GREEN BAY – Geronimo Allison wanted 2018 to be his year, and early on, it looked like it would be.
Having built a strong connection with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the former undrafted free agent laid siege to the No. 3 receiver post from the onset of training camp last summer.
Allison won the job behind Davante Adams and Randall Cobb, and carried that momentum through the first month of the regular season, catching 19 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns in four starts.
The 6-foot-3, 202-pound receiver had flashed playmaking potential in the past, including a 122-yard showing against Cincinnati in 2017, but Allison’s steady September production signaled the emergence of a new sustainable threat in the Packers’ offense.
After notching his fourth game with at least 60 receiving yards, however, Allison sustained a concussion against Buffalo and then a hamstring injury that sidelined him through Green Bay’s Week 7 bye. He returned against the Los Angeles Rams on Oct. 28 before requiring surgery for a core muscle injury that ended his season after only five games.
“It was tough because I’m a guy who likes to be hands-on and be out there helping in any way, any fashion I can,” Allison said. “To have to take a step back, it was challenging at first. But it also gave me a different insight last year being more of a mentor and a coach to the younger guys.”
Back healthy again, Allison has returned to an offense that looks much different under Head Coach Matt LaFleur. With Cobb now in Dallas, Allison spent more time working in the slot this offseason as the Packers look to cultivate a new inside weapon.
Allison has some past experience inside. He’s played 299 of his 885 career snaps (33.8 percent) from the slot, according to Pro Football Focus. The only difference is adapting to what LaFleur expects from receivers in his scheme.
Since his hiring, LaFleur has reiterated receivers won’t be lining up at specific positions on every play. He plans to be multiple, which requires Allison and the rest of Green Bay’s receiving corps to master the entire playbook.
Allison says that was a primary focus in training this offseason, and Adams can tell.
“He’s the guy who’s been working a lot in the slot, and he’s used to playing a little more outside, but this is making him a little more dynamic,” Adams said. “I think Matt has really tested him or challenged him to widen it out so he can play multiple spots. … Him being able to move around right now and be healthy, be himself and just play, being able to have all those things, it’s going to be dangerous.”
Allison is aware of LaFleur’s preference of deploying taller “utility” receivers in the middle of the field and feels his skills mesh well with the vision of the offense for 2019.
Since returning from injury, Allison has enjoyed his time with new receivers coach Alvis Whitted, a nine-year NFL veteran himself. He believes Whitted’s institutional knowledge of the position partnered with a strong relationship with Rodgers has the fourth-year receiver primed for a much-anticipated breakout.
After signing a one-year deal as a restricted free agent this offseason, Allison has unfinished business on his mind. While he technically started his NFL career on the Packers’ practice squad, Allison has been a mainstay on the 53-man roster for the better part of three years.
As strange as it feels, the 26-year-old Allison’s 30 regular-season games played are currently second-most in the Packers’ receivers room to only Adams’ 74. The same goes for Allison’s 55 career catches for 758 yards and four TDs.
The Packers took the practice field on Tuesday for Day 1 of mandatory minicamp.
“It was weird, but I’m owning it and I feel comfortable in the position where I’m at,” said Allison of his veteran status. “I’m ready to go. I’m pretty good with the offense. I’ve been doing pretty well with helping the guys along the way and we’ve all been working together collectively.”
The offensive system is new for everyone, but Allison knows his three seasons spent with Rodgers hold equity. Allison also hasn’t forgotten how he would have been on track for a 76-catch, 1,156-yard campaign had he maintained his early pace.
The one benefit to the lost year is it allowed Allison to take stock of his situation. After injuries postponed a potential breakthrough, Allison hopes the stars align for a healthy and productive 2019.
He plans to “use what I did well early on, get off to a fast start, sustain it, and stay healthy,” Allison said. “And let the chips fall where they may.”