The Green Bay Packers feature one of the league’s most productive and reliable receivers in Davante Adams, who earned his third consecutive Pro Bowl invitation last year.
After that, there are plenty of questions.
Green Bay didn’t select any wideouts in a draft that was heralded for its receiving depth. The Packers lost their lone major offseason addition at wide receiver when Devin Funchess opted against playing this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
That leaves the Packers relying on the continued development of younger receivers such as Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
“I’ve been doubted my whole life, and I’m pretty sure everybody in this room has been doubted,” Valdes-Scantling said Friday. “And we’ll go out and prove everyone wrong again.”
Adams had 83 receptions for 997 yards and five touchdowns last season despite missing four games with a toe injury. His 40 touchdown catches since 2016 are the most of anyone in the NFL.
But he’s the only Packer who caught as many as 50 passes or accumulated as many as 500 yards receiving last season.
The Packers remain confident in their receivers, in part because they know Lazard came on strong last season and believe Valdes-Scantling is on the verge of a breakthrough year.
Valdes-Scantling’s training camp performance has earned the praise of quarterback and two-time MVP Aaron Rodgers.
“I would say that the receiver that I’ve been most impressed with, especially the last week, 10 days of camp is Marquez,” Rodgers said Wednesday. “I think he has had some really good practices in a row and started to lay down some good practice fundamentals that he can lean on. At the same time, I know (coach) Matt (LaFleur) said this at one point, this is the new standard for MVS. I’m proud of the way that he’s gone about his business.”
Valdes-Scantling, a 2018 fifth-round pick from South Florida, has a reputation as a deep threat but saw his production drop last season. He caught 38 passes for 581 yards as a rookie, added just 26 receptions for 452 yards in 2019.
LaFleur likes the way Valdes-Scantling has responded.
“He’s got much more urgency when he gets out there, and is making plays,” LaFleur said. “He’s demonstrating strong, aggressive, confident hands, which is something that, you know, didn’t always happen last year, to be honest.”
His best moment of the preseason may have occurred off the field, as he bought a car as a birthday present for his mom. He posted a video of his mother’s reaction to the gift on his Instagram account.
“I can watch that video a hundred times, and I’ll smile every time,” Valdes-Scantling said. “Just being able to give my mom something that she has dreamt about. My mom works her butt off, and being able to make her dream come true, because she has never asked me for anything since I got into the NFL, or ever. She’s always been the type to give to me or whatever I needed she made it happen, has never asked me for a dollar or anything. So just being able to do something nice for her for a change is huge to me.”
The Packers are hoping Valdes-Scantling can make a jump similar to the progress Lazard showed last season. Lazard, a 2018 undrafted free agent from Iowa State, spent most of his rookie year on Jacksonville’s practice squad. He didn't make the Packers' initial 53-man roster last year, but finished the season with 35 catches for 477 yards and three touchdowns. All of his catches came in the final 11 games of the season.
Green Bay needs the 6-foot-5 Lazard to take another step forward this year.
“Allen’s been steady,” LaFleur said. “You know, his game is definitely very, very physical, and you don’t always get to demonstrate that in practice, especially when you’re going against your own teammates. So I am definitely looking forward to seeing him in game action.”
The Packers also could get a boost from the return of Equanimeous St. Brown, who missed the entire 2019 season with an ankle injury after catching 21 passes for 328 yards as a rookie in 2018.
Green Bay believes it has enough talented receivers to make opposing secondaries pay if they focus all their attention on Adams.
“We don’t get talked about enough, but I think that the guys we have in our room are going to go out and be successful week-in and week-out,” Valdes-Scantling said. “I think we will continue to show that.”
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