'Making plays' to earn Jake Kumerow more opportunities in Packers' offense

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GREEN BAY – Jake Kumerow has 18 targets this season. He has 11 receptions for 212 yards. In the Green Bay Packers' offense, that ranks eighth, ninth and eighth, respectively.

There is one statistic in which Kumerow ranks at the top. His 19.3 yards per catch is more than any other Packers receiver with multiple receptions. When given the rare opportunity, Kumerow has made big plays.

His latest was a 49-yard reception in Sunday’s 21-13 win against the Chicago Bears. The longest reception of his career, Kumerow caught Aaron Rodgers’ pass at Chicago’s 43, sidestepped Bears safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, broke two more tackles downfield, then finally was caught at the 11.

The play — and Kumerow’s growing tendency to make them — was the topic of conversation among Packers offensive coaches Monday, head coach Matt LaFleur said. The consensus?

“We have to make sure we get him on the field,” LaFleur said. “So I think you’ll see more of him as we move forward.”

Packers wide receiver Jake Kumerow (16) runs for a first down on a long reception against Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller (23) in the third quarter Sunday at Lambeau Field.

Kumerow has been firmly entrenched as the Packers’ fifth receiver most of this season. His 272 snaps are fifth behind Geronimo Allison (519), Marquez Valdes-Scantling (504), Davante Adams (483, missed four games with injury) and Allen Lazard (308).

Kumerow’s production doesn’t lag as much as his snap count. Allison’s 270 yards on 31 catches are only 58 yards behind Kumerow. Allison has struggled with drops, including Sunday when he was unable to catch a high pass that hit him in the hands, ending the Packers' first possession.

LaFleur said Allison has found other ways to be valuable to his offense, specifically as a blocker. The coach lauded his receiver for a block against Bears linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, helping to spring running back Aaron Jones’ 21-yard touchdown run.

Still, Allison’s lack of production in the receiving game is impossible to ignore.

“It’s no secret,” LaFleur said, “G-Mo has had a couple drops. I think the one (Sunday), that was not an easy catch. I’ve seen him make it before, so I know he can do it.”

Ideally, Valdes-Scantling would have developed into the Packers’ second receiver. He is the only receiver the Packers drafted other than Adams. But he is mired in a deep slump, which only worsened Sunday when he dropped Rodgers’ first pass of the game, a potential 70-yard touchdown.

“I think you just gotta keep working,” LaFleur said of Valdes-Scantling. “I have been really pleased with, I know you guys don’t always get to see it, but he has been busting his butt at practice. That’s why I’m confident that he’s going to work himself out of it.”

If that confidence remains, it doesn’t erase the need for his offense to get more production from the receiver position, especially outside Adams.

In the past six games, Valdes-Scantling has two catches for 11 yards. In the same stretch, Kumerow has five catches for 120 yards.

So, LaFleur said, Kumerow will get his shot.

“In fairness to those other guys,” LaFleur said, “we have to do a better job of making sure a guy like Jake Kumerow gets on the field more often because he has been making plays.”

First pick pleases Lowry

Being in the right place at the right time paid off for Packers defensive end Dean Lowry on Sunday, as he dropped off his rush and got into the passing lane of Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky with just under seven minutes left in the game.

Lowry managed to not just knock the ball off its flight but intercept it – though he acknowledged he almost dropped it. He rumbled seven yards before Bears guard Rashaad Coward tackled him.

“He had the angle on me, so that’s my excuse for getting caught by a lineman,” Lowry said. “It was kind of a bang-bang play and just the adrenaline was pumping.”

The turnover gave the Packers the ball back at the Bears’ 33 with 6:32 left in the game. Even though the offense went three-and-out, it ran off over two minutes of clock and punted to the Bears’ 5. They needed everyone one of those seconds and yards as the Bears’ final play ended as time expired at the Packers’ 2.

But for Lowry, the interception against the Bears will be remembered. Not only was it the first of his four-year career, but he grew up in Rockford, Illinois and played his college ball at Northwestern.

“It’s pretty cool,” Lowry said. “Just to do it against the Bears, a team that I’ve grown up watching, and to be a part of this rivalry now and make a big play, it’s special.”

Fans favor Bakhtiari, Preston Smith

Fan voting for the Pro Bowl ended Dec. 12 and the NFL released the results Monday. The Packers were one of the top-five teams receiving votes (Baltimore led all teams in fan voting).

Coaches and players will round out the voting to determine the rosters for the annual postseason exhibition. The league will announce the rosters Tuesday evening.

For the Packers, outside linebacker Preston Smith received the most fan votes at his position in the NFC (166,347) while David Bakhtiari led all NFC left tackles (194,207). Bakhtiari made his only Pro Bowl trip in 2016 while Smith has never made an appearance in the game.

Former Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Russell Wilson (Seattle), center Travis Frederick (Dallas) and linebacker T.J. Watt (Pittsburgh) were also leading vote-getters at their respective positions in their conference.

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