Green Bay Packers

Green Bay's WR Group Is As Versatile As It Is Dangerous

Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan (USA TODAY Sports)

While the Green Bay Packers’ game against the Baltimore Ravens came too close for comfort, the Green and Gold ultimately won. On a day where the Arizona Cardinals fell to the Detroit Lions, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were shut out by the New Orleans Saints, an ugly win is still a win.

Baltimore put up a heck of a fight, especially considering they’re one of the few teams as injury-riddled as the Packers. The Ravens were particularly thin in the secondary, playing corners with little experience in NFL games or usually buried on the depth chart.

I’ve been preaching about getting the run game going week after week, but this was the week to throw the ball. However, due to some creative schemes from the Ravens’ defense, Green Bay decided this was a great game to establish the run. The Packers didn’t entirely dominate through the air as expected.

Still, Rodgers played well enough to tie the franchise passing-touchdown record with his predecessor. Rodgers was efficient when targeting his wide receivers, and each of his top guys got to showcase their iconic traits against the battered Baltimore secondary.

Allen Lazard

We’ll start with Allen Lazard, who was, coincidentally, the first receiver to start making moves. Once again, the Packers’ offense started slow, and with Rodgers’ toe injury keeping him from practice, it seems like that’s unlikely to change. Lazard’s stats on the day weren’t anything special (two catches on four targets for 23 yards), but he made the kind of plays that show why he matters so much to this offense.

Lazard was the early chain-mover while the offense tried to get out of bed, with a beautiful gain of 17 for a big first down. He is exceptional at getting those tough yards and using his frame and reliable hands to make plays. Lazard has been quietly ascending over the past few weeks after a slow start to the season.

He did have a rare brutal drop in the third quarter, but the referees bailed him out with a weak DPI penalty. And Rodgers missed an open Lazard on what should have been his franchise record-breaking TD pass. But still, his blocking skills and ability to get tough yards in crucial situations were on full display. Lazard is almost a pseudo-tight end, and he makes the offense better even when Rodgers isn’t targeting him.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling

While Lazard’s stats might not be eye-popping, his fellow receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling had a beautiful day. MVS led the day in yardage (98) in addition to scoring the record-tying TD from Rodgers.

Lazard got the tough yards, but MVS got the big yards. Rodgers connected with the speedy receiver early for a 31-yard gain, and the connection stayed strong all game. Rodgers completed a gorgeous How-in-the-hell-did-he-manage-that?! 28-yard completion to MVS on one of his best throws of the year. MVS would later catch an 11-yard TD with a Space Jam-esque forward stretch.

It’s taken Valdes-Scantling a bit to reacclimate from his injury, and Rodgers has missed him plenty of times. But he’s heating up at the right time and making big plays when he needs to. He’s a large part of the offense’s power and provides that deep threat needed to open things up.

Rodgers is proud of the young receiver. After the victory, he told MVS, “That’s the Marquez I know” in the locker room. Davante Adams previously warned that other guys would break out if defenses spent all of their attention on him. So far, MVS has been the one benefiting.

Davante Adams

Speaking of Adams, it seemed inevitable that he’d have a big game against the Baltimore secondary. The best wideout in the game versus practice squad guys sounded like a massacre in waiting.

Yet, the Ravens essentially held Adams in check. Baltimore couldn’t counter him with raw talent, so Don Martindale countered with numbers and scheme. Adams almost always had two defenders tailing him at all times, which Rodgers described after the game as “[T]the greatest respect level that somebody can give you, to literally line up two guys on you for the majority of the game.”

Rodgers also added that some of the pre-snap alignments were unfamiliar to him, providing a challenge to the best duo in the league.

And so one of Adams’ most unique traits was on display: He’s so frightening that the entire defensive gameplan has to account for him. He makes the game look stupidly easy in a way other players can’t. Even the very threat of Adams is enough to force defenders to play a certain way.

He had just 44 yards on the day, but Adams took focus away from MVS, Aaron Jones, and Marcedes Lewis, who were able to terrorize through the air.

Adams still had a moment of his own, a three-yard TD pass from Rodgers where he Houdinied the defender thanks to his incomparable release and route-running ability. It was Adams’ 70th career TD, putting him ahead of Jordy Nelson for sole possession of second in team history. Despite the offense running less smoothly than last season, Adams is as dynamic as ever.

The old “Packers have no weapons” argument rings as hollow as ever. Green Bay has a versatile toolbelt of receiving options who can win differently. Their numbers may not always be as gaudy as other teams’ receiving corps, but the Packers play as a group, and every receiver is a vital piece in the machine. Each of them was able to show why they matter against the Baltimore Ravens, and all three will play significant roles in the playoffs.

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