Packers' deep receiving corps making presence felt in training camp

Green Bay looking for “exceptional” contributions this summer

WR Davante Adams & Packers receiving core

GREEN BAY – The first week of training camp has seen practically every receiver on the Packers' depth chart make at least one big play on the practice field.

While All-Pro Davante Adams has put on a playmaking clinic, Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling have been steady, Amari Rodgers and Randall Cobb have flashed their versatility, and returning veterans Equanimeous St. Brown and Malik Taylor have made big catches in team periods.

With returning veteran Devin Funchess back in the mix and practice-squad holdover Juwann Winfree having perhaps the best offseason of anyone, the Packers have a plethora of options with which to build their 2021 receiver room.

"There's not a huge difference, I don't think, talent-wise between (No.) 2 and 10 at this point," said quarterback Aaron Rodgers on Wednesday. "But each player who can separate themselves is going to prove that they can do one thing great. That's what we've talked about over the years. The guys that stick, there has to be something that they do exceptional."

Since his rookie year in 2018, Valdes-Scantling and his career 17.8 yards per catch have made him one of the league's most feared downfield weapons. While gifted with world-class speed, the 26-year-old receiver developed into a more refined route-runner last season on his way to setting new career highs in receiving yards (690) and touchdown receptions (six).

In Lazard and Cobb, the Packers have a pair of established pros who play on the same wavelength as Rodgers and can adapt to any situation. Acquired last week in a trade with Houston, the 30-year-old Cobb is the franchise's seventh all-time leading receiver, with 470 catches for 5,524 yards and 41 TDs.

Joining Cobb as a dual-threat playmaker is his pseudo-protégé, Amari Rodgers, who grew up idolizing Cobb while he was playing for Rodgers' father, Tee Martin, at Kentucky in 2010.

The Packers drafted Rodgers in the third round this past spring as a slot receiver/returner who also could help on the pre-snap jet motions that have become standard in Head Coach Matt LaFleur's scheme.

Lazard is another receiver who has been a good fit in LaFleur's system for size (6-5), blocking ability and consistency. Entering his third NFL season, Lazard has been one of General Manager Brian Gutekunst's best free-agent finds.

Sniped off Jacksonville's practice squad late in 2018, Lazard has caught 69 passes for 935 yards and six TDs in 27 games over two seasons with the Packers. Last year, he shook off an early-season core-muscle injury, which required surgery, to catch seven passes for 158 yards and a TD during Green Bay's postseason run.

"I feel 100%, and at the same time that's how I felt kind of finishing the year, as well," said Lazard, who missed six games with the CMI. "I feel great with my weight, my conditioning and just overall health. I think that was a big focus for my offseason was just really dissecting all of the things that I'm intaking with my diet, whether it would be physically or visually, as well."

The competition doesn't end there. Funchess is back in the mix after missing all but one game the past two seasons due a collarbone injury and the COVID-19 pandemic. A week into camp, the 6-foot-4 wideout has shown the size and versatility that made him a second-round pick by Carolina in 2015.

St. Brown, now in his fourth season out of Notre Dame, opened with a bang when he caught Rodgers' first touchdown in a team period off a corner route on the first day of training camp.

And then there's Winfree, a former sixth-round pick by Denver who spent most of last season on the Packers' practice squad. He may lead the Packers in receptions this offseason, while also flashing an explosive first step off the line of scrimmage. Rodgers mentioned on Wednesday that the 6-foot-1, 210-pound receiver looks different "body-wise" from last season.

"It's very competitive room right now," LaFleur said. "I think Juwann's done a lot of great things. I think he's kind of picked up where he left off in the offseason program and OTAs. Obviously being with us throughout the course of the season last year definitely laid a good foundation for him so he understands what the expectations are."

The preseason will be the litmus test for most of those receivers to show what they can bring to the offense. Regardless who suits up Week 1 in New Orleans, Lazard feels the potential is there for the Packers to be the league's preeminent receiving unit with the re-acquisition of Cobb providing yet another weapon.

"I think we've got the best receiver room in the league. Easily," Lazard said. "It's great to have Randall back, obviously, just from his veteran status for one, and then obviously what he's done here and his relationship with Aaron and as far as knowing how to communicate and what is expected out of us. I think not only myself, but a lot of the young guys as well, are able to pick up a lot of the little things as far as the offense goes."

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