GREEN BAY – There’s a process Green Bay Packers rookie receiver Geronimo Allison follows anytime he wants to ask his quarterback a question.
Before he ever approaches Aaron Rodgers, Allison usually runs it by veteran teammates Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb or Davante Adams. Or maybe he’ll check with receivers coach Luke Getsy. They are his smokescreen, his safety net.
Allison, like any receiver, knows it’s important to communicate with Rodgers. Be on the same page, all that jazz. He’s also aware there are such things as stupid questions to ask a two-time MVP quarterback.
“Any questions that I have,” Allison said, “I make sure I run it by those guys before I bring it to Aaron. When I get the opportunity, I may present it to Aaron, but I present it as, ‘I know what I’m doing, but I want to make sure I know what I’m doing.’ Just let him know that I understand, I know where you need me to be, and just being on the same page with him.
“Because any doubt that you may have, it’s not a good thing. So you want to make sure you’re on the same page with him, he trusts you, you trust yourself, and just make plays.”
It’s a familiar refrain among many of Rodgers’ young receivers. Cracking the Rubik’s cube of Rodgers’ inner trust is the key to earning a role in the Packers' passing game. Since arriving in Green Bay, Allison has taken special care to mold Rodgers’ perception of him.
His approach seems to work better than others.
More noteworthy than Allison’s eight catches for 111 yards and a touchdown this season — and more impressive than how he replaced Randall Cobb against the Minnesota Vikings last week — may be the 16 passes Rodgers has thrown him.
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Allison has 10 more targets than fellow rookie Trevor Davis, a fifth-round pick. Jeff Janis, a seventh-round pick in 2014, only had 13 targets in his first two seasons combined. In the limited time Allison has played this season — he has gotten double-digit snaps four times — Rodgers has shown no hesitation targeting him.
There are many factors that determine how many targets a receiver gets, but Rodgers' trust is an obvious variable. Offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett said he saw Allison start building chemistry with Rodgers almost immediately, starting in training camp.
“It seemed like every practice we had,” Bennett said, “he was making a play. And that’s what you look for. You look for a guy to be consistent and catch your eye. Every time we lined up, and every time we had a competitive period, he made a play. And that’s the starting point.”
Allison took the path of most resistance at the onset of his NFL career.
Undrafted out of Illinois, he intentionally signed to a Packers team loaded with receivers because of general manager Ted Thompson’s reputation for giving college free agents a real chance. Seven receivers made the Packers' roster out of camp. Despite leading the Packers with 119 yards on six catches in the preseason, Allison wasn’t one of them.
Allison said he received interest from other teams to join their practice squad. It would be a fresh start, presumably with a team less jammed at receiver. Allison didn’t even consider other options before his phone rang.
It was the Packers.
“They kind of called me back before I was even thinking that,” he said.
For six games, Allison toiled on the Packers' practice squad. He was finally promoted to the active roster before their trip to Atlanta at the end of October. Allison caught his first touchdown in his first game.
Since then, he has continued his ascension.
Allison passed Janis and Davis on the Packers' depth chart weeks ago and was next in line when Cobb’s ankle injury kept him inactive against the Vikings.
A few hours before kickoff, Allison said, he learned he’d get his first career start. It was the home finale, Christmas Eve at Lambeau Field, a game the Packers needed to win. Pretty big stage for an undrafted rookie, but Allison said he quelled the nerves.
His sense of calm showed on the field. Allison caught four passes for 66 yards, including a 32-yard catch that helped ignite a touchdown drive before halftime.
“I don’t think he could’ve had a better game,” Cobb said. “He was where he needed to be, when he was supposed to be there. He made plays and he did a great job.”
Allison’s two best games — and two highest snap counts — have coincided with Cobb’s absence because of injury. His third-highest snap count came against the Indianapolis Colts, when Cobb was held out of the first half because of injury.
If Cobb returns Sunday at Detroit, it’s reasonable to expect Allison’s role will diminish.
Regardless, the Packers have to feel better about their depth at receiver after Allison held his own against the Vikings. It’s more than Allison’s large catch radius, thanks to his 6-foot-3 height and almost 33-inch arms, that allows him to make plays.
When the rookie needs to be in a certain spot, his quarterback can trust he’ll be there. Getsy said he’s seen it from the beginning.
“You knew there was something special,” Getsy said, “about the guy’s confidence and the football instincts and sense that he has. People make a big deal about Jordy (Nelson) and his football sense and his instincts. I think Geronimo has a lot of that natural football instincts.”
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