The presence of Aaron Rodgers under center makes the Packers a legitimate Super Bowl contender on an annual basis. To make the jump from contender to champion, Rodgers needs a young receiver to step up and seize the starting spot opposite Davante Adams.
Adams, for the record, is an absolute superstar. He led Green Bay with 111 catches for 1,386 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2018. The Packers would gladly sign up for that level of production from the 26-year-old wideout on an annual basis. The idea that he might just be entering his prime as a receiver should strike fear in the hearts of Green Bay’s rivals in the NFC North.
The numbers Rodgers and Adams were able to put up last season are even more incredible considering the lack of a legitimate No. 2 option. Tight end Jimmy Graham was second on the team with 55 catches last year. Marquez Valdes-Scantling who managed to reel in 38 catches for 581 yards posted the next best total for an actual wide receiver. That is subpar production for a No. 2 wide receiver in a prolific passing attack like the one the Packers possess.
Valdes-Scantling certainly heads into his 2019 campaign with the hopes of building on last season’s production. His impressive combination of size and speed gives him a different look than some of Green Bay’s other options. His 6-4 frame and long arms allow him to make contested catches down the field. That may not be enough to keep him in the starting lineup next season.
That’s because of the potential Geronimo Allison possesses. He’s a big receiver in his own right, checking in at six-foot-three, but he’s got an extra gear that Valdes-Scantling doesn’t offer. Allison only caught 20 passes last season, but he did so in just five games. The key for him in 2019 will be staying healthy.
At the moment, the Packers believe Allison will start as their slot receiver. His size will make up a nightmare matchup for most slot corners he’ll face on a week-to-week basis. It’s difficult to project exactly how Green Bay’s offense will look under first-year head coach Matt LaFleur, but it’s safe to assume that three wide receivers will be on the field plenty of the time.
The third candidate to provide support to Adams and Rodgers is Equanimeous St. Brown. The former Notre Dame star managed to pull in 21 catches for 328 yards in his rookie season. Like Valdes-Scantling and Allison, he’s also a big-bodied target for Rodgers. St. Brown lacks the polish to really excel inside the numbers, but his athleticism gives him a chance to make plays on the outside.
From the organization’s perspective, it really doesn’t matter which wideout steps up to support Adams. It’s only important that someone steps up to allow Rodgers to diversify the offense. Adams was targeted so often last season that it made Green Bay’s offense very predictable to savvy opponents.
The competitive nature of the NFC North is going to make it key for the Packers to diversify their attack. Adams and Rodgers are good enough to keep Green Bay in games, but if they want to reach the playoffs they will need one more weapon to step up. The ability of a second receiver to step up and become a star is very much in question. That is why the current over/under for Packers wins this season stands at just 9.5. That’s a very manageable number for a team with Rodgers at the helm.
Of course, Rodgers has a much more ambitious goal than winning the division or simply reaching the playoffs. The veteran passer understands that he has a limited number of seasons left to win another Super Bowl. For Green Bay to reach those rarified heights, it’s going to require Rodgers to enjoy one of his best seasons. Given the talent that surrounds him in Green Bay, it’s very likely that kind of season would catapult him into the MVP discussion. Currently, he’s got the third best options to win the prestigious award in the league. Only Patrick Mahomes and Andrew Luck sport better odds heading into the regular season.
Expect the Packers to go to great lengths to show opponents their passing game won’t depend on Adams early in the regular season. That means the other wide receivers will need to step up quickly if they want to earn Rodgers’ trust. Keep a close eye on the battle during the first couple weeks of the season to see if one of the other receivers finds a way to take some attention away from Adams in the passing game.