Green Bay Packers

Malik Heath's Toughness Is Solidifying His Future With the Packers

Photo Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

This season, the Green Bay Packers continued their streak of 19 consecutive years in which an undrafted rookie was listed on the Week 1 roster when Ole Miss wide receiver Malik Heath made the final 53-man cut. Fueled by an outstanding preseason, the Packers slotted Heath behind five other draft picks: Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, Jayden Reed, Dontayvion Wicks, and Samori Toure. During the preseason, Matt LaFleur praised Heath’s toughness and expressed excitement for him, calling him “a talented young player and a guy we look forward to putting in some situations and seeing how he responds in games.”

However, being further down on the depth chart can make it very difficult for players like Heath to get snaps, let alone catches and consistent opportunities to make a splash in the regular season. That’s exactly how the year started out for Heath, who accumulated only 83 snaps on offense and special teams in the first 10 weeks and was inactive for five of those games. However, Heath has racked up 176 snaps since Week 10, including more on offense, due to nagging injuries to Watson, Reed, and Wicks. With the extra opportunity, Heath has started showing his ability to locate the ball in the air, create yards after the catch, and block.

On Heath’s first career touchdown against the New York Giants, he made an outstanding grab on a ball Jordan Love threw to his outside shoulder and slightly high so that only Heath would have a chance to catch it. The impressive part of the catch is Heath’s ability to turn, immediately locate the ball, make the catch, and have enough body control to turn his body toward the pylon to break the plane with a defender draped on his back.

Heath hasn’t had enough catches to create a clear statistical trend when it comes to yards after the catch. But he has shown flashes in space to demonstrate his ability to make a guy miss with the ball in his hands. In the Kansas City Chiefs game, Heath caught a screen pass, made a nice move in open space to make a defender miss, and drove his shoulder into a second defender to keep his momentum going forward to pick up extra yards. The most important part is that Heath looks natural with the ball in his hands. He’s unafraid of contact and puts forth the effort to get extra yardage.

While Heath has shown natural catch-and-run ability, blocking is his most apparent and impressive skill set. Take the play below against the Detroit Lions, where Heath is the in-motion player. Not only does he lay the block on the defensive back, but he continually sustains the block, giving effort until he’s got the other player on the ground. That’s intensity.

Heath had another stellar block this past week against the Carolina Panthers to spring Aaron Jones’ 39-yard run, Green Bay’s longest play of the day. Heath does a great job of sustaining his block long enough to allow Jones the time to get past him and the defender. The fun thing about the play, though, is that Heath is juiced up not only for his block, but for Jones’ big play. That type of energy will ingratiate Heath to his coaches and teammates alike and show that he will not only play for himself but for everyone around him.

These highlights may capture Heath’s catching, running, and blocking, but it shouldn’t be lost that he’s also bringing an edge and toughness to the team. Fellow rookie wide receiver Jayden Reed has also noticed it.

“He’s just got that competitive edge to him,” Reed said. “He’s always bringing energy, the juice out. Any time you see him making a play, man, he’s bringing the juice, so you can just tell he loves ball, and he’s a playmaker.”

Heath is set up to follow a similar path to former Packers undrafted free-agent wide receiver Allen Lazard. Heath has the opportunity to be a do-it-all guy who blocks hard, makes contested catches, and works his way up the depth chart. There will always be a role for that type of receiver in the NFL. The Packers may have found, as Matt LaFleur puts it, their next “goon.”

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