Preseason is the perfect time to test young players. And that’s exactly what the moment requests from a rebuilding Green Bay Packers wide receiver room. Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Equanimeous St. Brown are out. Sammy Watkins, Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, and Samori Toure are in. More than acclimating them to Matt LaFleur’s offensive scheme, preseason games are a chance to show what this offense can expect from a talent standpoint – especially for the rookies.
Green Bay’s projected veteran starters (Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, and Sammy Watkins) aren’t expected to play in Friday’s preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers. That means more snaps for the young guys, except for Watson, who is still on the physically unable to perform list.
“I don’t think, right now, we’re really looking to add anything,” general manager Brian Gutekunst said at the start of training camp. “I really like the group we have. I want to give those guys the opportunity to see what they can do.”
Doubs has been Green Bay’s training camp star. A promising fourth-round pick, he has an opportunity to keep on the right track and establish himself as an essential piece for the regular-season offense. Winfree has also been solid and received praise from quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The fourth-year receiver finished last season on the active roster and is doing enough to be in the conversation to keep as an active player.
Amari Rodgers lost weight with the goal of being faster after a disappointing rookie season in 2021, and he has looked more comfortable during practices. Without Cobb, he is the main slot option. The rotation will always provide opportunities for Toure. The seventh-round pick was having a relatively quiet training camp until Family Night, but his performance in front of fans was noteworthy.
Undrafted rookie Danny Davis doesn’t have a real shot at making the active roster, barring something extraordinary, but he has been a reliable piece among backups. His real battle is to be back in Green Bay as a practice-squader, and he is doing enough to be in contention.
The other receivers on the roster are Malik Taylor and Ishmael Hyman. Taylor has been with the Packers since 2019, but he’s lost space this training camp. Hyman has also been in the league since 2019. He spent time with the Cleveland Browns, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Carolina Panthers and recently played for the Michigan Panthers of the USFL.
Next week, the Packers will have joint practices and a preseason game against the New Orleans Saints. Matt LaFleur has already said that Aaron Rodgers won’t play in this game, so maybe it’s better to keep the veterans away and give more reps to the young players.
In the final preseason game, there is a chance for Rodgers and the starters to play against the Kansas City Chiefs. Christian Watson, who might be recovered in around a week, could also see his first playing time.
Moreover, there are two cut dates between games. The Packers will reduce their roster from 90 to 85 after the game against the 49ers, and to 80 after the Saints game.
The exhibition games are also useful for the coaching staff to understand where to use each player. For example, Doubs looks primed to be a Z receiver on this offense. But Matt Mumme, Doubs’ offensive coordinator at Nevada, told Zone Coverage that the rookie has shown the ability to align all over the formation, and that’s something LaFleur might test.
“As he grew in our Air Raid system, he became easier to move around,” Mumme said. “It created a nightmare for defenses because they couldn’t just try to take him out or double on the outside. It created mismatches.”
Right now is the best chance for the new receivers to show their value. And it’s the best time for the Packers front office to find out if their current group is enough to give Aaron Rodgers a realistic chance to compete in 2022.