GREEN BAY – Count Marquez Valdes-Scantling among those totally unfazed about the prospect of learning a new offense in 2019.
The process has become practically an annual ritual for the Packers’ second-year receiver anytime he prepares for a new season.
“I had a new offense or new playbook every year when I was in college,” said Valdes-Scantling, who transferred from North Carolina State to South Florida in the middle of his college career before coming to the Packers last season as a fifth-round draft pick.
“Literally every single year I’ve had a new staff or a new offensive coordinator or new playbook, so learning a new offense is nothing to me now. It’s something you have to learn how to do.”
To his credit, he actually does have a specific way he absorbs a new playbook. It involves drawing the plays – and his pass routes in particular – on paper to help commit them to memory.
It functions as a third way to learn. Seeing the play on the electronic tablet and running it in practice are the two everyone does. Drawing it is the extra step he takes, and it speeds up his learning curve.
“I want to be able to play fast, so I have to learn it fast,” he said.
About playing fast, quarterback Aaron Rodgers is noticing a difference in Valdes-Scantling’s second year. He clocked a 4.37-second time in the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine in 2018, and it was on display as four of his 38 receptions as a rookie went for 40-plus yards.
The big plays helped him pile up 581 receiving yards, the most by a rookie in the Rodgers era. His average of 15.3 yards per catch was the highest by a Green Bay rookie with at least 25 catches since James Lofton’s 17.8 mark in 1978.
But as with any rookie, consistency wasn’t a strong suit. Through this spring, however, Rodgers has seen Valdes-Scantling’s timed speed match his playing speed much more regularly, which puts a lot of vertical route options on the table for him in Head Coach Matt LaFleur’s scheme.
“You might time at a super-quick 40, but how fast do you play?” Rodgers said. “It’s that football speed. It’s the opposite for a guy like James Jones, who timed kind of slow but he played fast. MVS is playing a lot closer to his 40 time speed, which is saying a lot because he’s pretty damn fast.”
What that means moving forward could be one of the storylines of the season for the Packers.
As the mandatory minicamp wrapped up offseason workouts earlier this month, Valdes-Scantling was taking more than his share of snaps with Rodgers and the first-team offense. It would appear training camp will begin with Valdes-Scantling and Geronimo Allison in a tight battle for the No. 2 receiver spot behind Pro Bowler Davante Adams.
As Allison has taken a lot of snaps in the slot and received plenty of positive feedback in doing so, the competition could naturally sort itself out. That’s not to dismiss what Equanimeous St. Brown, Trevor Davis, Jake Kumerow and J'Mon Moore might do through camp and the preseason, but Valdes-Scantling had the best 2018 of all the Packers’ young receivers, and thus far he’s maintained that status.
Now it’s about making the second-year jump, and enhancing his chemistry with Rodgers, in a new offense Valdes-Scantling views as one that likes to challenge defenses deep downfield. He’s drawn up enough of the routes to know.
“I think it’s built for my kind of player,” he said. “I’m a vertical guy and I can stretch the field in numerous ways. I think this offense is predicated for guys like me, and I think that’s going to be good for me.”