Expect a fascinating battle at wide receiver for Packers’ final spots
Green Bay — Trevor Davis glances to his right and sees established veterans Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams and Randall Cobb. Fourth-year player Jeff Janis is tucked to Davis’ left, while up-and-comers Geronimo Allison, Malachi Dupre, DeAngelo Yancey and Max McCaffrey are spread throughout the locker room.
It doesn’t take Davis’ University of California education to realize he’s in for the fight of his life these next five weeks.
Wide receiver is the deepest and arguably most talented position on the Packers’ roster. And the competition for the final spots figures to be both intense and exhilarating.
Davis, like many of the competitors, is both excited and anxious over what lies ahead this training camp.
“Competition’s great. Competition always makes us all better,” Davis said. “So that’s just being part of this team.”
The Packers exited training camp last September with seven receivers for the first time in Mike McCarthy’s 11 seasons as head coach. What remains to be seen is whether that was an aberration or the new norm in Green Bay.
“Yeah, I’d like to think we have more than seven guys that can play in that group for sure,” Packers wide receivers coach Luke Getsy said. “Circumstances dictate a little bit the way things go.
“I think there’s a lot of different angles that we can go with, but the thing I’m excited about is I feel we really do have more than seven guys that can contribute to winning football games.”
Nelson, Adams and Cobb are virtual locks to be Green Bay’s top three wideouts when the season begins. Allison, a rookie in 2016, played extremely well over the second half of the year and figures to be even better in 2017.
After that, the only certainty is uncertainty. But based on the importance of the passing game in Green Bay, it’s a reasonable bet the Packers will keep three more players from the group of Janis, Dupre, Davis, Yancey and McCaffrey.
“They’ve got some players in that group, that’s for sure,” Packers cornerback Davon House said of Green Bay’s wide receivers. “It’s pretty impressive.”
Indeed. And it should make for some fun battles.
Davis, a fifth-round draft choice in 2016, caught just three passes for 24 yards a year ago. He had some impressive moments early in training camp last year, but didn’t have the necessary strength to consistently beat press-man coverage in the regular season.
The 6-foot-1, 188-pound Davis added five pounds of muscle during the off-season. If Davis can get off the line of scrimmage against physical corners, his 4.41-second speed in the 40-yard dash would be a weapon the Packers’ passing game currently doesn’t possess.
“He’s made big improvements this off-season, both in his approach and in how fast he’s picked up on things,” Getsy said of Davis. “I’m excited for Trevor. I think he’s going to have a really big August for us, and he’ll be one of those guys that are going to show up. I’m excited to see him grow in August.”
The Packers were hoping for more growth from Janis a year ago. Janis managed just 11 catches for 93 yards and a touchdown, though, and his career is at a crossroads.
Much like Corey Bradford a generation ago, Janis is a straight-line, speed player who lacks high-level route running skills. Janis does have great value on special teams, though, and could make the final roster as one of the aces on those units.
“I think when you look at the work ethic that he puts into it, his study habits, I think he is putting himself in a position where he’s able to step out on that field and be extremely productive,” Packers offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett said of Janis. “But just like anything else, you have to continue to do it every single time and make the most of every opportunity as far as from a rep standpoint.
“As far as being fundamentally sound and doing it the way the coaches are asking him to do it, I think he’s moving in the right direction.”
Yancey, a fifth-round draft choice in April, and Dupre, a seventh-rounder, both stand a fighting chance to stick around in 2017. Not only are both players gifted, Packers general manager Ted Thompson hates parting with his rookie draft picks.
Yancey (6-2, 217) caught 141 passes for 2,344 yards and 20 touchdowns at Purdue. Yancey’s best season came as a senior in 2016, when he caught 49 passes for 951 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Yancey’s 40-yard dash time is a so-so 4.53, and if he’s going to win a job, his best chance to contribute early will likely come on special teams.
Dupre has a chance to become a seventh-round steal for the Packers. Dupre was a five-star recruit coming out of high school and was compared in many circles to former New York Giants standout Hakeem Nicks.
Dupre never lived up to the hype at LSU, in part due to pedestrian quarterback play. Dupre then slipped to the seventh round because he struggled against press coverage and making contested catches while at LSU.
If Dupre can get stronger, his athleticism and speed in the 40 (4.52) could help him find a home in Green Bay.
“I think Malachi’s a really good football player,” Getsy said. “I think he’s got really good instincts.
“He’s played a lot of football in college at a high level in a great conference, so all of that helps and shows. The different types of offenses that he played in in college have enabled him to catch on to our schemes a little quicker maybe than others. So that part helps as well. But he’s a sharp kid, he works really hard at it.”
So does McCaffrey, who was on Green Bay’s practice squad for four weeks a year ago, then was promoted to the active roster 24 hours before the NFC Championship Game. McCaffrey, whose father, Ed, was a standout receiver with Denver and whose brother, Christian, was the No. 8 pick to Carolina in April’s draft, has terrific size (6-2, 200) and solid speed (4.45).
McCaffrey went undrafted coming out of Duke in 2016 and was cut by Oakland last summer. But the Packers have been impressed with McCaffrey, and he could win a job with a big summer.
“He’s done a great job,” Getsy said of McCaffrey. “Max, from the day he got here last fall, he worked really hard at learning the offense. He had a great start because he’s learned it even though he was practice squad and all that good stuff.
“He saw how coach ended up putting him on the roster for the last game in case we needed him because that’s kind of mentality that he has and the approach that he has. He was ready to play. He’s really ahead mentally, especially when you compare him to these young rookies, he’s much further ahead.”
Who stays ahead — and how many wideouts Green Bay eventually keeps — will be fascinating to watch.
PACKERS WIDE RECEIVERS
Name Ht. Wt. Age Exp. College
Jordy Nelson 6-3 217 32 10 Kansas State
Davante Adams 6-1 215 24 4 Fresno State
Randall Cobb 5-10 192 26 7 Kentucky
Geronimo Allison 6-3 202 23 2 Illinois
Jeff Janis 6-3 219 26 4 Saginaw Valley St.
Trevor Davis 6-1 188 23 2 California
DeAngelo Yancey 6-1 220 22 R Purdue
Malachi Dupre 6-2 196 21 R LSU
Max McCaffrey 6-2 200 23 1 Duke
Michael Clark 6-6 217 21 R Marshall
Montay Crockett 6-0 184 23 R Georgia Southern
Colby Pearson 6-0 194 22 R BYU
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