Position preview: WR's

Robert Ferguson ready to have breakout season

With Javon Walker, the Packers feature one of the top receiving corps in the NFL. But Walker has threatened to sit out this season unless his contract is renegotiated, so the Packers will have to prepare in training camp as if Walker will not be with the team this season.

Walker led the Packers in receiving last year with 89 catches for 1,382 yards (15.5 yards per catch) and a team-high 12 touchdowns. He combined with Donald Driver and Robert Ferguson to give Brett Favre a potent triple threat. But now he wants a new contract, despite the fact that he has two seasons remaining on his existing deal, or he will not play.

Driver also is coming off his best season as a Packer. The seventh-year pro had a career-high 84 catches for 1,208 yards and matched his previous season high of nine touchdown catches. With Walker sitting out, Driver will be Brett Favre's top target.

Robert Ferguson missed the end of last season with a head and neck injury as a result of a clothesline hit by Jacksonville safety Donovin Darius on Dec. 21. Ferguson feels he will be 100 percent recovered from the injury by the time training camp begins. He has played well during the off-season minicamps, often wrestling the ball away from defensive backs to make catches in practice. If he can stay healthy, and that's a big question with Ferguson, this could be his breakout season. Ferguson was aggressive while catching passes in the normally laid-back off-season minicamps. He has stated throughout the off-season that he wants to be a bigger part of the receiving picture this season, so he added a few pounds of muscle and seems more determined than ever to have a big season.

Antonio Chatman served as the team's No. 4 wide receiver and return specialist last year. He will be pushed by draft picks Terrence Murphy and Craig Bragg, but Chatman played well in the off-season as he tries to reclaim his roster spot. The Packers also have been impressed this off-season with rookie free agent Vince Butler and Andrae Thurman, who spent part of last season on the team's practice squad.

Jamal Jones, who played in NFL Europe this spring, will be in the mix to return punts and kickoffs, along with Murphy, Chatman and Bragg.

Projected starters: Javon Walker, Donald Driver
If Walker reports to camp, he and Driver are the undisputed starters. If not, Ferguson will start.

Projected reserves: Robert Ferguson, Terrence Murphy, Antonio Chatman
All three were impressive during the off-season minicamps. Murphy is a big receiver with great quickness and has all kinds of potential. Chatman catches the ball well and is very reliable, which is probably why he has been able to hang around.

On the bubble: Craig Bragg, Vince Butler, Andrae Thurman, Jamal Jones, Chris Samp, Chad Lucas, Kelvin Kight
Bragg injured his hamstring while working out in late May and missed the June minicamp. That's a huge blow for his chances of making the roster. Butler and Thurman are big, quick receivers and will have to make the most of any opportunity they receive. Kight showed last preseason that he can return punts, so he might have a chance to make the team, but it's slim at best.


Todd Korth

Note: Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at packrepted@aol.com.


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