So the Green Bay Packers’ injury issues at receiver just got worse Saturday night.
How much worse depends on the severity of Randall Cobb’s right shoulder injury. After getting hurt on the first series of the Packers’ preseason game against Philadelphia at Lambeau Field, he went to the locker room, then spent the entire second half on the Packers’ sideline in sweats.
As far I could tell his right hand never came out of his pocket, so it looked like he was using it as a de facto sling. Not a great sign. Cobb talked to reporters after the game and gave every indication the injury is more day-to-day than long term, so we’ll see.
If Cobb’s injury is short-term, then it’s just a scare for the Packers, though one that shows how much teams have to lose in preseason games. But if it’s serious, then it will be a potential catastrophe after the Packers lost Jordy Nelson to a season-ending torn ACL last week. Without their top two receivers, the Packers aren’t a Super Bowl team.
Even if Cobb is OK and back by the regular season, though, the Packers have some decisions to make at receiver. One of them will be whether to bring in a veteran to help make up for the loss of Nelson. The names that keep coming up are two recent former Packers, James Jones, who’s in camp with the New York Giants, and Jarrett Boykin, who’s with Carolina.
The point could be moot, because both appear to be in the thick of the running for roster spots on their current teams. Either way, though, I seriously doubt the Packers will find meaningful help on another team’s roster. Anyone cut at this time of year usually is cut for good reason.
Sure, every once in a while a team can find a godsend on the waiver wire. Grady Jackson was a huge pick up literally and figuratively for the Packers in the ’03 season, and Andre Rison helped them win the Super Bowl as a late-season pickup in 1996 after Cleveland had its fill and cut him. But those are the exceptions.
There’s always the chance of a trade, but with Ted Thompson as Packers general manager, that’s also a relative long shot. And it’s hard to blame him for his reluctance. Chances of finding a deal worth making aren’t good.
Really, the Packers’ best bet is to work and develop the three young receivers who had decent games Saturday night against Philadelphia: Ty Montgomery, Jeff Janis and Myles White. It’s hard to conclude too much from the Packers’ 39-26 loss to Philadelphia, because quarterback Aaron Rodgers (healthy scratch) and No. 2 Scott Tolzien (cleared from concussion but didn’t practice all week) didn’t play.
Rookie Brett Hundley put in a credible performance, but playing against the Eagles’ starters that still was a mismatch. For instance, on the pick-six he threw in the first quarter, he had Montgomery open over the middle but threw to tight end Richard Rodgers instead. Suffice it to say it was hard to judge the young receivers against the Eagles’ No. 1s one way or the other.
But let’s consider the possibility of, say, Jones returning if he’s released. Anyone thinking he’ll make a difference, I’m just not seeing it. He’s 31 and coming off a season in which he had 73 catches for Oakland. The problem is his 9.1-yard average. That’s bad for a tight end, let alone a wide receiver. No doubt he could come in and catch his share of passes because of his experience in the offense. But he’s obviously lost some explosiveness, and it’s doubtful he’ll add much playmaking.
On the other hand, Montgomery, Janis and White at least have upside. If they get a lot of playing time early in the season, any one or all of them could be significantly better players by December and January.
Montgomery is getting the first look for the majority of snaps at the No. 3 — he had that role Saturday night. Cobb and Davante Adams left the game after that first series, and Montgomery played regularly the rest of the half but was on the bench in the second half. Janis, on the other hand, played into the third quarter.
Montgomery had two receptions Saturday night and showed his run-after-the-catch ability on a slant against the Eagles’ starters that turned into a 52-yard gain.
Janis had three catches for 72 yards and a touchdown. It’s clear from reading between the lines of what Rodgers and Janis say that the quarterback doesn’t trust the raw second-year receiver to always be in the right spot, and that’s a big deal. If the quarterback doesn’t trust you, you’re not getting the ball and probably not getting on the field much.
But Janis does keep making plays in preseason games. The big one Saturday night was when he lined up in the slot against E.J. Biggers, a seventh-year pro who has been the Eagles’ No. 1 nickel cornerback for most of camp, though he wasn’t on Saturday night. Biggers is no slow poke — coming out of Western Michigan he ran a reported 4.38-second 40 at his pro day workout — but Janis got behind him and caught a perfectly lofted 27-yard touchdown pass from Matt Blanchard.
White helped his cause for making it as the No. 5 receiver with nine receptions for 89 yards.
Let’s not overstate the case for any of them. Nobody was running wild against the Eagles’ No. 1 secondary. But at least with them there’s youth, speed and upside. Anyone looking elsewhere for help on the Packers’ receiving corps probably is looking to hope more than reason.
The Packers’ best bet is push and force feed the young trio with the long haul of the season, rather than the first month, in mind. It looks like they at least have something to work with.
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @PeteDougherty.