The three-receiver set essentially has been the Green Bay Packers’ base personnel package.
And, for the most part, those three receivers have been locked into place.
In 2015, Davante Adams played 762 snaps as the third receiver behind Randall Cobb and James Jones. The next receiver was Ty Montgomery, who played in 242 but missed the final 10 games. After Montgomery went down, Jeff Janis moved up a notch but averaged only 5.9 snaps.
In 2014, Adams played 738 snaps as the third receiver behind Jordy Nelson and Cobb. The next receiver was Jarrett Boykin, who played 225, but only 106 of those came in the final 13 games.
In 2013, the Packers started the season with Nelson, Cobb and Jones. Before Cobb sustained a broken collarbone, Boykin hadn’t played a snap all season. When the Packers had Nelson, Jones and Boykin together, Myles White played 20 snaps in eight games.
The Packers, however, have the potential to have excellent depth at receiver heading into the season. Assuming Nelson and Montgomery are healthy, the Packers have seven NFL-caliber receivers with Cobb, Adams, Janis, Jared Abbrederis and rookie Trevor Davis rounding out that group. With Adams’ production, Montgomery’s versatility and power, Janis’ big-play potential, Abbrederis’ route-running and hands and Davis’ hands and field-stretching ability, the Packers would appear to have plenty of options to shuttle guys through the No. 3 spot for a series or two at a time.
“I don’t think you really lock into three guys ever,” coach Mike McCarthy said before Saturday morning’s practice. “I know how it shakes out. Game planning, health, all those things factor into it.”
Based on Saturday’s practice, the Packers could go into this season with something of a timeshare as the No. 3, with multiple players getting into the act for 10 or 15 plays apiece rather than one player getting 50 snaps. This is just from one period on Saturday with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback: Adams, Cobb and Janis; Adams, Cobb and Abbrederis; Adams, Cobb and Davis; Adams, Cobb and undrafted rookie Geronimo Allison.
“I don’t ever focus on numbers,” Abbrederis said. “You can’t worry about what you can’t control. You just have to control you.”
Abbrederis held up his end of the bargain on Saturday. During red-zone period, he beat rookie cornerback Makinton Dorleant on a corner route for a touchdown, making a nice grab in the corner of the end zone. Later, he won a jump ball in the back of the end zone over linebacker Joe Thomas. The defense said Abbrederis was out of bounds but the official, one of the NFL officials in town to help with Family Night, signaled the catch was good.
It was the continuation of a strong start to camp for Abbrederis, who has made impressive plays every day to make his pitch in the No. 3 battle.
“There’s always opportunities,” said Abbrederis, who missed most of his rookie training camp with a torn ACL and most of last year’s with a concussion. “You compete every day and you’re always trying to move up the depth chart. But it’s not like you’re worried about numbers. You’re just going out doing your thing, controlling what you can control and at the end of the day it will all work out.”
Janis, of course, showed what he could do during the playoff loss at Arizona. However, he caught only 2-of-12 passes during the regular season, including 0-of-4 in the red zone. He hasn’t made as many plays as the others during the first four days of camp - he let a touchdown pass from Rodgers slip through his grasp on Saturday - but he also offers more upside.
“Obviously, I know what’s at stake and what could happen, but I’m just showing up every day, trying to get better and whatever happens, happens. Simple as that,” Janis said.
The receiver battle continues to be among the most intriguing in camp, with just about everything up for grabs behind Nelson and Cobb. Janis and Montgomery, because of special teams, would seem to be locks to make the roster. Davis has flashed some intriguing potential. Adams played well at times as a rookie and is off to a good start in camp. At the extreme end of the pendulum, Abbrederis could wind up as the No. 3. Or he could be cut.
Perhaps the Packers could keep seven receivers, with one less fullback on the roster, for instance. However, McCarthy only mentioned six when continuing to answer our question about the No. 3 gig.
“You like to think you can have six receivers coming out of it but, really, the players decide that,” McCarthy said. “Maybe it will be five. You want to be able to roll those guys in there. One thing we’ve done a very good job, and it starts with the player acquisition, our receivers play all four positions, and we have a couple of guys who can play five positions -- I’m talking about Randall being able to go back in the backfield. We want to make sure we have five or six that can play all four positions.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.