As the Green Bay Packers’ wide receiver competition continues to heat up, there are a number of players battling for limited spots on the depth chart.
While the Packers did keep seven receivers last season, many have speculated that this year that number will be just six, given Matt LaFleur’s usage of the running back and tight end positions. And I tend to agree.
So at this point, we can pretty much sharpie in Davante Adams, Geronimo Allison, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Equanimeous St. Brown as locks to make the final 53. It also seems pretty safe to say that we can add Jake Kumerow to that list as well.
That means the Packers have Trevor Davis, J’Mon Moore, Darrius Shepherd, Allen Lazard, and Teo Redding all battling for that final roster spot.
Although Davis may be the leader in the clubhouse right now as he has put together a very solid Training Camp – both on special teams and offensively – he does once again find himself missing some time as he is sidelined with an injury.
This has left the door open for Darrius Shepherd, who was once a long shot to make the roster, but now has a path to the final 53.
For those of you who may not be as familiar with Shepherd, he is an undrafted rookie out of North Dakota State where he was a three-time National Champion.
Over his career as a Bison, Shepherd totaled 2,841 yards, 15.1 yards per catch, and 20 touchdowns. However, his final season was by far his best where he eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards, with a whopping 17.2 yards per catch along with nine touchdowns.
With the departure of Randall Cobb, outside of Shepherd the Green Bay Packers do not have a “traditional” slot receiver on the depth chart. Now, by no means do I think that they need a traditional slot receiver for the LaFleur offense to be successful, but it surely doesn’t hurt.
As we’ve seen in the past from teams that LaFleur has coached, the slot receiver plays an integral part of the offense. Tajae Sharpe in Tennessee, Cooper Kupp in Los Angeles, and Mohamed Sanu in Atlanta were all used fairly frequently and Shepherd’s skill set could make him a weapon for this Packers’ offense.
Even Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers has taken notice of Shepherd on the field and had this to say about the rookie receiver in the slot: ” He’s a very shifty guy. He could play in the slot and be effective.”
However, it’s not just on offense where Shepherd can make an impact, but he has the potential to be a game-changer on special teams as a return man.
Over the last few seasons, returning punts has been Davis’ gig with little competition from anyone else. But with Shepherd in Camp, he gives the Packers someone else to add to the mix who has experience and can provide a dynamic presence to what has been a lack-luster special teams group over the years.
At North Dakota State, Shepherd would return 44 punt attempts over his career and averaged 13.1 yards per return, including a touchdown. With Davis still sidelined with an injury, Shepherd has begun fielding punts with the first special teams unit and continues to show the Packers that he can be a valuable member of this team in a number of different ways.
So far through Training Camp, that big playmaking ability we saw from Shepherd at NDSU has carried over to Green Bay and that includes winning battles against some of the Packers’ top defenders.
In a one-on-one red zone drill against Jaire Alexander, Shepherd was able to create space and haul in the uncontested touchdown reception.
Then against the Houston Texans in the first preseason game, Shepherd was able to find the soft spot in the defense where a scrambling DeShone Kizer was able to find him in the end zone.
Most recently, Shepherd had safety Adrian Amos on him in coverage and he was able to win that matchup quite convincingly.
While there are still a number of practices remaining along with three preseason games before the Green Bay Packers have to make a final roster decision, if Darrius Shepherd continues to play the way that he has, he is going to make cutting him a very difficult decision.
If you haven’t been watching already, Darrius Shepherd is a player to keep your eyes on for the remainder of the preseason.