Urgency Rising For Wide Receivers

The competition for roster spots is increasing with Diondre Borel, Tori Gurley and Jarrett Boykin. All three are working hard to "answer the bell," position coach Edgar Bennett said, with roster cuts looming.

Edgar Bennett, the Green Bay Packers' receivers coach, laughed before the question was even finished.

With the 90-man roster to be cut to 75 by Monday and the final 53 by Aug. 31, how is the bottom of his depth chart shaking out?

"You know what? We're just getting prepared to go out and give a great effort against Cincinnati," Bennett said on Monday. "I think all of our young guys, when they get their opportunities, they've got to make the most of them. All of them are putting the time in to make sure they're well-prepared so when opportunity presents itself, they'll be ready to answer the bell."

Barring any surprises or trades, the Packers' five receivers from last season — Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Donald Driver, James Jones and Randall Cobb — will be the top five receivers this season.

However, with the incredible depth at the position, will the Packers keep six receivers? Will another one or two be added to the eight-man practice squad?

A few weeks ago, the only question about the six-receiver scenario was who would be that sixth receiver. Diondre Borel was having a sensational training camp, with the coaches featuring him in many of the same packages tailored for Cobb. With those Cobb-like skills, Borel also figured as a returner. Meanwhile, Tori Gurley had what's uncoachable — height. At 6-foot-4, he provided a different look among the Packers' diverse receiver group.

Both players, however, missed time with groin injuries. Gurley returned last week and Borel returned on Monday.

"You hear about Coach talking about availability and accountability," Bennett said. "We always want our guys out on the field. If an injury occurs, they've got to do everything possible to get back out on the field and they've got to take care of their bodies. Sometimes it's just part of the game. How they deal with the adversity and respond, we'll see in these next couple weeks."

They might have been in different situations had they accepted offers to leave Green Bay's practice squad last season. The Buccaneers wanted Borel and the Vikings wanted Gurley. Both stayed, and not just because the Packers quadrupled their weekly paydays.

"I was happy with my decision, I was fine with my decision," Borel said. "I was talking to my agent and telling him that the best place to be was right here. At the end of the day, you never know. That team might cut you and you might not even play in a game. Yeah, you can get an accredited season (toward free agency) but I just looked at the big picture. Look at this place: It's a great organization and you have all these players to learn from. Everybody is doing everything the right way here."

Gurley, who made his debut on the No. 1 kickoff return as one of the deep blockers on Monday but gave a horrible effort in allowing Casey Hayward to intercept a deep ball, added: "If I would have left then, I would have left myself susceptible to not being a complete player and being a true pro. Having that whole year under my belt and learning from those vets, man, I feel like a better man and a better football player. Whatever happens at the end of this preseason, I know I'm going to have the opportunity to contribute in the NFL."

When Borel and Gurley were out, undrafted rookie Jarrett Boykin made his move. The 6-foot-2 Boykin signed with Jacksonville but was released after the rookie camp. It appears the Jaguars, who aren't exactly deep at receiver, made an enormous mistake. Boykin ran horribly at the Scouting Combine, but Virginia Tech's career leader in receptions and receiving yards has a knack for getting open, and with gigantic hands, he catches everything thrown his way. During the Packers' dismal offensive showing against Cleveland, he was a rare bright spot with five catches for 63 yards.

"I think he's a pretty good route runner," Bennett said. "It kind of goes back to what we talk about with his preparation. That's a big part of it. Having a good understanding of our scheme and what we're asking him to do. He's starting to come on but you've got to be consistent in every phase of the game."

Boykin has taken Bennett's message to heart.

"There are little areas that I need to work on as far as taking extra steps on certain routes or things like that," Boykin said. "Consistency goes a long way. Once you prove you're consistent, you can be a reliable target."

Boykin knows what's at stake these next 10 days. Even if the 53-man roster is out of reach, the practice squad is a worthy goal. Undrafted Dale Moss, who at 6-foot-3 has freakish athleticism, has stunning upside. Undrafted Curenski Gilleylen, who as a senior at Nebraska never touched the ball while playing running back, was singled out by Aaron Rodgers for being "very impressive" in how he sees the game. Borel and/or Gurley could be practice squad prospects, as well, depending on how the dust clears in Green Bay and across the league.

"There's a sense of urgency," Boykin said. "I've always been urgent but even more now. It's raise the level and my tempo a little bit more because the next couple of weeks are going to determine everything. Just go out there and play every play like it's my last one."

Agree or disagree?: Discuss hot Packers topics in our, free forums. Leave Bill a question in the subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum.

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.

Packer Report Top Stories