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Feeling Urgency, Rodgers Says ‘I Need Guys I Can Trust’

Players who make too many mistakes or drop too many passes won't be on the field when the Packers play at the Vikings in Week 1, Aaron Rodgers said after Day 1 of practices vs. the Saints.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – During a third-down period at Tuesday’s joint practices, Packers rookie Romeo Doubs was streaking up the right sideline against Saints veteran Bradley Roby. At the last minute, just as Aaron Rodgers’ deep spiral was reaching its destination, Doubs pulled a step ahead.

Everything about the play was perfect other than the catch. Doubs dropped the ball. The crowd filling the Ray Nitschke Field bleachers groaned.

“That was my best throw of the day,” Rodgers said with a smile.

Doubs was an early training camp sensation, but his drops have outpaced the big plays of late. Doubs had one touchdown and two drops at the 49ers on Friday night and one touchdown and the one drop on Tuesday.

For years, the four-time MVP quarterback has talked about how he can handle physical mistakes. Drops are going to happen. It’s the mental mistakes that really get under his skin. Tuesday’s drop, however, seems to be testing Rodgers’ patience.

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Asked generically if he’ll become reluctant to throw the ball to any receiver who has dropped too many passes, Rodgers said, “Yeah, he just won’t be out there. You keep dropping the ball, you’re not going to be out there. It’s going to be the most reliable guys that are out there. The preparation and the job responsibility is most important. There’s going to be physical mistakes, like we’ve talked about, but if you’re going out there and dropping the ball and somebody else behind you is in the right spot all the time and catching the ball, that guy’s going to play.”

Nobody has made more big plays than Doubs during training camp. Other than maybe fellow rookie Christian Watson, who hasn’t fully practiced yet due to offseason knee surgery, there isn’t a receiver on the roster who can match Doubs’ ability to get beyond defenders. But nobody has dropped more passes than Doubs, either. If nothing changes, it will be a delicate balancing act for coach Matt LaFleur.

On the first 11-on-11 snap of the day, the receivers were Sammy Watkins, Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb. Unless Doubs can dial in his hands or Watson can hit the ground running once he’s fully acclimated, the Packers figure to lean heavily on that veteran trio.

Overall, it wasn’t a bad day for an offense that has been outplayed by a powerful Packers defense for most of camp. Rodgers called it a “stalemate” against a Saints defense that finished fourth in the NFL in points allowed last season. Too many mistakes – an abundance of pre-snap penalties among them – spoiled what could have been a better day.

Maybe Watson and Doubs will be the next big things. But, as Rodgers said during minicamp, “I like production over potential.” Rodgers said he felt “really bad” for Jordan Love following his three-interception performance at San Francisco because of the surrounding issues on those plays. There were too many mistakes on Tuesday, too. With the Week 1 game at the Minnesota Vikings 26 days away, time is running short for the potential to blossom.

“It’s coming up. Yeah, it’s coming up. It really is,” Rodgers said. “We’re going to play our best guys when the season starts. And whoever those guys are, those guys are going to get the reps. It’s the guys I trust the most and the guys the coaches trust the most. A lot of it is just the simple responsibility in the offense. Way before body positioning and movement and throw and all that stuff, are you in the right spot at the right time? Are you running the right route? It’s getting close to that time it’s going to count, and I need guys out there I can trust.”