Second in a nine-part Packers position-analysis series with 2018 grades.
GREEN BAY - It wasn’t that long ago when the weapons around Aaron Rodgers commanded not just the respect and attention of defensive coordinators, but also the attention of national magazines and huge contracts on the negotiating table.
The 2018 season may have seen pools of money being paid out, but the production outside of Davante Adams failed to live up to it. Last season, Randall Cobb ($12.7 million), Adams ($10.5 million) and Jimmy Graham ($5.9 million) accounted for 16.4 percent of the Packers’ salary cap.
Plenty of reasons could be given for the lack of overall production and difference-making from the majority of Packers receivers and tight ends (injury, age, scheme, learning curve), but at the end of the day this group did not perform to the degree that was needed in order to score touchdowns consistently.
Adams put together an incredible campaign, catching 111 passes for 1,386 yards and 13 touchdowns despite every defense knowing he was going to get the ball the majority of the time Rodgers dropped back. After two solid seasons, Adams took a leap into the league’s elite receiving conversation. If he had played in the season finale, he likely would have set franchise records for receptions and yards.
Wide receivers Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown (and to a lesser degree, J’Mon Moore, Jake Kumerow and tight end Robert Tonyan) were able to get on the field for important game reps in their first seasons in the NFL, providing some flashes of ability but more so being able to get a feel for what playing in the NFL is all about.
Injuries derailed the season for Cobb, Geronimo Allison and Trevor Davis, which significantly affected the offense and special teams. Davis was a nonfactor, playing just two games between stints on injured reserve, and Allison ended his season on IR after appearing in just five games. Cobb battled a hamstring injury all season and missed seven games.
Without Cobb and Allison, the rest of the receivers didn’t really step up and no tight end was a factor in the passing game outside of Graham. And, perhaps because of the lack of respect for the receivers outside of Adams, Graham found himself being beaten up off the line of scrimmage and double-teamed after that. He caught just two touchdown passes.
A difference-making tight end. Perhaps a decision will be made on whether the Packers cut Graham or restructure his contract, but even if Graham returns he’ll be 33 in November. The team may elect not to re-sign Marcedes Lewis and Lance Kendricks in free agency. Perhaps the new coaching staff sees more in Tonyan than the previous regime did, but the position lacks depth, consistency and explosiveness.
And should the Packers decide to move on from Graham, that leaves the tight end room essentially empty and with no experience. Even if Matt LaFleur’s new offense can re-energize the receiver room and create more big plays there, the lack of big-time production out of the tight ends has hindered the offense for years.
Davante Adams: There was almost nothing Adams could do wrong in 2018. He was not only Rodgers’ most reliable target, sharpest route-runner and had the surest hands, but he also put up one of the greatest single seasons in franchise history. Grade: A
Randall Cobb: Cobb missed seven games and felt limited in several others due to a severe hamstring injury, and his season opening stat line against Chicago (9 catches, 142 yards, TD) represented about a quarter of his full-season production. He struggled getting separation and caught just 38 balls in his nine games at 10.1 yards per catch. Grade: D
Marquez Valdes-Scantling: Pressed into a larger role due to injury, the fifth-round pick produced two 100-yard games and earned Rodgers’ trust. But when asked to shoulder the weight of being the No. 2 option, he too often was taken away. Grade: C
Equanimeous St. Brown: The sixth-round rookie also quickly earned Rodgers’ trust and had several big catches while showing great hands. But he still was a role player on offense despite earning seven starts. Grade: C-minus
J’Mon Moore: The fourth-round pick admitted it took him a while to earn his way onto the field and he was leapfrogged by his two rookie teammates and then by Kumerow. Moore caught just two passes and when given the chance to return kicks, he fumbled against the New York Jets and was subsequently benched. Grade: F
Jake Kumerow: A preseason sensation, he came off injured reserve to appear in only five games. Used primarily on special teams initially, Kumerow eventually worked his way onto the field to catch six passes for one touchdown over the final two games. Grade: Incomplete
Geronimo Allison: Started the year fast with 11 catches in two weeks but injured a core muscle in practice after Week 4. He returned to catch one ball against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 8 but was placed on IR after that. Grade: Incomplete
Trevor Davis: He reinjured his hamstring just before the season opener, was inactive and placed on injured reserve. He returned in Week 11 in Seattle but got hurt again the next week and ended his year on IR. Grade: Incomplete
Allen Lazard: Signed to the active roster Dec. 18, the rookie plucked off the Jacksonville practice squad caught one ball for seven yards in the season finale. Grade: Incomplete
Jimmy Graham: Statistically, Graham put up the best season by a Packers tight end since 2012 (55 catches for 636 yards). From Week 1, he also commanded consistent double teams. He played through a broken thumb and was a willing blocker. Grade: C
Lance Kendricks: Reliable in many facets, Kendricks was asked to play an H-back type of role early in the season with no fullback on the roster. He found himself targeted in key spots but struggled to hang on to the ball at times. Grade: C-minus
Marcedes Lewis: Former Pro Bowler was totally marginalized in the offense, used primarily as a sixth offensive lineman (four targets, three catches). Grade: D
Robert Tonyan: First-year player had a big special teams error in New England and a drop in New York, which stick out as he played just 67 offensive snaps (6.2 percent) and 191 on special teams (40.6 percent). Showed athleticism and nice hands at times, but his development as a blocker will be important. Grade: D