Throughout the offseason, many of the biggest questions surrounding the Green Bay Packers centered on the team’s wide receivers. Since Davante Adams was traded to the Raiders, critics have wondered if the team had enough quality receivers to help quarterback Aaron Rodgers keep the offense humming at a high level.
Here are five key questions surrounding the Packers wide receivers as we enter the first full week of training camp:
1. Can Allen Lazard Be a Successful Number One Receiver?
Allen Lazard has been a great story since the Packers signed him late in the 2018 season. Lazard has gone from undrafted free agent to starter. His numbers have improved with each passing season and in 2021, he had 40 catches for 513 yards and eight touchdowns. All those numbers were career highs.
Now, Lazard is the favorite to become the Packers top receiver. Lazard has good hands and runs reliable routes and has earned the trust of Rodgers over the past three seasons. He is a big target and is considered one of the better blocking wideouts in the game.
Some critics question whether Lazard has enough speed to be a WR1. They need to remember that Adams wasn’t an elite receiver because of his blazing speed. Lazard may not have the speed necessary to be an All Pro receiver, but he certainly has the potential to be the top receiver on this team and to be productive in that role.
In the past, opponents had their top cover corner on Adams which freed up Lazard and other receivers to make plays against other corners. One question is whether Lazard can have success if defenses cover him with their best cornerback or double cover him, something that was rare when Adams was on the field.
2. Can Sammy Watkins and Randall Cobb Stay Healthy?
While the Packers receiving corps is short on experience, they do have two veterans in Sammy Watkins and Randall Cobb. Both players have a proven history of being productive NFL receivers but both also have lengthy injury histories.
Watkins is entering his ninth NFL season. The last time Watkins played every game was his rookie campaign back in 2014. On the positive side, he’s only played fewer than 10 games in a season once in his first eight years in the league.
Watkins started training camp on the PUP list but was activated on Friday and has started practicing with the team.
Cobb has a similar record. He has been in the league since 2011 but has not played a full season’s slate of games since 2015. But in 11 seasons in the league, he has played 10-or-more games in nine of them. Cobb’s smaller build and age make his durability a question.
The Packers need at least one of these two veterans to be available especially early in the season when the rookies on the roster are still adjusting to life in the NFL.
3. How Quickly Can the Rookies Be Ready to Contribute?
The Packers drafted three rookies this year in an effort to replenish the talent level at wide receiver after both Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling departed over the offseason. The key question is when will they be ready to play a substantial role in the offense?
The Packers traded up in the second round to grab Christian Watson. He has great size and outstanding athletic ability but is making a big jump from North Dakota State to the NFL. Watson is also starting training camp on the PUP list and is expected to miss “a little bit of time” during training camp. Obviously, those early reps are important for the development of a rookie receiver.
Romeo Doubs has been a standout in the first few days of training camp. The former Nevada star has made some impressive catches early on but needs to prove he can get it done consistently and during games that count.
Seventh-round pick Samori Toure is also in camp and competing for a job on the roster. He was a deep threat at Nebraska last season and hopes to find a spot on the roster because of his contributions on offense or special teams.
The talent of all three receivers is undeniable but the key question is how quickly can they pick up the offense and adjust to life in the NFL. Most rookie receivers do not make a big impact. Even former Packers stars like Adams and Jordy Nelson struggled in their first few seasons. It would certainly be a boost to the offense if one or more of the first-year players on the roster can make some consistent contributions by the second half of the season.
4. Can Juwann Winfree and Malik Taylor Stick?
Taylor and Winfree have been with the Packers for a few seasons now. Both players have excelled during training camp and in preseason games but have not made large contributions to the offense once the games counted.
The time has come for both these players to prove they can get the job done in September and October and not just in August. If they can, their experience may help them earn a role in the offense. If not, their NFL careers could be in serious jeopardy.
5. Will Aaron Rodgers Learn to Trust His New Receivers?
One issue Rodgers has often had in the past is developing a sense of trust with his young receivers. When the Packers drafted three receivers in 2018, Rodgers was openly critical of all of them during training camp. J’Mon Moore never panned out, Equanimeous St. Brown became a depth receiver and special teams contributor and Valdes-Scantling became a speedster who was either the second or third receiver on the depth chart.
The Packers are hoping that Rodgers can develop a greater sense of trust with the young receivers on the current roster and that it happens more rapidly than it did in 2018. That will only help the offense in 2022.
These are five key questions facing the new Packers receivers group as training camp starts. The Packers are hoping they get positive answers for most of them this season.
You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers