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Rodgers Will Miss Not Having ‘That Guy’ at Receiver

There's no Davante Adams or Jordy Nelson, but Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers likes the potential of his new receiver corps.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – Athletes love challenges, and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is no different.

Nonetheless, when asked if he embraces the challenge of rolling into a season without a proven No. 1 receiver and still hanging 30 points on the defense, Rodgers said he’d rather look across the field and see Davante Adams.

“To honestly answer your question, the answer is no,” Rodgers said after Wednesday’s practice, the first of training camp. “When you walk in the locker room for so many years and you see ‘87’s locker over there, Jordy Nelson, you see Davante Adams, it gives you a different feel. You just know you’ve got that guy.”

Help, at least significant help, isn’t on the way. That guy isn’t walking in the locker room tomorrow. A weak crop of free-agent receivers has been mostly picked clean. This time of year, players who can make a difference, regardless of position, are “usually on teams,” as general manager Brian Gutekunst pointed out. Maybe a role-playing contributor will become available as teams start trimming their rosters next month, but the reality is the upside resides with veterans Allen Lazard and Sammy Watkins and rookies Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs.

Even without a proven No. 1 like Adams, Rodgers sees a depth chart that’s half-full as opposed to one that’s half-empty. He delivered an all-timer of a line no doubt directed in fun at Adams, who has used the words “Aaron Rodgers,” “Derek Carr” and “Hall of Fame” in the same sentence with Raiders beat reporters.

“It’s always tough going from Hall of Famer to Hall of Famer. From Davante to Allen, it’s going to be a transition,” Rodgers said.

Jokes aside, Rodgers does have a profound belief that Lazard can be his next that guy. During the final five games of last season, he caught 21-of-28 targets and scored five touchdowns. Projected over a 17-game season, that would be 71 receptions for 986 yards and 17 touchdowns. Without Adams, Lazard will have more opportunities – though he’ll also face better defenders.

“He’s capable of a lot,” Rodgers said.

If Rodgers is right, it will be about filling in the rest of the dots so the offense can be on par with what could be a powerful defense that has Rodgers excited to face all summer.

Watkins, who is out with a minor injury, hopes to resurrect his career. Amari Rodgers, last year’s third-round pick, has put in the time. Watson, the second-round pick who is out following minor knee surgery, has an incredible combination of size and speed. Doubs, the fourth-round pick, made another big-time play. Juwann Winfree had the play of the day to build on his strong offseason.

“We have some opportunity for some guys to kind of step into that [No. 1] role,” Rodgers said. “Obviously, ‘17’ as a rookie wasn’t what he was when he left. Jordy Nelson as a rookie was returning kicks and I think he had one or two touchdowns as a rookie. Now, Randall Cobb’s first game, he kind of jumped out. Ran the wrong route and scored a touchdown, had this 108-yard return.

“But most guys worked into what they became. With Christian and Doubs, I think we’ve got to have patience with them. But who I don’t think we need any patience with is Allen. I really think Allen is ready to make a jump and be a No. 1 receiver, and I’m excited about the opportunity to work with him. It gives me a good feeling walking in here and seeing Marcedes (Lewis) still here. Seeing Rashan Gary right next to him, seeing Kenny (Clark) over here, my workout buddy, seeing Dave (Bakhtiari) on the other side, seeing ‘18’ (Randall Cobb) still in the locker room. That’s what makes this place fun. There’s a lot of question marks, and we’ll try and answer those in the next five weeks.”

Highlights from Practice 1 of Packers Training Camp