Rookie Amari Rodgers is on the fast track to considerable playing time as Packers' slot receiver
GREEN BAY – If there’s one thing that is evident about how the Green Bay Packers view third-round draft pick Amari Rodgers, it is that they don't see him as a rookie.
Along with second-round center Josh Myers, who receives all of his snaps with the No. 1 offense, Rodgers is being groomed to be an instant contributor to an offense that led the NFL in scoring last season, which says a lot about how much coach Matt LaFleur likes his new slot receiver.
Almost every practice, Rodgers gets a considerable amount of snaps and a good portion of them are with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback.
"You know, Amari, he's been around the game for a long time,” LaFleur said Friday. “You can tell he's a coach's kid. He's got a great feel, and sense of what's going on. He really works at it, he studies really hard.
“We've thrown a lot at him. We're not holding back in terms of, we've got him in a few different roles.”
Rodgers’ playing time has been affected slightly by the acquisition of veteran Randall Cobb, who was added at the request of Aaron Rodgers as part of his terms for returning to the team. But LaFleur has not held back the younger Rodgers.
It helps that Cobb has offered to be a mentor. Rodgers’ father, Tee Martin, was Cobb’s position coach at Kentucky and Cobb has known the receiver since he was a teenager. Cobb gets his share of snaps in the offense, but it’s evident that LaFleur and the coaches want Rodgers ready for a big role when the season starts.
“He will be more in the slot, and then we'll use him doing some of the jet sweep stuff and whatnot,” LaFleur said. “But I'm excited about where he could go. And we got a very, very, very competitive room.
“So it's going to be kind of fun to try to come up with different packages for these guys. And try to put all those guys in that room in the best position possible for them to go out there and help our football team.”
The 5-foot-9, 212-pound Rodgers was a starter his final three years at Clemson, and in his final year he caught 77 passes for 1,020 yards and seven touchdowns. Rodgers doesn’t have blazing speed and showed some concentration lapses in college, but he has proved to be a solid route runner in camp and his hands have been outstanding in the early going of camp.
Rodgers said he has spent a lot of time in his playbook to make sure he’s not making mental errors during practice, which is especially important given all the different places he lines up, the shifts he must remember and the amount of pre-snap motion he goes through.
It’s a given he’ll play a lot during the preseason, although all of his snaps will likely be with backup Jordan Love because Aaron Rodgers isn’t expected to play in any of the games.
Holding some things back Saturday night
Though LaFleur wants the practice inside Lambeau Field to be as game-like as possible, he is not going to be showing any of the new things the Packers have added to their schemes because the practice is televised statewide.
He’s concerned that the Packers’ regular-season opponents could get a copy of the broadcast and study some of the things he has added over the offseason.
“It definitely will be more of a practice,” he said. “It's going to be great from an intensity standpoint to have the fans back in Lambeau. I mean we've all missed that so much, it's going to be great to just feel that energy, that excitement.
“But at the same time, it’ll probably be somewhat vanilla. There's going to be some stuff, new wrinkles in all three phases that we don't necessarily want to show. But it will be a great opportunity to just watch our guys to go out there and compete against one another.
"And then, you know, provided that we're in good physical condition, then we might have a live (tackling) period at the end.”
Until they released long snapper Joe Fortunato on Thursday to make room for outside rusher Chauncey Rivers, the Packers had six specialists in camp.
That’s now down to five: two kickers (Mason Crosby and J.J. Molson), two punters (JK Scott and Ryan Winslow) and a long snapper (Hunter Bradley).
LaFleur said he’d like to keep as many on the roster as he can during camp to keep the competition going.
“I think the more competition you can have throughout camp, the better and competition, it usually brings out the best in everybody,” he said. “And we want that at every position. But I do know that it's probably rare that you've seen six players, six specialists on a roster.
“A lot of that, it just depends how healthy we can stay.”