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Packers rookie receivers continue to go the extra mile

Additional meetings with Jordan Love have aided chemistry, camaraderie

WR Jayden Reed; WR Dontayvion WIcks
WR Jayden Reed; WR Dontayvion WIcks

GREEN BAY – Last summer, a group of young and hungry Packers receivers flew out to California to run routes for Jordan Love and spend some time with their new starting quarterback.

As the 2023 season enters the December stretch, Green Bay's receiving corps hasn't stopped going the extra mile to build chemistry, and camaraderie, with Love.

For the past month, Love and the wideouts have met on their own to take stock of the Packers' offense and discuss the upcoming opponent. The idea was thrown out by players in the midst of the team's four-game losing streak earlier this season.

Recent results would suggest the extra cram sessions are working. The Packers have won three of their last four, while the offense is averaging 391.0 total yards in those games.

During that stretch, Love has completed 90 of 138 passes (65.2%) for 1,107 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions for a 103.1 passer rating.

A lot has gone into the Packers' turnaround, including a shift in the team's weekly schedule, but rookie receiver Jayden Reed feels the Tuesday get-togethers between Love and the receivers have contributed to the offense's progress.

"I think that helped tremendously, just us understanding where everyone is coming from," Reed said. "We're seeing everything from the same eye when we go out there and play our opponent. Definitely is the main reason we've shown development and the way we prepare. We practice hard. We follow the game plan and we're doing much better executing."

Reed has played a big role in that. The second-round draft pick received back-to-back nominations for NFL Rookie of the Week honors after catching five passes for 84 yards and a touchdown in Pittsburgh and then amassing 92 total yards with a TD in a 23-20 win over the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 11.

Last Thursday, Reed scored the opening TD during Green Bay's 29-22 Thanksgiving win in Detroit after Love hit his 5-foot-11 receiver in stride on a 10-yard slant through heavy traffic.

Reed currently leads Green Bay with 497 receiving yards this season. His 36 catches and five receiving TDs are second only to second-year receiver Romeo Doubs.

"It definitely went straight through me and Christian (Watson) and Jordan just made a great throw. He put it right on my number," said Reed of Love's throw. "That was definitely like a catch you don't see every day. He just made a great throw and put it where I could make a play."

It hasn't just been Reed, either. Undrafted rookie Malik Heath made four catches for 46 yards in just 11 snaps against the Lions, while Christian Watson posted season highs with five catches for 94 yards and a TD.

One week earlier, it was Dontayvion Wicks' turn. The rookie fifth-round pick led the Packers with three catches for 91 yards against the Chargers. He missed the Lions game due to a concussion but has since cleared the protocol.

Wicks agrees with Reed that the extra meeting time with Love has helped Green Bay's young wideouts get on the same page with the QB. There's a free-flowing exchange of ideas, which has also promoted team bonding and cohesion.

"Just talking to the quarterback, we know what he wants. We know what he's looking for," Wicks said. "We just make our routes based off of that. We know the plays going into the week, so just studying that more and knowing the details and routes and the blocking we gotta do."

Whether it was traveling to California to run route with Love or meeting as a position after a loss in Pittsburgh, the Packers' receivers have left no stone unturned in their pursuit of improvement and the method has worked for the rookie wideouts.

Reed, Wicks and Heath have combined for 61 receptions 881 yards and six TDs through 11 games, while Love has provided a steady hand through all of it.

When the wins and production weren't there earlier this season, Love told his receivers to keep believing in and playing for each other. When necessary, Love also hasn't been shy about correcting his receivers.

The Packers' coaches have noticed a difference, too. Earlier this month, receivers coach/pass game coordinator Jason Vrable remarked the team was having some of its best practices during his time in Green Bay.

Following Monday's bonus practice, Vrable praised his wideouts for how they've attacked various points of emphasis throughout the year but also reminded them that they "have to set the standard."

That isn't always making a big catch, either. Sometimes it's as simple as a receiver running 20 yards downfield to pick up a teammate after a run or catch.

"There's just an energy and total belief in one another that's special and it's showing up more and more and more," Vrable said. "The excitement on the sideline during the Detroit game when someone else makes a catch, that stuff is infectious. Confidence is contagious and so is winning and you can see our guys starting to build that nucleus."

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