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Rodgers on Receivers: ‘I Like Production Over Potential’

Aaron Rodgers likes his projected top trio at receiver and preached “reasonable expectations” for the rookies.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – With the addition of three draft picks and a motivated Sammy Watkins, the Green Bay Packers’ revamped receiver corps has potential.

Potential is great. That latest and greatest miracle diet had potential, too, until you succumbed to the smell of fried cheese curds.

Aaron Rodgers’ diet may or may not allow for cheese curds, but he surely understands the analogy.

“I like production over potential,” Rodgers said this week. “We have some production. We have a lot of potential.”

Davante Adams built a Hall of Fame resume the last several seasons. Last season, he caught 123 passes for 1,553 yards and delivered 83 first downs. Every other receiver on Green Bay’s roster – returning players Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, Juwann Winfree, Amari Rodgers and Malik Taylor plus Watkins, who spent last season in Baltimore, combined for 109 receptions for 1,399 yards and 73 first downs.

Simply put, Adams was dominant. His tremendous skill-set, combined with his unique connection with Rodgers built over several years and countless reps and conversations, made him practically unstoppable at times.

Rodgers said “it’s probably not an exaggeration” to say 80 percent of the passing plays were designed to get the ball to Adams. Potential only being potential at the moment, it’s impossible to argue that the Packers are a better team without him.

“I love Davante, so I would say I was obviously disappointed, but I’m not going to stand in his way as he pursues the next step in his career,” Rodgers said. “Not going to change our friendship, and still talk to him a bunch. I love Davante and I wish him – like, truly wish him well. You know sometimes you wish people well and you’re like, ‘Eh.’ But I truly wish Davante well. I love him like a brother and I appreciate everything we accomplished together. Disappointed we couldn’t finish together but zero, absolutely zero, animosity. Nothing but love for him.”

The relative success of rookie receivers in recent years, along with the pedigree of Rodgers and the success of coach Matt LaFleur, has created the expectation that the passing game will keep chugging along. And maybe it will. Last season, six rookies topped 45 receptions and six rookies had more than 500 receiving yards. That’s actually a bit less than the three-year averages of 7.3 with 45-plus catches and 8.3 with 500-plus yards.

So, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Packers will get instant impact. Second-round pick Christian Watson has a combination of size and speed that’s almost incomparable. Fourth-round pick Romeo Doubs is off to a strong start, and seventh-round choice Samori Toure had a tremendous final day of minicamp.

“We need to temper expectations and heighten the accountability. I think that’s the most important thing for those guys,” Rodgers said of the rookies. “There’s guys who’ve done some things in the league and there’s guys that haven’t, so reasonable expectations for those guys and then high expectations and accountability for the entire room.”

Rodgers has entered every season with at least one established standout receiver. That won’t be the case this year. Really, the only receivers with any pedigree alongside Rodgers are Lazard and Cobb.

Lazard, who has not signed his restricted free agent tender so wasn’t present for any of the offseason work, finished last season with a bang. In his first 10 games, he caught 19 passes, scored three touchdowns and had zero games of more than 60 yards. In his last five games, he caught 21 passes, scored five touchdowns and topped 70 yards three times. League-wide, only Adams had more receiving touchdowns among receivers during that final span.

“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,” Rodgers said. “I’m not worried about him at all stepping into that role. I’ve talked to him a lot. I know how he takes care of his body and I know he’ll be ready when he’s here.”

With LaFleur saying Watkins is “going to be a big part of our offense,” the Packers figure to go with the veteran trio of Lazard, Cobb and Watkins as the primary options. Beyond that, Rodgers preached “reasonable expectations” for the rookies as they battle Amari Rodgers, Winfree and Taylor for snaps.

“We have three solid right there,” Rodgers said, “and then there’s a lot of competition behind those guys.”

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