Packers Need New Slot Machine

In our latest exclusive interview, we talked to Hawaii's prolific, sure-handed receiver, Greg Salas. Salas, whose pro day was watched by Packers GM Ted Thompson, recorded back-to-back 100-catch seasons while working from the slot.

For most of his prolific career, Donald Driver has manned the slot with aplomb. Quick, strong and with an unquantifiable desire, Driver will enter his 13th NFL season just 41 yards behind James Lofton for the Green Bay Packers' career record.

But not even the 36-year-old Driver can outrun Father Time, who began nipping on Driver's heels last season. His 51 catches for 565 yards were his lowest totals since he became a full-time starter in 2002.

In a typically deep receiver class, Hawaii's Greg Salas is arguably the best slot receiver in the draft. Destroying every cornerback put against him in Hawaii's run-and-shoot attack, Salas caught 119 passes for 1,889 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior. Despite catching just three passes as a redshirt freshman, Salas' 285 career receptions rank third in NCAA history.

Not bad for a player who was recruited out of Chino (Calif.) High School as a safety.

"I was a better receiver than defensive back, I just never played there in high school," Salas told Packer Report last week, a day after Packers general manager Ted Thompson attended Hawaii's pro day in Carson, Calif. "I was excited about the move, especially at Hawaii. I did what the coaches asked me to do and it turned out for the best."

While small receivers are en vogue to play the slot, Salas is a put-together 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds. Scouts love his size and ability to run after the catch. Plus, he might have the best hands in the draft.

What teams must consider is Salas' production came in an offense that seemingly makes every slot receiver a star. Then again, Davone Bess caught 293 passes in three seasons at Hawaii and has grabbed 209 balls during three seasons with the Dolphins.

Salas is bigger than Bess (5-foot-10) and faster (4.53 for Salas at the Combine vs. 4.64 for Bess).

As for the run-and-shoot concerns?

"I think teams are impressed when I show them what it's all about, with how many reads we make and how we make reads on the go and how you've got to thoroughly understand defenses to make that offense work," said Salas, who admires the "tenacity" shown by some of the NFL's best big receivers, like Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Andre Johnson.

"It's not as easy as people think it is, where you just spread everybody out and run routes. There's a lot of reading and a lot of things go into it, so I think teams are impressed when I show them the routes that I run."

Salas spent his redshirt year and first two seasons on the field as an outside receiver. As a sophomore, he caught 57 passes for 831 yards and three touchdowns. Going into his junior season, the coaches moved him to the slot, and it turned into a brilliant decision when he caught 106 passes for 1,590 yards and eight touchdowns.

"I was confused by at it at first, because I knew the ‘X' pretty well and had that on lockdown," Salas said. "But they moved me inside and that worked out for the best."

The Packers covet versatility in their receivers. While Driver did some of his finest work in the slot, the coaches mixed things up this past season by using Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson there, as well. So, Salas' experience on the outside is big, though after playing two years in the slot — where a receiver lines up off the ball and therefore is difficult to jam at the line of scrimmage — scouts are wondering about his ability to beat press coverage as an outside receiver in the NFL.

Regardless, Salas' dominant performances as a slot receiver could make him a target for the Packers at the end of the third round or with one of their two fourth-round picks.

"It's a dream come true," he said. "It's crazy, how we'd just watch football all the time and you'd see people at the Combine and see people getting drafted. For me to be in their shoes now, it's a great feeling. It's crazy. It's a lot of hard work and dedication that's really paid off. I'm just happy."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport.


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