Aaron Rodgers demanding more consistency from young receivers

Ryan Wood
Packers News
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GREEN BAY – As Romeo Doubs streaked open down the left sideline Tuesday, the Green Bay Packers' rookie receiver had another highlight in his hands.

Doubs smoked New Orleans Saints cornerback Bradley Roby in the teams’ first of two joint practices in consecutive days, and Rodgers delivered. His high-arching pass, the best ball Rodgers said he threw all practice, nestled in Doubs’ hands. Its descent didn’t stop there.

Some 40 yards downfield, Doubs was unable to hold onto the football, dropping what would have been one of the best plays of the day.

“The young guys, especially the young receivers,” Rodgers said, “we’ve got to be way more consistent. A lot of drops, a lot of bad route decisions, running the wrong route. So we’ve got to get better in that area.”

Rodgers emphasized after the two-hour, 25-minute practice it’s time for his young receivers to become more consistent. The quarterback said his comments were “not necessarily” targeted at Doubs’ drop, though the fourth-round pick had a handful of bad drops in last week’s preseason opener at San Francisco. The quarterback also mentioned second-year receiver Amari Rodgers running the wrong route on backup quarterback Jordan Love’s third interception against the 49ers.

As a whole, Rodgers outlined an emerging pecking order on the receiver depth chart – at least in his mind. Behind top receiver Allen Lazard, the four-time MVP said veterans Randall Cobb and Sammy Watkins have been reliable.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) speaks with New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram II (5) at training camp practice on Tuesday.

“Obviously, I can play with Cobby in my sleep. When he’s healthy, he’s a premier slot receiver in the league. I feel, especially after today, better with Sammy.

“And then there’s a lot of opportunity after that.”

Rodgers said Tuesday was Watkins’ best practice. The highlight came on a free play when the Saints defense jumped offside. Watkins improvised the free play with Rodgers, catching a pass deep down the right sideline. Until Tuesday, Watkins had been having a quiet camp.

It was a reminder things can turn quickly in August. One good day can go a long way. Right now, Rodgers said, he needs his young receivers to stack good days together.

Rodgers opened camp saying his young receivers would need time to develop. On Tuesday, he said the time is coming when patience will grow thin. If the young receivers aren’t more consistent, Rodgers warned they won’t be on the field.

“I had a conversation with a couple of the young guys about the standard we’re going to hold them to,” Rodgers said. “They are rookies, but they’re NFL players and what’s been on film hasn’t been good enough as of yet. There’s been some splash plays, but there’s been a lot of mistakes. We watch every single clip. We’re watching all the one reps, all the two reps, the three reps in our quarterback room. We don’t miss anything.

“So there’s a standard we’re going to hold our guys to, and we know our coaches are going to be holding them to that standard as well.”

Rodgers added: “We’re going to shift that perspective, a little slight adjustment here moving forward, because it’s getting close to time when it’s going to count. And I need guys out there that I can trust.”

Rodgers defends Love on interceptions

Last season, it took Rodgers five games to throw his third interception. Rodgers memorably threw only two interceptions in all of 2018. So to have Jordan Love toss three picks in the first half of his preseason opener at San Francisco overshadowed his 2022 debut.

Of course, Rodgers also knows the stats can lie.

The Packers' starting quarterback said Love’s film “told a different story” than the three interceptions indicated on his box score. He suggested much of went wrong for the offense in Friday night’s first half wasn’t on his backup.

“I felt really bad for Jordan the other night,” Rodgers said, “because we had a couple total mental busts for picks. We had a drop for a pick. We had two guys running who knows what on the third one. Now, he shouldn’t have thrown the ball there probably, but some of that is veteran stuff making veteran mistakes.”

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Rodgers said his young understudy has shown improvement with his footwork in this camp. Love has thrown the ball on time and in rhythm more than the past, Rodgers said.

The MVP known for his play extensions said Love needs to be more comfortable tucking the football and making plays when things break down around him.

“It’s just about consistency,” Love said. “I thought there were some really nice balls. There were probably a couple decisions he’d like to have back, but those are kind of normal. I’d like to see him keep trusting his feet and his athleticism, especially we had a couple designed, read-option stuff, but you’d love to see him (when the) pocket breaks down, nobody is quite open on time, extend the play and take off and run and slide.”

Elgton Jenkins' return big boost for line

For Rodgers, Elgton Jenkins’ activation off the physically unable to perform list couldn’t happen soon enough.

The Packers offensive line held up OK against the Saints in pass protection Tuesday, but it got little movement in the run game. Jenkins, who returned from PUP on Sunday and lined up at right tackle in a jogthrough Monday, did not participate in team reps against the Saints.

When he fully returns, Jenkins likely will make a big difference for the offensive line.

“It’s very exciting,” Rodgers said. “We’re watching a walkthrough rep, and I’m watching 74 (Jenkins), and it’s just different. He has such a great feel, and it’s wild because he started at left guard, both tackle spots, center. The guy is a really special player. It’s nice to have him back.”

It’s unknown if the Packers plan to slot Jenkins in at right tackle until David Bakhtiari returns. Coach Matt LaFleur said Jenkins’ position will be “day to day” when he returns. No matter where Jenkins lines up, his presence will be a big boost for the offensive line.

Rodgers said he was also pleased to see tight end Robert Tonyan and rookie receiver Christian Watson return from PUP. Tonyan is “itching to go,” Rodgers said. The quarterback said he’ll test his rookie receiver every day in practice, making sure he’s ready to play.

“It’s encouraging,” Rodgers said, “because what do we got, four weeks until the first game or so? And I think all of them might have a legit opportunity to play.” 

Packer swap tight ends

The Packers announced a series of roster moves Tuesday, including the signing of a new tight end. 

They released five players: running back B.J. Baylor, linebacker Ellis Brookes, tight end Dominque Dafney, guard George Moore and linebacker Randy Ramsey. It was also announced Monday that the Packers had released offensive lineman Cole Schneider and corner Donte Vaughn. 

The new addition is tight end Nate Becker, claimed off waivers from the Carolina Panthers. Becker (6-5, 258) signed with the Detroit Lions as an undrafted free agent out of Miami (Ohio) in 2019. He spent time on the Buffalo Bills practice squad in 2019 and 2020, appearing in one game for the Bills in 2020. 

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