Ten Packers Training Camp Topics: #7 — Nelson, Jones, Cobb and?

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Jarrett Boykin was a pleasant surprise last summer. Is he ready to be the Packers No. 4 receiver?
Jarrett Boykin was a pleasant surprise last summer. Is he ready to be the Packers’ No. 4 receiver?

A year ago, the Packers had a crowded group of wide receivers. A declining Donald Driver was buried on the depth chart behind veterans Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and James Jones, as well as a budding star in Randall Cobb.

But that was then, and this is now. Driver is retired, and Jennings is playing for the Minnesota Vikings and (apparently really excited about) catching passes from Christian Ponder. Last season, Driver barely played and Jennings missed eight games.

But between Jennings and Driver are six career Pro Bowl selections and ten 1,000-yard seasons. So needless to say, the Packers face some unanswered questions at the position headed into the 2013 season.

Nelson, Jones and Cobb will all return.

Of the three, Jones was the only player to play all 16 games last season, but the trio combined for 2,483 receiving yards and 29 touchdowns. That accounts for 57.8 percent of Aaron Rodgers’s passing yards and 74.3 percent of his touchdowns in 2012.

Nelson missed four games with a lingering hamstring injury and Cobb missed the regular-season finale. But if all three players can stay healthy for the entire season, there’s very little to be concerned about in regards to the Packers receiving corps.

Without Jennings in the fold, the Packers may not have a true No. 1 receiver. But between Nelson, Jones and Cobb, the Packers may have three legitimate No. 2 receivers. The jury is still out on Cobb at just 22 years old.

But chances are, at some point this season, either Cobb, Jones or Nelson will get hurt and be forced to miss time. And if that’s the case, someone will be called upon to step in and contribute to the offense.

But who?

Last year’s training-camp standout Jarrett Boykin is one possibility. After signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars following the 2012 NFL Draft, Boykin was cut in May. The Packers picked him up, and the undrafted rookie cracked the 53-man roster despite Jennings, Driver, Jones, Nelson and Cobb all but guaranteed roster spots.

The coaching staff felt strongly enough about Boykin’s 2012 preseason that they kept six wide receivers on the roster.

But this summer, Boykin will face stiff competition against Jeremy Ross (who wasn’t in Green Bay last summer) along with a pair of seventh-round picks–Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey.

The Packers signed Ross to the practice squad October 17 last year. Now almost a year into his time in Green Bay, it will be interesting to see what kind of grasp Ross has on the offense. After being used primarily on special teams a year ago, Ross will certainly be competing for time in the Packers’ offense.

Question: Who will be the Packers’ No. 4 wide receiver?

It’s quite unlikely–but still possible–that the answer is not currently on the roster. However, in all likelihood, the No. 4 receiver will be either Boykin, Ross, Johnson or Dorsey.

A handful of undrafted rookies will also compete for the spot, including Myles White, Tyrone Walker and Terrell Sinkfield. And given Ted Thompson’s past success in finding hidden gems after the draft, it’s entirely possible that an undrafted rookie could become a serious threat for the No. 4 spot.

Best guess: Jeremy Ross

This may come as a surprise to most, considering Ross only played eight snaps on offense last season. But despite a couple blunders on special teams, Ross is a home-run hitter with the ball in his hands.

Many have been clamoring for Cobb to be relieved of his return duties. If that’s the case, Ross will likely be Cobb’s replacement. And if Cobb were to get injured, Ross may be the team’s most natural replacement as a slot receiver.

With so much competition at the position, this is really a tough call. But put me firmly in the “People Who Think Jeremy Ross Could Be Pretty Good” group. Yes, he muffed a punt in the playoffs–one he probably shouldn’t have even fielded–and yes, he dropped a cross-field lateral against the Chicago Bears.

But as a return man, Ross was impressive. He had a 44-yard kick return and punt returns of 58 and 32 yards. Not bad for a guy who touched the ball just 10 times all of last season.

If he has an impressive training camp and proves he has grasped the playbook, Ross could very well be the team’s No. 4 receiver.


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Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.


16 thoughts on “Ten Packers Training Camp Topics: #7 — Nelson, Jones, Cobb and?

  1. I think the fourth spot will go to Boykin. The Packers love youth and knowledge of the system above almost all else, and Boykin has the most experience of the young guys, I think Ross is okay, but I’d really like to see Johnson thrive (though he’ll probably have to spend a year on the PS).

    1. This is more of a reply to the original article…here goes…It is my belief that it was a brilliant move allowing Jennings to leave via free agency, because he can no longer beat anyone deep, as he seems to have lost a step or two since 2010…therefore, he is the one who is no longer a number one receiver and he does not have the size of Jones, Nelson, nor Boykin and he lacks the quickness and explosiveness of Cobb. He is nothing more than a possession receiver, at best a number four or five (counting Finley) receiver were he still on the Packers…

  2. It’s probly unfair to dismiss Ross over a couple mistakes. On the other hand, coaches hate turnovers with a passion. Trouble hanging onto the ball can easily relegate an otherwise talented player to a bench role

    1. Let’s see what Ross does competing versus these other players…Touched the ball ten times two huge fumbles, one of which changed the momentum of the 49ers blow-out…the jury is out…

  3. Boykin’s got it. We don’t need a wannabe Cobb in Ross, we need a guy with solid hands — and thats what Boykin brings (although not the fastest/biggest receiver). Ross may be explosive in the PR/KR game, but that doesnt always translate to WR where route-running is key(Devin Hester anyone?).

    1. Boykin has carter esqu catching skills and will move the chains on short passes to side line. He will also open up the RB passes to short area.

      The fifth spot is ROSS’s unless one of the other guys can take it.

      I expect a 6th WR (white) to be on roster if he continues to show what he did in OTA’s. Get the pads on boys.

      The rest will fight for PS.

  4. I’m going to have to disagree. Ross showed virtually nothing in college as a receiver. While he is a very talented return man from all appearances don’t make the mistake of thinking that means he inherently has value as a receiver.

  5. Eventually one of the size/speed guys will make the roster. Dale Moss and Tori Gurley were given chances in previous years, this year it’s Johnson.

    1. Ross’ size speed is HB! Could prove durable and a real handful for DB to get on the ground. Hope he can develop satisfactory hands.

  6. Think they keep 6WR.Cobb Jones Nelson of course. Boykin #4 as possession receiver. Ross on returns. Johnson/Dorsey w the other on PS. IF an udfs steps up maybe they make PS also. Dont think production in college will be a good indicator for a roster spot.

    1. Agree on 6 WR’s but think White will be sixth (his to lose). He showed up at OTA’s and MM doesn’t like to put anyone into a situation to make Arod look bad. ie. whoever is that person needs speed to burn the secondary and show MM the ability to catch the ball without letting the other “D” intercept. (IMHO) – of course you probably are right as usual.

      In any case a solid WR core is in camp and will be competitive for the final spot(s).

      1. See I don’t see how you can say the #6 WR is Whites to lose! IMO, it is Johnson/Dorsey to lose. THey were drafted and missing OTA’s, while not helpful isn’t going to change that. Both are much better size/speed athletes than White. White had better college career than they had, but both Johnson and Dorsey have more talent and upside than White. Thompson will keep his draft picks over an UDFA if its even close. That’s why I said college production/career won’t matter.

  7. I’m hoping Boykin can give Rogers a quality possession receiver. A guy who can move the chains when needed. The big 3 all have deep threat capabilities, so their’s no need for the number 4 guy to be that as well. Just someone who can get open,and consistently catch the ball. Ross has big time return potential,and hopefully will become that this year.

  8. IF you were paying attention, Ross’ drops were due to taking his eye off the ball. In the case of the dropped punt in playoffs, his eyes looked from the ball to coverage before the ball hit his hands, he was “cheating” with a peak at running lanes and coverage. Experience should make him better, can’t deny he has KR capability. Like Tory Gurley and Chastin West last year–several of these prospects likely for PS giving Boykin and Ross an advantage.

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