Plus, Taylor fits the mold physically more than Funchess does.
The rest of the wideouts don’t figure to contribute much on special teams coverage units. Amari Rodgers will be perhaps the most exciting special teams player on the roster, but that’s with the ball in his hands returning kicks. It’s tough to see the Packers going from five wide receivers one season to seven the next, especially considering the depth needed at other positions. In a recent Q&A Mailbag at The Athletic($), beat writer Matt Schneidman mused that the team would more than likely use the roster spot on a fifth inside linebacker, fourth edge rusher, or an 11th defensive back rather than a WR7.
With almost a month to go, including two more preseason games, there is plenty of time for players to raise their stock or, unfortunately, get injured. Should a player like Lazard, MVS, or Davante (oh god, please no) get hurt, Funchess would be the most logical fit for the role. If the top five remain healthy, perhaps Gutekunst values the special teams skills that a guy like Malik Taylor will bring.
Much is still in flux, and it was certainly a positive week for Funchess’ stock value, but the bottom of the wide receiver depth chart is far from etched in stone yet.