Help Still Needed At Receiver

The Packers don’t have a No. 1 or even a No. 2 wide receiver, and at least until Robert Tonyan returns from a serious knee suffered last November, they also don’t possess a starting-caliber tight end. Fortunately, none of this will be a problem in the regular season. With a solid line, two good running backs, and most of all, a 4-time MVP quarterback, scoring points won’t be an issue against the multitude of average and below-average defenses that dominate the 2022 schedule.

So get ready for another four months of listening to talking heads tell you how silly you were for worrying about the “lack of talent” at tight end and especially wide receiver as the Packers light up the scoreboard and win another 13 games from September through December. And then get ready for those same blowhards to say nothing when the offense can’t pick up a yard on consecutive fourth-quarter possessions in the NFC Championship Game, or even worse, scores three points in the final 54 minutes in the divisional round. Because that’s what’s likely to happen if general manager Brian Gutekunst doesn’t acquire a quality wide receiver between now and when the playoffs begin next January.

While the past decade has proven that a team doesn’t need an All-Pro wide receiver to win the Super Bowl, no team has hoisted the Lombardi Trophy with Allen Lazard or Sammy Watkins as its No. 1 weapon. And the few teams that didn’t have an elite wide receiver (Baltimore, Seattle, and Philadelphia) all had a tight end much better than Tonyan. Plus, two of those teams (Baltimore and Seattle) boasted defenses that would be considered among the best in the history of the NFL.

2012RavensAnquan Boldin & Torrey Smith
2013SeahawksDoug Baldwin & Golden Tate
2014PatriotsJulian Edelman & Rob Gronkowski
2015BroncosDemaryius Thomas & Emmanuel Sanders
2016PatriotsJulian Edelman & Martellus Bennett
2017EaglesAlshon Jeffery & Zach Ertz
2018PatriotsJulian Edelman & Rob Gronkowski
2019ChiefsTyreek Hill & Travis Kelce
2020BuccaneersMike Evans & Chris Godwin
2021RamsCooper Kupp & Odell Beckham Jr.

Simply put, the current collection of wide receivers isn’t going to be good enough come the postseason. Again. Even with five-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro Davante Adams, the Packers struggled to score points against Tampa Bay in 2020 and San Francisco in 2021. Both defensive coordinators (Todd Bowles and DeMeco Ryans, respectively) played the exact same way; they rushed four, dropped seven into coverage, doubled Adams all over the field, and felt extremely confident that their other five defenders could cover Green Bay’s other three or four receivers. They were right.

In the top video, only Josiah Deguara (#81), who leaked out into the flat, was open, and the 49ers had a defender (free safety Jimmie Ward) close enough to keep the second-year tight end from getting the first down. In the above video, only Aaron Jones (#33) was open, and once again, the 49ers had a defender (linebacker Dre Greenlaw) close enough to keep the Pro Bowl running back from getting into the end zone. These were only two of 34 snaps, but for the most part, this is what Aaron Rodgers saw all game when he dropped back to pass. His first two or three reads were very rarely available.

While Rodgers and a good scheme from coach and play-caller Matt LaFleur will usually compensate for a shortage of talent at wide receiver in the regular season, that combination won’t be enough to get through two or three, or even four high-quality defenses in the playoffs. In January, talent supersedes everything else, and the Packers are lacking right now.

One┬ácaveat would be North Dakota State rookie Christian Watson overcoming all odds and becoming a standout in year one. Is this possible? Yes, but it’s highly unlikely. So is the other caveat – the defense making the jump from pretty good to outstanding in its second season under Joe Barry. Sure, Rich Strike proved last Saturday that anything is possible in sports, but that 3-year-old horse didn’t have to beat press coverage at the line of scrimmage and then get open against quality corners.

If Gutekunst wants to add a veteran prior to the start of training camp but doesn’t want to give up a high draft pick and/or take on a hefty salary, some fairly appealing options are still available. Jarvis Landry and Cole Beasley are crafty possession receivers who know how to get open on third down and in the red zone. A similar player might’ve been the difference in the last two postseason losses. Gutekunst could also take a chance on Julio Jones or Will Fuller. Sure, that would be adding another injury risk to Watkins and Randall Cobb, but maybe one of them would still be standing come January.

Gutekunst must add another legitimate weapon to the receiving corps. He can’t replace Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling with Watkins and Watson and expect that to be good enough when it really matters. The move can happen now or at any time up to trade deadline in early November, but it needs to occur, and it needs to be fairly significant. Otherwise, the 2022 season will end the same as the two that preceded it – with the Packers being let down by their offense.


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Michael Rodney

Packers Notes is the creation of Michael Rodney, who has been writing about the Green Bay Packers for over 30 years. His first blog, Packer Update, hit the internet in 2004. Before becoming a public educator, Rodney worked as a journalist for a couple of newspapers in his home state of New Jersey and covered the Philadelphia Eagles for WTXF-TV. He's had numerous articles on the Packers published, and he's been featured on both television and radio over the years.

5 thoughts on “Help Still Needed At Receiver

  1. After losing Adams and MVS, I was expecting more than Watkins, Watson, and two late-round picks. There’s no way Gutekunst can take this group into the season, is there??

    I still can’t understand why Gutekunst didn’t trade for DeVante Parker. A third-round pick in 2023 for a solid No. 2 receiver seemed like a really good deal. I heard Parker wanted to go to New England, but I have to think the Dolphins would much rather have traded him out of the division.

  2. I don’t believe that Gute is motivated to do anything beyond that which he’s already done.

    I’ve loved the Packers for over 48 years and during this time I have even gone so far as to call Bob Harlem and beg for them to sign or trade for certain players. Mr. Harlan was always gracious but they never listened to anything I say. What kills me is all this talk about how we fans can’t possibly know anything about what is going on because we’re idiots who only help pay their salaries. You know, us crazy people who pay $500 to see our favorite team once a season.

    Anyway, I believe they should sign Landry but he supposedly wants 14 million so if true that’s not going to occur. Cole would be a good signing but with Cobb and Rodgers at slot can’t see it occuring unless we’re willing to cut Cobb. Obviously with Mr. Fragile Ego that’s not going to happen. Perhaps we can sign Fuller and pray he stays healthy, or if Jones would accept a very modest 3 million a year contract with game incentives, workout bonuses, per game bonuses, Pro Bowl bonuses, Super Bowl bonuses, and at 800 yards bonus, 1000 yards bonus and 1200 yard bonus. That sounds fair to me. I’m not holding my breath but I agree with you, the Packers have to sign or trade for a legit #2 if nothing else. So, Fuller, Jones, Landry and perhaps a player on a team that is looking for salary cap relief.

    Do I think anything is going to occur. No I don’t believe anything will happen. Just more excuses and justifications for a failure in the playoffs. I’ve learned over the years to accept that which I cannot change. It’s absolutely a mistake to do nothing but that’s the Packers MO.

  3. The Packers will of course bring in another veteran WR. It’s a matter of when and how big a “splash” it’ll be. The only splash will be next October in a trade.

    The longer Landry and Jones remain unsigned the less their salaries will be, I would think. They need salary cap room and that’s where I’m a little surprised – what about an extension for Alexander? Bob McGinn can’t possibly be right that they’re a little more skeptical of him now that he turned down the game-losing tackle on Samuel, right? If not Alexander, then gotta think Gary or Jenkins should be in play for extensions, though maybe more next offseason than this one?

  4. Blowhard = Nagler

    Another factor here; GB prioritizes offensive linemen that can pass-block. If teams wanted to drop 7 and rush 4, theoretically the Packers offense could run them out of it. But even with 2 strong RBs, the OL can’t block it up consistently enough to sustain drives.

    In other words a pass blocking OL with no WRs isn’t a winning strategy on offense when facing a strong defense.

    1. Nagler is far from the only blowhard. IMO, the reason most Packers fans are so ill-informed is due to the people they get their info from. When I grew up, you got your info from Cliff Christl and Bob McGinn. There were no idiots spouting nonsense on blogs, podcasts, and social media.

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