GREEN BAY – One receiver leads all NFL rookies with 17.7 yards per catch. The other had the clutch reception that put the Green Bay Packers in field-goal position in what eventually became a comeback win in their last game.
Clearly, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown have something to give the Packers' offense. But, veterans Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison contend, so do they.
Cobb and Allison will return from hamstring injuries when the Packers travel to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday. Neither has played since September. In that time, the two rookies have improved exponentially, but perhaps can’t duplicate everything the veterans do.
“I think the young guys have been doing pretty good,” Allison said. “I think they filled those voids and helped us out the best they can. I think me and Randall, having that addition back, will help us. There’ll be more maturity out there, and 12 (Aaron Rodgers) will be more comfortable out there too with us.”
Veteran receivers are especially important if an offense speeds up the tempo between plays. In a no-huddle system, receivers stay on the perimeter and often communicate with the quarterback through hand signals.
With Cobb and Allison, the Packers will have more options with when to vary the tempo.
“It definitely helps if you have veterans that know what’s going on,” Cobb said. “Obviously, the young guys have made strides with understanding the signals and knowing the signals, but when you get into a game and bullets are flying, things happen fast. So having it like the back of your mind, I think having Geronimo and myself out there, we’re just in tune a little bit more with the no-huddle.”
Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said veteran receivers are also helpful against complex defenses such as the system run by Rams coordinator Wade Phillips.
Philbin said Phillips does a good job disguising the Rams’ coverages. A veteran receiver might have more success deciphering necessary route adjustments, compared to a rookie still adjusting to the league.
“Our young guys,” Philbin said, “maybe haven’t quite seen all that stuff yet in real time.”
Clean bill of health
Eight weeks into their season, approximating the halfway mark in the NFL’s 17-week schedule, every player on the Packers' 53-man roster practiced Wednesday in pads.
Under sweatpants, quarterback Aaron Rodgers appeared to wear a small brace over his left knee, but he was listed as a full participant. Several players were listed as limited, but none of the injuries are expected to keep players inactive Sunday.
It’s remarkable health for a team that has been riddled with injuries the past couple years. Not since the 2014 season have the Packers experienced this level of fortune with injury prevention. Even that year, they lost defensive lineman B.J. Raji to a torn biceps in the preseason.
The closet the Packers have come to losing a key starter is defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson (broken leg), who was the third-best player at his position behind Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark. Inside linebacker Jake Ryan (torn ACL) is also on injured reserve, but was also third at his position behind Blake Martinez and Oren Burks and would have played exclusively on running downs.
In other words, the Packers have their two-deep depth chart intact entering the meat of their schedule. It’s a best-case scenario from an injury standpoint.
Happy with Ha Ha
Over the bye, Packers defensive pass-game coordinator Joe Whitt Jr. said he spent time looking at the top defenses in the NFL, and he arrived at this conclusion with Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
“If you look at safety play through the league and go back and look at him,” Whitt said, “he’s right up there with the top guys. So everybody has negative plays, everybody has good plays. A lot of people want to focus on the negative.”
Clinton-Dix, despite bouts with inconsistency in the past, has forced four turnovers this season, including a fumble against the San Francisco 49ers. He’s also tied for the NFL lead with three interceptions.
“He’s trending in the right direction,” Whitt said. “I’m happy with Ha. And he’s voicing himself more at practice, in the locker room. He’s making his presence felt. That’s what we needed from him.”
Beating the heat
About the time the Packers arrive at kickoff Sunday, temperatures inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum will be reaching 80 degrees.
The soaring, southern California heat will stay throughout the day. A high of 84 degrees is forecast.
Back in Green Bay, the temperatures will be nearly half that: Forecasts call for somewhere in the low- to mid-40s.
When the temperatures dip in northeast Wisconsin each year, cold-weather games inside Lambeau Field present a decided home advantage. The same will be true with the Packers' three home games in December against the Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions. Each team plays its home games inside a dome, and for Arizona and Atlanta, there’s no way to even practice for the cold temperatures awaiting up north.
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That’s for then. In the now, the Rams will have a decided hot-weather advantage inside their home stadium Sunday. The Packers practiced outside twice this week, both sessions in 40-degree temperatures. It hasn’t reached 84 degrees in Green Bay since temperatures hit a high of 90 on Sept. 17. Since then, the only day temperatures have hit 80 degrees in Green Bay was a high of 82 on Oct. 3.
Coach Mike McCarthy said the weather – along with the long travel – was one reason he pushed the Packers' game-week schedule up by one day. The team will practice in the heat Saturday morning, McCarthy said.
“We’ll do a little more work here on Friday than we would do on a Saturday,” McCarthy said. “Take a later flight out there so everybody can get to their hotel room. They can have dinner and get to bed at a reasonable hour, and obviously deal with the time change and then get up Saturday morning, and we’ll work from 9 to noon. And then we’ll be back on a normal schedule.”
The Packers' game against the Miami Dolphins on Nov. 11 has been flexed to a 3:25 p.m. start, the NFL said. The game, part of the Packers' Gold season-ticket plan, originally was scheduled for noon at Lambeau Field.