Chasing the Lombardi Trophy
The 2017 Green Bay Packers offseason has been defined as one of the most important in recent seasons. Ted Thompson and his front office staff have been searching for standout players on both sides of the football that will prove to have the game changing impact that a young Clay Matthews and Jordy Nelson had during the 2010 super bowl run. Thompson and his staff have brought in a mixture of veteran and young players on both sides of the football who they hope will provide a tremendous impact. Thompson and his staff believe that these new acquisitions have significantly upgraded the roster and made the Green Bay Packers poised for another Super Bowl run in the 2017-2018 season.
During every Green Bay Packers offseason program Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy assemble the strongest 90 man training camp roster possible, to provide fierce competition for all personnel groups. This competition provides the opportunity for unproven young players and veterans alike to showcase their skills and show the coaching staff where they bring value to the team and upgrade the strength of the eventual 53 man roster.
Who will hear their number called to eat at Aaron Rodgers Table?
One of the hottest and most contested positional battles of the Packers 2017 offseason program is the battle at the wide receiver position. The Packers started training camp with (12) wide receivers on their 90 man roster. This means that difficult roster decisions loom ahead for Thompson and McCarthy when constructing the final 53 man roster for week 1 against Seattle.
Of the 12 receivers on the current 90 man roster, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Devante Adams look to be the only locks to make the team. This leaves the door open for the other nine wide receivers on the roster to open the eyes of the coaching staff by making the most of their opportunities during the preseason. During training camp and the early part of the preseason, many of these receivers have shown big play ability, versatility, and reliability which begs the question of how many receivers the Packers will take on the final 53 man roster.
In order to maximize the wide receiver talent on the roster, Thompson and McCarthy will undoubtedly have to become creative with depth chart assignments. This creativity in depth chart assignments will provide the opportunity to lengthen the roster by maximizing the abilities and versatility of certain fringe players by playing them at multiple positions and personnel groups throughout the season.
For other fringe players, the Packers may have to fall at the mercies of the waiver system. They will inevitably have to wait and see if some of their extra wide receivers without a roster spot can make it through waivers without being claimed by another organization and sign with the Packers practice squad.
Breaking Down the Wide Receiver Battle:
Most prognosticators and talking heads generally agree with the top of the wide receiver depth chart residing with the big three of Jordy Nelson, Devante Adams, and Randall Cobb. Logically, with the offseason additions of Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks along with the stability and familiarity that Richard Rodgers provides, the Packers will undoubtedly carry three tight ends. Carrying three tight ends will ensure that there will be only two to three wide receiver spots open for the remaining nine players.
One way of alleviating the pressure of potentially having to release six or seven of these players and create more roster flexibility, would be to create roles for Jeff Janis and Trevor Davis in key special teams duties that accentuate their athletic abilities. By giving both players prominent special teams roles, they can be used as members of the return, punt, kickoff, and hands teams adding much-needed versatility to the depth chart. Doing this ensures the protection of their roster spot, while avoiding any possibility of a divisional rival claiming either of them off of waivers. This move also solidifies the special teams by providing depth and versatility while still allowing for both players to improve and see reps at the wide receiver position in the event that one of the starting wide receivers goes down with an injury. Providing this versatility with Davis and Janis will also ensure that Randall Cobb minimizes any extra wear and tear that he could incur from extra duties in the return game.
With the increased roles of Janis and Davis to the special teams unit, the Packers could now potentially have created more versatility at the wide receiver position. A scenario could be presented in which McCarthy and Thompson could potentially keep one or two of the rookie receivers on the 53 man roster for week 1. This roster flexibility will provide the offense with some very interesting positional battles throughout the remainder of the preseason. Here is how I see the wide receiver positional battle breaking down right now.
Wide Receiver Big Board:
1. Jordy Nelson
2. Devonte Adams
3. Randall Cobb
4. Geronimo Allison (suspended week 1)
5. Trevor Davis
1. Jeff Janis- has all the measurables but has yet to realize his potential. Has had trouble with fundamentals such as route running and drops. Is playing his way into a roster spot through the first two preseason games.
2. Max McCaffrey- a potential threat in the slot both in the long and short term, big play ability, strong and reliable hands and elusiveness and agility.
3. Michael Clark- A vertical threat with size, speed, strength, versatility, and pure athleticism. A valuable red zone and goal line option; potential to be a reliable possession receiver.
4. DeAngelo Yancey- vertical threat with quick reflexes and breakaway speed. Potential for big play ability.
5. Montay Crockett- has all the measurables including breakaway speed and agility. Needs to prove himself against better competition but has a high upside.
6. Malachi Dupre- A versatile receiver who can play multiple positions including the slot and outside positions. Has big play ability and thrives tracking and catching the deep ball. Dupre was an undervalued receiver because of inconsistent quarterback play in college. Could be a diamond in the rough under the coaching of Mike McCarthy and the quarter back play of Aaron Rodgers. Time in concussion protocol could slow down his training camp development and put him behind other healthy fringe wide receivers.
This proposed big board would open up two positions at the wide receiver for week 1 due to the Geronimo Allison substance abuse suspension.
Fringe players trending up: Max McCaffrey and Jeff Janis
McCaffrey has had solid training camp and OTA workouts this summer and his performance in the first preseason game only solidified his offseason program progression.
Jeff Janis has been the target of much criticism over the last few years for lacking the proper attention to detail on the fundamental aspects of his game. Despite getting off to a slow start this offseason, Janis has shown steady signs of improvement during the preseason. He has had impactful contributions in the passing game as well as on special teams, and hopes that his solid preseason play can spring board into meaningful snaps for this upcoming season.
Fringe Player Trending Down: Malachi Dupre
Despite having shown promise in OTAs and training camp, Dupre’s stock is trending downward because of the time he has missed since suffering a concussion from that vicious hit against Philadelphia during the first preseason game.
Players to watch:
DeAngelo Yancey- Yancey had a strong performance against the Eagles showing big play ability.
Montay Crockett- Crockett has been coming on strong during recent practices and had a strong performance against the Eagles. Mike McCarthy went out of his way to mention Crockett’s solid play during his Wednesday afternoon press conference.
Trevor Davis- After showing signs of improvement this offseason and having a quick start to the preseason, Trevor Davis must show the ability to rebound from a poor game this week against the Redskins. The next two weeks will likely determine how prominent a role Davis can etch for himself during the upcoming season.
With the first two games of the preseason in the books the competition to be a part of the week, 1 regular season roster has certainly heated up. Weeks 1 and 2 of the preseason saw impactful plays and contributions from Jeff Janis, Trevor Davis, DeAngelo Yancey, Michael Clark, and Max McCaffrey. It is important for all of these fringe players to make the most of every practice and game rep from now until the final cuts are made. I am excited to see all of these talented players work hard and continue to chase their dreams of being a member of the 2017-2018 Green Bay Packers roster.
Food for thought:
1. The roster configuration on the offensive side of the ball.
2. The amount of points per game the Green Bay Packers offense could put up this season.——————
David Michalski is a recent college graduate from Princeton New Jersey who has been a life long Green Bay Packers fan. Like the great Vince Lombardi, he values God, family, and the Green Bay Packers in that order. You can follow him on twitter at @kilbas27dave