A year ago at this time, football experts were glowing over the potential of Green Bay's wide receivers. With Javon Walker coming off a Pro Bowl season and Terrence Murphy looking sharp in the team's mini-camps, the Packers' wide receivers were poised to make an impact like never before.
Of course, that's not the way it worked out for the Packers. Walker went down with a season-ending knee injury in Week 1. Murphy sustained a possible career-threatening neck injury about a month later, and, as has been the case throughout his career, Robert Ferguson sustained injuries that caused him to miss a handful of games. Brett Favre could only rely on Donald Driver, who had a career season, but it wasn't enough to frequently move the offense into the end zone.
The Packers again will look to Driver to lead the receiving corp, but the coaching staff is hoping that a few newcomers can pick up where Walker (traded to Denver in April) and Murphy (released) left off. Head coach Mike McCarthy will use training camp to determine the starter opposite Driver, but general manager Ted Thompson used the recent NFL draft and free agency to inject some youth and the type of receiver that fits best in McCarthy's offense.
The Packers signed unrestricted free agent Marc Boerigter this off-season and re-signed Rod Gardner, who played in the final two games for the Packers last year. Both the 6-foot-3 Boerigter and the 6-2 Gardner will give the Packers the tall receiver that can serve as a big target on slant routes over the middle, then run with the ball after the catch.
McCarthy also is excited over the potential that he sees in rookie draft picks Greg Jennings (second round) and Cory Rodgers (fourth round). Jennings is expected to give Ferguson a strong push to start alongside Driver. Rodgers and Jennings also will compete to return punts and kickoffs on special teams.
Of the two rookies, Jennings has made the biggest splash over the past month and a half. If he can continue to catch passes like he has in practice and run well after the catch, he will be considered to start.
Gardner and Boerigter each were limited last year. Gardner played in Green Bay's final two games, catching four passes. Boerigter caught eight passes for the Kansas City Chiefs, and was only activated for 10 games.
Keep an eye on the 6-foot-4, 217-pound Ruvell Martin, a free agent who was cut by San Diego at the end of training camp the last two seasons. Martin has stood out among the receivers in mini-camp practices and thus far in the team's Organized Team Activity practices at Clarke Hinkle Field. If Gardner or Boerigter fall short of expectations by the team in training camp, Martin will be in position to make the final roster.
"He's done nothing but positive things since we started - all through the off-season program (and) our individual position workouts - and I think it's shown up here in the team drills," McCarthy said.
Because of the uncertainty at receiver and return specialist, the Packers likely will keep six receivers, instead of five like in previous seasons.