Replacing Davante: How The Packers Will Adjust

Once again, the Packers are gearing up to be one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl, and once again, Packers fans will be hoping that their team can live up to these predictions.

Right now, NFL bettors making their NFL picks can wager on the Packers as fifth favorites, behind the Bills, Bucs, Chiefs, and Rams. However, if they are to put their recent disappointments behind them, there are some important issues to address, and none of them are more pressing than how they will cope without Davante Adams.

The trading of Adams to the Raiders, combined with the departure of Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who is now with the Chiefs, has left the Packers without a proven number-one receiver.

The obvious response to this loss is that players who have previously stood up in the NFL, like Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, and Sammy Watkins, will be asked to do so again and at a higher level. There will be the hope that rookie receivers Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs will also thrive, although history shows that rookie receivers haven’t fared well with Rodgers in crucial situations. More is expected from Amari Rodgers too, a second-year slot receiver who underperformed in 2021 but will get another chance to prove himself.

At first glance, the stats are not encouraging. None of the current Packers receivers ranked in the top 85 for receiving yards in 2021-22. The best was Lazard, who ended up 87th in the NFL. In addition,

Watkins hasn’t completed a full season since 2014, and while Lazard and Cobb are established players, they are not in the same class as Adams.

Yet, there are reasons for optimism as we look forward to the 2022 season. Packers fans will think back to the pair of touchdown passes that Cobb took in that 24-21 win against the Cardinals; a game for which Lazard, Valdes-Scantling, and Adams were all out. Then there was the 37-30 win against the Saints in the 2020 season, in which Lazard caught six passes when Adams was missing. And it is also fair to say that Watkins’ best NFL seasons have involved him working with current Packers head coach, Matt LaFleur.

Only Adams had more touchdown catches in the final five games of the 2021 campaign than Lazard, who claimed a total of five. Cobb caught four passes for 95 yards and a score in the first half against the eventual Super Bowl champions, before going down with a core muscle injury that kept him out for the rest of the regular season. Watkins last participated in more than 14 games in 2017, when LaFleur served as his offensive coordinator: a season in which he caught eight touchdown passes for the Rams.

So, while Rodgers isn’t working with NFL superstars, this core group of wide receivers is competent, reliable, and used to receiving passes from some of the best in the business.

Six or seven receivers will likely remain on the Packers’ first 53-man roster. Given what LaFleur and Aaron Rodgers have said about Watkins this summer, there appear to be six players who will be almost sure things to make that team: Lazard, Cobb, Watson, Doubs, Rodgers, and Watkins. They may also opt to sign a free agent wide receiver for the seventh spot or perhaps add Winfree or Taylor for special teams. They could also opt to cut a defensive lineman, offensive lineman, or cornerback from the bottom of the depth chart to make room for a seventh receiver.

Whatever option they choose, there won’t be a lack of targets for Rodgers to choose from for the Packers on September 11 in Minneapolis. And, there are other outlets besides the receivers. Aaron Jones is one of the top pass catchers in the NFL, and his fellow back, AJ Dillon, made significant progress in that department last year. Robert Tonyan, who had 11 touchdown catches in 2020 and shared the league lead among tight ends, will also be back and will offer additional options.

Of course, it would be foolish to suggest that the Packers are better without Adams and Valdes-Scantling, but their departures may not have quite the negative impact that some pundits have predicted. The receiver department may not be as classy in 2022, but Rodgers will have plenty of support from some reliable performers and promising youngsters. And the reshuffled offense will likely mean new and less predictable attacking schemes, which could give the Packers an edge, particularly early on in the season.


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