Green Bay Packers

Don't Count Amari Rodgers Out Yet

Photo Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

With DeVante Parker staying in the AFC East after the Miami Dolphins traded him to the New England Patriots, another potential wide receiver is off the table for the Green Bay Packers. The much-lamented void left by the departures of Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling remains.

Green Bay has yet to sign or trade for a new pass-catcher since Adams and Valdes-Scantling left town. There’s still a chance the team could make a move for D.K. Metcalf or Brandin Cooks, but the Packers may wait until the draft to attack the position. With four top-60 selections, the Packers have plenty of capital to get a receiver or two in the draft. At the annual owners’ meeting, CEO Mark Murphy alluded to this, saying, “With the draft capital we have now, I’ll just say the draft is going to be very interesting.”

But contrary to popular belief, the Packers have some talent at the position. Allen Lazard is still in the mix, and he’s a legitimate WR2. Randall Cobb proved Father Time hadn’t caught him yet. He was shaping up to be a significant part of the offense until a core injury sidelined him, and Aaron Rodgers forgot he existed in the divisional round. And while fans believe Green Bay neglected the position in recent years, the Packers did spend a third-round selection on Clemson’s Amari Rodgers in 2021. The non-quarterback A. Rodgers had a rough rookie season, but we can’t count him out in 2022.

Let’s start with the elephant in the room: Rodgers was a full-on liability on special teams. As a returner, Rodgers looked clueless at best and like a saboteur at worst. Former special teams coordinator Maurice Drayton convinced Matt LaFleur to stick with Rodgers as a returner. The patience paid off by the end of the season in the sense that Rodgers would occasionally field a punt return for positive yards.

Still, ignore special-teams Amari Rodgers. With a new coordinator and a commitment to improving that phase, the Packers should find new returners and let Rodgers develop as a wide receiver, the position the Packers drafted him to play.

While he was awful on special teams, Amari Rodgers is an unknown as a pass-catcher at this point. Rookies are traditionally bad, and Rodgers didn’t exactly make a name for himself. He caught four of his eight targets for 45 yards, with a long of 19.

Rodgers had one start in 2021 against the then-undefeated Arizona Cardinals. That was a game with no Davante, MVS, or Lazard. LaFleur turned in one of his most brilliant performances coaching the offense that night, but Amari Rodgers couldn’t take advantage. Even UDFA Juwann Winfree drew more targets from Aaron Rodgers.

But in Amari Rodgers’ defense, Aaron Rodgers is notoriously difficult to bond with for new receivers. He needs to build that trust. LaFleur knows this and thinks young receivers like Amari Rodgers will play more significant roles over time.

“I’ve witnessed it,” LaFleur said. “It’s a process like everything is. And the more time that we can get those guys out on the field and put ’em in certain situations to allow them to kind of learn and grow, hopefully, we can be creative in ways we can expedite that process.”

Rodgers also likely lost a lot of potential snaps when Aaron Rodgers insisted on bringing Randall Cobb back to Green Bay. Pundits compared Rodgers to Cobb in the pre-draft process, and his father even coached Cobb at Kentucky. When the Packers drafted Rodgers, they expected him to fill a Cobb-type slot role. They didn’t anticipate bringing the actual Cobb back, but Cobb had the chemistry with No. 12, and the Packers were in all-in mode. It made sense to give the proven vet the snaps, but it definitely set Amari Rodgers’ development back.

One thing that’s not in Rodgers’ favor is that the pass-catchers who remain are mostly slot guys despite Green Bay losing major receivers. Rodgers will still have to compete for a significant role, including against Cobb.

One of the externalities of having the best receiver in the league is that Aaron Rodgers focused on Adams too much while neglecting to spread around the offense. Adams’ absence will be noted, but it will force LaFleur and his QB to be more creative. Pre-snap motion that was common in 2020 fell off in 2021, and the Packers scripted fewer gadget plays. These should return in 2022, and Amari Rodgers is an excellent option for those roles.

We don’t know if Amari Rodgers will be good or if he’ll be another failure in a long line of wasted third-round picks. But despite a bad showing on special teams as a rookie, we can’t write him off as a wide receiver yet. The Packers drafted him for a reason, and he has a chance to be the standout with a less-crowded wide receiver room. LaFleur’s offense should be able to give him more touches in 2022. The Packers still need to invest in the position, but don’t forget about the player drafted in the top 100 still on the roster.

However, they should find a new punt returner.

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