Allison's emergence gives Packers tough choice
GREEN BAY – Here was Geronimo Allison, moments after the game of his life, pulse beating at resting pace inside the visitors’ locker room at Ford Field.
He dressed slowly, deliberately, as if oblivious to the throng of reporters swelling around his locker. Maybe he was regaining composure. Perhaps replaying in his mind that NFL Madden-like touchdown from Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
You just wouldn’t know it. If the butterflies are there – they have to be for this rookie – Allison gives zero indication.
“It’s not necessarily a ‘wow’ factor,” Allison said. “It’s more like, ‘OK, let’s keep it going. Let’s keep the success going. Let’s get onto the next one.”
It’s remarkable what this undrafted receiver from Illinois has done.
He was counted out before the draft this spring. Too slow for the NFL, they said. Too many drops. Not a vertical threat.
Then here was Allison, running an out-and-up on the left sideline Sunday night, snagging Rodgers’ pass for 39 yards.
In the Packers' biggest game of the season, Allison was their leading receiver. The Lions usually matched their top two corners against Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams. They combined for 97 yards.
Allison, given the better matchup, finished with four catches for 91 yards and that third-and-9 touchdown. It followed his four catches for 66 yards against the Minnesota Vikings. Two games the Packers needed to win.
Two games where Allison had receptions of more than 30 yards.
“He’s taking advantage of it in the best way,” fellow receiver Davante Adams said. “I’m real proud of him because he’s been growing week in and week out since he’s been here. Him doing that for Aaron this early in his career is going to be amazing.”
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Allison’s production gives Packers coach Mike McCarthy a tough decision in Sunday’s wild-card game against the New York Giants.
The rookie’s snaps have risen in direct correlation to slot receiver Randall Cobb’s absence because of an ankle injury the past two weeks. In Chicago, Cobb played 51 snaps (84 percent) and Allison had three. Allison started for Cobb the next week against the Minnesota Vikings, playing 43 snaps (73 percent). He played 61 snaps (81 percent) against the Lions.
McCarthy bristled when asked whether Allison should play even if Cobb returns.
“We really don’t play that way,” McCarthy said. “… We play personnel groups. There’s things we’re going to do differently each and every week, and Aaron throws it to the guy that’s open. We don’t really hunker down and try to feature just one player and so forth. So we’ll continue to do that.
“If Randall Cobb is in the game, obviously it’s important for us to get him some opportunities.”
It’ll also be important for Allison to continue getting opportunities. With how much he’s produced the past couple weeks, keeping him on the sideline Sunday would remove a viable threat from the Packers passing game.
Never mind that Allison went undrafted. Scouts see Allison with the potential to develop as a legitimate No. 2 receiver down the road. His giraffe build – long and tall – and catch radius are similar to New Orleans Saints receiver Marques Colston, another long, athletic possession receiver and former seventh-round draft pick.
When Allison is on the field, Rodgers has no shortage of big targets at his disposal. Tight end Jared Cook stretches to 6-foot-5. Jordy Nelson is listed 6-foot-3, and Davante Adams is listed 6-foot-1.
His teammates aren’t surprised Allison earned a role. They saw his potential early.
“We noticed with him right when he got here,” Nelson said. “It’s always funny, the other guys will talk about the young guys when they come in and what we see, because you can kind of tell right off the bat with their feet and hands. He has a very unique skill set of being that big and still quick and have the speed with that stride as well and his hands. Everything.
“And the work that he put in even when he was on the practice squad and in the meeting rooms. He knew the game plan, even though he wasn’t going to be playing. I think that showed a lot to the coaches and gave all of us confidence when he got moved up, that if he got put in the situation he’d know what to do.”
Beyond his physical skill set, Allison’s mental readiness has been the biggest factor in his ascension.
It’s his ability to stay calm and composed while avoiding mistakes. No stage is too big. Rodgers said he’s seen it repeatedly late this season.
“He does it in practice,” Rodgers said. “He’s made plays consistently in practice over the last five or six weeks. Which gives you the feeling that if he gets an opportunity, or we need him to be in there, he’s going to make a play. And that’s why he’s been a big part of our success, and I’ve gone to him in certain situations, because I’ve seen it in practice.”