GREEN BAY – There’s no better experience than game experience and Sunday’s 22-0 victory over the Buffalo Bills delivered the perfect indoctrination for Marquez Valdes-Scantling into the Packers’ offense.
Stepping in for an injured Randall Cobb, the rookie fifth-round pick played 54 of a possible 76 offensive snaps (71 percent) as the third receiver behind Davante Adams and Geronimo Allison.
Valdes-Scantling had the typical ups and downs most rookie receivers experience in their first NFL start, but he admits the knowledge he gained in his first extended outing with quarterback Aaron Rodgers is priceless.
“It’s just something that can’t be replaced,” Valdes-Scantling said. “Practice is going to be practice. Preseason is going to be preseason, but live action is the best thing you can ever get.”
The 6-foot-4, 206-pound receiver earned the opportunity to step up for Cobb following a productive preseason (nine catches for 157 yards and a touchdown) and strong start to the regular season on special teams.
Heralded for his 4.37 speed, Valdes-Scantling has been effective as a gunner on punt coverage. Despite rarely serving in that capacity in college, the rookie receiver already recorded two coverage tackles two weeks ago in Washington.
Thanks in part to hang time and Valdes-Scantling’s speed, Packers rookie punter JK Scott currently is tied for the league lead in fair catches (eight) through the first four games.
“You like to see a guy have success like that,” said special teams coordinator Ron Zook of Valdes-Scantling. “I told him after the (Washington) game, that’s going to help him as a receiver, as well. Gives him confidence. He made some really nice plays. Those are the things you talk about until it happens, then once it happens then hopefully we can build on those and keep having them.”
Valdes-Scantling knows there’s a difference between learning the playbook during the summer and doing what Rodgers asks of his receivers in the fall. There was no better teaching moment than midway through the third quarter against the Bills.
With the Packers facing fourth-and-3 at the Buffalo 36, Rodgers slung a quick pass to the rookie receiver that nearly was picked off by Bills cornerback Ryan Lewis when Valdes-Scantling didn’t work back to the ball.
Rodgers emphatically expressed the importance of Valdes-Scantling finishing the play before giving his 23-year-old receiver a chance to redeem himself on third-and-3 in the fourth quarter.
With Valdes-Scantling gaining a step on Lewis off a go route down the sideline, Rodgers dropped the pass in perfectly for a 38-yard completion to key Green Bay’s final scoring drive.
“I think it’s just being a playmaker,” Valdes-Scantling said. “He wants to win a game. No matter what happens he’s not going to live in the past, either. I was open on that play and he trusted me to go make the play for him.”
Valdes-Scantling knows he must stay ready with injuries mounting at his position. Allison left the game in the fourth quarter with a concussion and Cobb didn’t practice Saturday after tweaking his hamstring on Thursday.
Cobb said it was a stretch for him to play against the Bills since he couldn’t run at full speed, but told reporters Monday he’s feeling better and aims to make more strides this week.
With Jake Kumerow (shoulder) and Trevor Davis (hamstring), on injured reserve, Valdes-Scantling, and fellow rookies J’Mon Moore and Equanimeous St. Brown remain the next men up on the depth chart.
Valdes-Scantling plans to use his experience against the Bills and learn from it should his number be called Sunday in Detroit.
“It’s a growing process,” Valdes-Scantling said. “The first time I’ve been out there for a whole game with him. A lot of things go right. A lot of things go wrong. You just keep working and keep going forward.”