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Packers like potential of much-maligned wide receivers group

Ryan Wood
Packers News
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Devin Funchess (17) catches a deep pass against Green Bay Packers cornerback Damarious Randall (23) at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.

GREEN BAY - It’s not that Nathaniel Hackett thinks his group of receivers could go without improvement in 2020, but the Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator is unwilling to single out the position specifically.

Receiver was thought to be a major offseason need for the Packers. Their only notable addition has been free agent Devin Funchess. Head coach Matt LaFleur made a coaching change, firing position coach Alvis Whitted Jr. and replacing him with offensive assistant Jason Vrable.

That the two primary changes at the position were a veteran and new assistant coach could indicate general manager Brian Gutekunst prioritized internal improvement for a young group. Hackett sees room for the position to continue progressing, but said he’s excited about the potential.

“You always want more from everybody,” Hackett said. “Every single position, we want more. We want more from the coaches. We want more from Aaron (Rodgers). We want more from Corey (Linsley), from David (Bakhtiari), from the wide receivers. As coaches, we’re always striving to have everybody compete and become better.

“I think the wide receivers, there’s some things they did last year that were awesome. There’s always something that I think we can get better at. I think their understanding of the system and understanding what we’re asking of them is going to help them develop.”

It is especially surprising the Packers didn’t draft a receiver from what was considered a loaded class. Instead, Gutekunst used his first pick to potentially start the clock on Rodgers’ time as starter, trading up in the opening round to draft Utah State quarterback Jordan Love.

When Rodgers spoke publicly for the first time following Love’s selection, he was asked if the Packers' decision to pass on drafting a receiver was a vote of confidence in the young group.

“I think a lot,” Rodgers said. “I do. For them to not pick a guy early on, to me, says they really like our guys and have faith in them. … It all starts with Davante (Adams) and his abilities. He’s a dynamic player. When you have a dynamic guy like that, he opens up the field for the rest of the guys. That’s where you saw guys like Allen Lazard make big strides, you saw Jake (Kumerow) make big plays, you saw MVS (Marquez Valdes-Scantling) have games where he was a big factor for us.

“I’m excited about seeing EQ (Equanimeous St. Brown, who sat out the 2019 season with an injury) back in the mix, and then adding Devin, who’s a veteran guy who’s made plays in the league for a number of years and is hungry. I feel really good about that group, and obviously the front office did as well.”

The Packers could use improvement in the passing game outside the wide receiver position, as well. They’ve had glowing reviews from an incomplete rookie season for Jace Sternberger, speaking confidence into the young tight end this offseason. Sternberger caught his first career touchdown pass in the NFC Championship game, perhaps the Packers’ one silver lining in the blowout defeat.

The touchdown could be a momentum boost for Sternberger, the third-round pick last year who figures to have a big role in the offense after playing only six games because of injury in 2019.

“With Jace,” Hackett said, “I think it’s just being consistent, understanding the system and understanding his role, where he fits so he can get on the field and understand what he needs to do to get his job done.”

Note

The NFL reportedly has notified teams that no on-field workouts will be allowed at team facilities before the start of training camp, and that no joint practices will be allowed during camp this year.

For the Packers, that means no three-day June minicamp or OTAs. Also, the Packers' planned joint practices with the Cleveland Browns in early August won't take place. That should be good news for Rodgers, who was no fan of the sessions conducted with the Houston Texans last August, complaining that they limited what the Packers could focus on in their new offense.