After a disappointing rookie season, the seeds are being planted for Amari Rodgers to have a breakout sophomore campaign. He’s tweeting the right things and the appropriate clichés are being thrown about. Still, it remains to be seen whether it’s all smoke, or if Rodgers will actually take a meaningful leap into being an impact player for the Green Bay Packers this season.
It’s impossible for a player to have a good season unless that player is rumored to be in the best shape of his life at some point during the offseason — despite the fact that these are professional athletes and their job is to be in incredible shape. Amari Rodgers took the honor of declaring that fact himself. The timing of this is important. When every NFL pundit in the world knew that the Packers would be targeting a wide receiver approximately a month before the draft, Rodgers wanted to generate just a little buzz for himself, reminding everyone that he plans on being in the mix.
In addition to his own tweets, he’s got in on the retweeting of motivational platitudes issued by star players in the league, such as wideout A.J. Brown saying, “If it’s not mutual, I don’t want it” or Alvin Kamara declaring “I remember everything.” These are always open for interpretation, but the phraseology on both tweets is the exact kind of vague nothingness that adds a thin layer of intrigue in the long offseason where just about everything is a story.
In addition to remembering everything while being in the best shape of his life, the people who matter are saying the right thing about Rodgers. According to USA Today, Green Bay wide receivers coach Jason Vrable agrees that Rodgers is in the best shape of his life and looks faster and stronger than ever before. That’s certainly something you’d like to hear from a guy who will have a lot to say about how much playing time you get during the season.
“Biggest thing we worked on, I talked to him in the offseason, how do you get your confidence? Well, you work and train harder than you ever did,” Vrable said. “His mindset is, ‘I’m going to be the No. 1 guy at all three positions.’ He has that going for him. His route-running is already cleaner and crisper. He’s trained an entire offseason.”
Stuff like this kind of matters in the Green Bay Packers’ system. This particular organization’s ability to draft and develop really is unparalleled in the league, as cliché as it might sound. You know all of those contracts the team re-worked and extended to make all the money fit? Well, the majority of those deals are for home-grown talents like Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones, David Bakhtiari, Jaire Alexander, Kenny Clark, and so on. Amari Rodgers would love to find himself in a position where the Packers are talking extension as opposed to chatter of whether or not he may even make the team. He has a long way to go before he enters that territory, but an offseason like this is the first baby step in that direction.
THE EXTERNAL MOTIVATION
If Rodgers had come in and balled out in his rookie campaign, there wouldn’t have been the same sort of pressure surrounding the wide receiver position. Sure, there would still be the gaping hole of All-World wideout Davante Adams leaving, but the next sentence in that conversation would usually be, “but that Amari Rodgers kid out of Clemson sure looked good!”
Well, that didn’t happen. We all know what Brian Gutekunst did next. He moved up in the second round to select Christian Watson, took what appears to be a sneaky good pick in the fourth round in Romeo Doubs, and snagged Samori Toure in the final round of the draft. Clearly, Gutekunst wanted to add depth to the position group. He also brought in another veteran in Sammy Watkins to the existing duo of Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb.
That’s a lot of names — and, admittedly, a lot of question marks — but someone is going to catch the ball when there’s a back-to-back MVP delivering it. Amari Rodgers needs to be prepared to insert himself firmly into the mix this season or risk never doing so with the Packers.