White, Dorsey lead battle for Packers' 5th WR spot
The Green Bay Packers' receivers room got crowded in May when three draftees moved in. With perhaps only five jobs to go around and veterans Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Jarrett Boykin all but assured spots, there didn't appear to be much room for the four other holdovers from last season.
But if you're looking for prime-time drama Saturday night when the Packers visit the Tennessee Titans in a preseason opener, watch the battle between Myles White and Kevin Dorsey. They might be in the best position to grab the fifth receiver spot.
Rookie Davante Adams has flashed the pass-catching ability that made him the team's second-round pick and will compete for playing time in multi-receiver sets. So it's likely then that the next spot comes down to a battle between White and Dorsey.
Both are second-year players who have shown more in training camp than their competition. Jared Abbrederis, drafted in the fifth round this year, will sit out the season with a torn ACL. Jeff Janis, a seventh-round pick this year, missed the first week of training camp with shingles and has a lot of ground to make up. Holdovers Chris Harper and Alex Gillett, and newcomer Gerrard Sheppard also are in the mix.
But White and Dorsey have stood out so far. They've both looked fluid in the offense, running crisp routes, making tough catches and keeping their mistakes to a minimum.
"I think they get a little bit more comfortable, certainly with our playbook, our concepts, and what we ask them to do," wide receivers coach Edgar Bennett said about the players who have been in the system a year. "And certainly even from a technique and fundamentals standpoint, you see that comfort level and confidence start to grow, and that's a big part of it as well."
If White has an edge on Dorsey and the others, it's because he's the only one outside of Nelson, Cobb and Boykin who saw significant playing time last season.
The undrafted free agent was cut at the end of camp last year and was promoted from the practice squad in mid-October. He played in seven games, taking 123 offensive snaps, and caught nine passes for 66 yards. A knee injury in Week 14 landed him on injured reserve.
Dorsey, a seventh-round pick in 2013, spent his entire rookie season on injured reserve with toe and hamstring injuries. Dorsey, however, has an advantage in size at 6-foot-1 and 207 pounds, with long arms and big hands.
White is perhaps the fastest of the receiver group, but at 190 pounds on his 6-foot frame, he's also the lightest. So his offseason was spent getting stronger and working out at the Michael Johnson Performance Athletic Training Center outside Dallas.
"I hit the weights really hard, I kept running to keep my speed," White said. "My twin brother (Mitchell) plays in the CFL at Montreal and he's a very, very physical corner. And that's what I struggled with last year. So I made sure I went a lot of one-on-ones with him even if we were about to come to blows. I just wanted to get used to that aggressive nature of corners.
"I went against Tarell Brown, he's out in Oakland. I just wanted to get as many talented corners as I can."
Bennett, who prompted White to focus on strength during the offseason, has noticed the extra 10 pounds of muscle.
"It's definitely showing up," Bennett said. "You can see it as far as the physicality of playing the position. Let say, at the top of the route, when we have to create separation, when the defender is playing maybe tighter coverage. So it shows up in things like that."
Of the two, though, Dorsey is the more physical and that's a big reason he's been getting first-team reps on each of the special teams units. He's a rusher on No. 1 punt return unit, a gunner on No. 1 punt coverage team, on the front line on the No. 1 kick return team and he has been seeing a lot of action as a kick returner.
"He can do a lot of things on special teams," special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said. "He has a good size-and-speed combination. I think he's a tough guy. He's done well."
If Dorsey can prove to be a consistent and versatile contributor on special teams, much like veteran Jarrett Bush, there likely will be a spot for him on the 53-man roster.
"I love special teams," said Dorsey, who noted that he played almost every special teams position in high school and college. "To be part of that is huge. And, just like I said, I've just got to go out there and take every opportunity."
White also will be given opportunities. He's been back on punt returns all training camp but has had trouble catching the ball at times. In one session, he dropped three straight punts and a few days later dropped another.
"I wasn't focusing on the ball like I should have," said White, who also has seen practice time as a gunner and anti-gunner on the punt units. "I got it corrected."
Said Slocum: "Well, he dropped a couple balls. We've addressed that. That's a technique error. He needs to catch those. That's the nature of playing the game."
Now it comes down to who can show they belong as a receiver and a special teams stalwart. Bennett, Slocum and, ultimately, Mike McCarthy will be swayed by how they perform in the four preseason games.
"All our guys are making progress and improving on a daily basis," Bennett said. "But now we're about to start to play the preseason games. And the things we're looking forward to seeing is their consistency, doing it the right way every single time, competing at a high level, being fundamentally sound."
— firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @robertzizzo.
Who: Green Bay at Tennessee
When: 7 p.m.
TV: WGBA (Ch. 26)
Radio: WTAQ (1360 AM)