GREEN BAY, Wis. – With an NFL-high 69 touchdown receptions the last six seasons, All-Pro receiver Davante Adams brought the offensive fireworks to the Green Bay Packers.
Presumably, the offense isn’t going to turn into a wet firecracker. So, who’s going to provide the cakes, Roman candles and Catherine wheels with frequent visits to the end zone? Here are the five players most likely to make gamedays look like Independence Day.
With nine total touchdowns in 2018, a league-high 19 n 2019, 11 in 2020 and 10 in 2021, Aaron Jones knows how to find the end zone. Over the last four seasons, Jones has scored 49 touchdowns. Among running backs, that’s third in the NFL behind only the Titans’ Derrick Henry (57) and the Saints’ Alvin Kamara (54). Only Henry (four) has more 10-touchdown seasons than Jones.
What makes Jones so special is his ability to impact games as a runner and receiver. Over the last four seasons, only Jones (3,715 rushing yards, 1,426 receiving yards, 12 receiving touchdowns), Kamara (3,510 rushing yards, 2,437 receiving yards, 15 receiving touchdowns) and the Panthers’ Christian McCaffrey (3,152 rushing yards, 2,364 receiving yards, 12 receiving touchdowns) have 3,000-plus rushing yards, 1,000-plus receiving yards and 10-plus receiving touchdowns.
According to Football Outsiders, Dillon ranked No. 1 with a rushing success rate of 63 percent. Given his powerful style, perhaps that’s not a surprise. What was a surprise is Dillon’s success as a receiver.
Dillon wasn’t used in the passing game at Boston College, so his ability to factor in the Aaron Rodgers-led passing game was an unknown. Last season, he caught 34-of-37 targets for 313 yards and two touchdowns. Of the 25 running backs to record at least 1,000 total yards, Dillon ranked third with a 91.9 percent catch rate and second with 8.5 yards per target.
With Dillon’s success last season and the departure of Adams, it’s a safe bet that Dillon will beat his 2021 touchdown total of seven.
Without Adams, Lazard is the closest thing the Packers have to a go-to receiver. He is a proven performer with plenty of chemistry with Rodgers.
Lazard set career highs lats season with 40 receptions, 513 yards and eight touchdowns. There’s nothing great about those numbers, but he finished the regular season on a strong note. In the first 12 games, he had only one game of more than three catches and never topped 60 yards. In the final five games, he recorded at least five receptions for more than 70 yards three times. During that finishing stretch, he recorded five touchdown catches. League-wide, only Adams had more.
“Excited about Allen Lazard,” Rodgers said. “He’s been our dirty-work guy for most of his career here. Now he’s getting an opportunity to be a No. 1 receiver, so I’m not worried about him at all stepping into that role.”
In 2020, Tonyan came out of nowhere with a breakout season of 52 receptions for 586 yards and 11 touchdowns. Of the 34 tight ends who were targeted at least 40 times in the passing game, Tonyan ranked No. 1 in catch percentage (89.7), drop percentage (0.0) and passer rating (148.3), according to PFF. Tonyan and Chiefs star Travis Kelce tied for No. 1 in touchdowns.
Tonyan had a dominant training camp last summer but wasn’t nearly as impactful once the season kicked off. He caught 18-of-29 passes, those 11 incomplete targets being four more than his season total of 2020. After a four-game stretch in which he caught only 6-of-13 targets for 32 yards, Tonyan caught 4-of-5 for 63 yards vs. Washington and 3-of-4 for 49 yards with a season-long gain of 33 vs. Arizona before suffering a torn ACL.
The hope is Tonyan will be on the field for Game 1. With his feel for getting open, chemistry with Rodgers and superb hands, he could be poised for a big season.
General manager Brian Gutekunst shipped his two second-round picks to the rival Vikings to move up to No. 34 overall to grab Watson. If he can maximize his incredible combination of size and speed, Watson could pick up the baton as the Packers’ next great second-round receiver.
“His combination of size and speed is great,” offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich said in May. “He’s a big guy. He can move. He’s going to be a problem once he figures things out. So, I’m excited about that. He handles himself the right way. Ever since he showed up, he’s come in with a great mindset, intelligent and just ready to learn. So, that’s probably his best attribute right there is just his willingness to really absorb what you have to say and improve on it. I’m excited about that.”
Only one Packers rookie has topped 1,000 receiving yards. That was Billy Howton, who led the NFL with 1,231 yards in 1952. James Lofton, Sterling Sharpe, James Jones, Greg Jennings and Max McGee were the other rookies to top 600 yards as rookies.
Three Extra Points: Aaron Rodgers, Rasul Douglas, Randall Cobb
This is more of a career achievement than a foreshadowing of what’s to come, but Aaron Rodgers ranks seventh in Packers history with 34 rushing touchdowns. Hall of Famer Clarke Hinkle is sixth with 35. If Rodgers rushes for three touchdowns for a third consecutive season, he’d tie Verne Lewellen for fifth with 37.
Despite not making his Packers debut until October, Rasul Douglas tied for the NFL lead with two interception returns for touchdowns. That was tied for fourth-most in a season in franchise history. Herb Adderley (1965), Nick Collins (2008) and Charles Woodson (2009) own the record with three pick-sixes.
Randall Cobb ranks 10th in franchise history with 46 receiving touchdowns. If he can duplicate last year’s five touchdowns, he’d move past James Lofton (49) and Max McGee (50) and into eighth place on the franchise list.
The 2022 Green Bay Packers
NFC North Insiders
Get ready for the 2022 NFL season with our 12-part NFC North Insiders series, with stories running every Saturday and Sunday until training camp.
Part 3: Most overrated player for each team.
Part 4: Most underrated player for each team.
Part 5: Best-case scenarios
Part 6: Worst-case scenarios
Countdown to Packers Training Camp
Get ready for July 27, the first practice of training camp, with this unique series of features.