Packers' trio of rookie receivers say they have no problem with Aaron Rodgers' critique
GREEN BAY − Romeo Doubs sat with arms on his knees, eyes down, a towel draping his head to block out what was a downtrodden and near-silent locker room. When he finally, and slowly, raised his head to address reporters at his locker at FedEx Field, his normally quiet demeanor was even lower, matching the energy of a Packers' loss to the Washington Commanders.
Doubs had four targets in the game, with no receptions, casting a pall on what started as a promising rookie season for the fourth-round pick. He answered questions for less than five minutes, timid and hesitant to explain a performance he had yet to see on tape.
That was Sunday.
On Tuesday, quarterback Aaron Rodgers publicly stated on a radio show that there were double-digit mental mistakes taking place in games and that “guys who are making too many mistakes shouldn’t be playing. Gotta start cutting some reps. Maybe guys who aren't playing give them a chance.”
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At his Lambeau Field locker Thursday, Doubs looked up, voice strong and confident, as he talked with reporters for about 20 minutes. He addressed his quarterback’s comments, which did not specify names but implied they were about young guys. He openly talked about the mistakes he made leading to the four incompletions against Washington.
And he summed up the dismal week with one prevailing thought: Rodgers can say whatever he wants about the young receivers. He can call them out publicly and privately. He can yell, he can get openly frustrated and he can push them to their breaking point. At the end of the day, Doubs said, he has a finite amount of time with one of the best quarterbacks of all time. It’s in his best interest to learn everything he can.
“Coming in as a rookie, playing with Aaron is, you know, definitely unusual,” Doubs said. “I mean, he, just throughout his career, he's consistently had the same receivers. And coming in to this year, this year was different. I’m learning every day being around him.”
Being a rookie in Green Bay means learning Rodgers as much as the game.
“Aaron Rodgers has played in the NFL however many years,” rookie Samori Toure said, "so he’s a seasoned vet and we’re going to take any advice or coaching that we can from him."
Added Doubs, “You just gotta learn fast and catch up to him. He understands the game. Our fast in this game is his slow. It’s been crazy playing with him because he understands the game so well and you just gotta pick up and know exactly what it is you’re doing.”
That can be difficult for any receiver, especially first-year players.
According to Rodgers, there have been too many instances of guys being on the wrong page. As to whether that’s the receiver's fault or if the quarterback is to receive some blame as well is up for interpretation, but one thing that can’t be argued are the results on the field.
Rodgers has a 94.9 passer rating through seven games, with a 66.8% completion percentage, 1,597 yards, 11 touchdowns and three interceptions. Good for most quarterbacks, pedestrian for Rodgers.
“This offense is not where we want to be right now,” Doubs said. “So I mean, eventually those changes will come. Whoever shows up, shows up.”
Whether those who show up are one of the three receivers drafted this year is yet to be seen. Doubs emerged as the top rookie through camp and early in the season, but Christian Watson’s size and speed are why they Packers traded up to draft him early in the second round. And Toure got his first action of the season against Washington and used limited reps to impress his quarterback.
“It's just taking the practice habits to the field,” Rodgers said of Toure on Wednesday. “He's a talented guy. He made some plays right from the start when I got here. I was impressed by some of the stuff he was doing down the field and catching the ball with his hands. But it's just, you know, he's been in a lot of different spots. In that game, he’s playing in slot, playing outside. So it was just, it was good for him I think to get his feet wet, catch a ball. And now we just got to take that next step of matching the play speed with the mental speed as well.”
Watson, who has been dealing with a hamstring injury, is penciled in to play Sunday against the Bills. He’s missed the past two games after leaving against the New York Giants with the hamstring pull. Not being on the field means he hasn’t been a part of the mental mistakes, but he’s been the recipient of the subsequent lessons.
“He has a feel for how he wants things done,” Watson said of Rodgers. "And obviously at first we kind of had like the shock factor of, you know, playing with obviously Aaron Rodgers. But obviously once that goes away, you kind of get in the flow. I mean, there's obviously stuff you have to do to prepare on your own. It's obviously, it's just a blessing having 12 back there at quarterback because he's gonna make you right, even if you aren't right 100% of the time.”
These hard moments with Rodgers can be intimidating at times, hard to hear, even harder to take face-to-face, humbling for sure, but necessary in the long run.
“You catch yourself in the high so fast in the league,” Doubs said. “With (Rodgers) being here 18 years, he has, it's obvious that he's got a routine and he knows how to stay flat line and be consistent. So it's OK to have some confidence. I mean, myself, I preach it all the time, just try to stay flatline and humble as possible, because things can change as soon as you catch yourself high.”
Added Toure, “I feel like we've already been humbled throughout this year. And it's motivating, obviously want to be on the same page with your quarterback and you want to be able to be open on time and, you know, have good chemistry so that's what we're working towards.”
The Packers say they have spent extra time on detail this week. Even as Rodgers rehabbed his thumb Wednesday, he slipped away early to be the one to call the plays during team drills. The Packers know they have a daunting task in front of them heading to Buffalo, a tough place to play under the best of circumstances, against one of the best all-around teams in the league. Doing so with a receiving corps that likely will be made up of Sammy Watkins, Doubs, Watson and Toure doesn’t make things easier.
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But the challenge is what these bright-eyed rookies are looking forward to, an opportunity to prove to their veteran quarterback that they heard his message and are ready to respond.
“We just gotta go out there and do what we know we're capable of doing,” Waston said. “You know we've been working since when we got here at rookie minicamp to be in this position. Regardless of circumstances, if it's our time, just got to make the most of those opportunities.
Added Toure, “How can it not be exciting? Playing one of the best teams in NFL at their place on Sunday Night Football. I don't know what more you could ask for. We're very excited to step up to the challenge and kind of show what we can do.”