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Packers Have Several Breakout Player Possibilities This Season

Previously, I nominated safety Josh Jones as my pick for the Packers’ Breakout Performer of 2019. However, there are a number of his teammates who might surpass him. I’m hoping to see at least two of the below players step up in a major way from their 2018 statistics.

 

Geronimo Allison - Packers Lambeau Field

Geronimo Allison (81) catches a pass for a touchdown against Chicago Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller (23) in the third quarter at Lambeau Field. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Geronimo Allison

Allison joined the Packers as a free agent in 2016, and finished with 12 catches for 202 yards and two TDs. In 2017 he got about the same amount of playing time (he started two games each year) but did much the same: 23 catches, 253 yards no TDs.

In just 5 games in 2018, he seemed on the verge of breaking out, but his season ended after only five games with these totals: 20 catches for 303 yards and 2 TDs. He had a concussion in Game 4, but it was a groin injury shortly thereafter that led to surgery and to being placed on injured reserve.

Despite his underwhelming speed (4.67 dash time) Allison has proved to be a deep threat: in 2016 he averaged 16.8 yards per catch, and he had a 15.2 rate in 2018. G-Mo has proved to be an elusive player after making a catch. Facing a roster decision, the Packers recently elected to sign Allison to a one-deal for $2.8 million. I’d call that a bit generous, but also a sign that the front office thinks he has too much potential to allow other teams to snatch him away. Geronimo played only two collegiate seasons, at Illinois, so at age 25 he’s probably still got a lot of development remaining to be done.

Perhaps the best reason for optimism for Geronimo is simply that Aaron Rodgers likes to throw his way. As of now, Geronimo is solidly planted as one of the Packers’ three starting wide receivers. If he stays relatively healthy, I would think a 50-catch, 700-yard, 6 TD season would be satisfactory – whether or not that constitutes a breakout year for him.

 

Equanimeous St. Brown (19) makes a catch over Minnesota Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes (26) during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

Equanimeous St. Brown

Though Marquez Valdes-Scantling got more playing time and starts (10) in 2018, “EQ” emerged as the favored starter by season’s end – and he is ahead of MVS on Our Lads’ depth chart. The line on EQ was 7 starts, 21 catches, 328 yards, no TDs, while MVS recorded 10 starts, 38 catches, 531 yards, and 2 TDs. Either could be viewed as a likely breakout receiver, but 5th rounder EQ outpaced his 6th-round teammate in the coaches’ eyes as the season wore on. One thing that separated the two similarly-sized receivers was the catch rate: EQ caught 58% of the passes thrown his way – not impressive, but considerably better than MVS’s 52%. They each had yards per reception in the 15’s.

By comparison, Jordy Nelson finished with a career catch percentage of 66.3, and in his final year, with the Raiders, he had a 71.6% catch rate – ruminate on that.

EQ, after three years at Notre Dame, perhaps declared for the draft too early. Though only moderately speedy (4.48 dash time) he has used his 6’5” height and other above-average size dimensions to good advantage. Only 22, he can build off the 358 snaps he managed to get in 2018. Many TP readers seem to think the Packers are well stocked with these two tall late-round draft choices. I don’t agree with that optimistic view, but it appears that one of the starting receiver jobs is St. Brown’s to lose. Packers fans must hope he’ll bust out in his second pro season. If he (or Geronimo) doesn’t, defenses will likely routinely double-team Davante Adams, which would wreak havoc on the Pack’s passing game.

 

Oren Burks tackles Richie James

Richie James (13) is tackled by Green Bay Packers linebacker Oren Burks (42) after a kickoff return in the first quarter at Lambeau Field. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Oren Burks

Of Brian Gutekust’s draft selections in his first year as Green Bay’s general manager, the only surprise pick was the lightweight (233 pounds), but quick, linebacker out of Vanderbilt. The 24-year-old is that increasingly rare player who has four years of college under his belt. After several head-turning moments in the preseason, his highest playing time came in Games 4, 5, and 6, when he took 20, 25, and 28 defensive snaps. He then hit a wall. In the team’s final eight games, he was in on only 18 defensive snaps – virtually benched. Can’t sugar-coat it: Burks was a disappointment as a rookie, with four starts, 23 tackles, and no difference-making stats or moments.

We know from his preseason film that the potential is there – as you’d hope to see in a third-round draft pick. In January, the Packers’ Mike Spofford interviewed him and got this quote:

“I know what type of ball I’m capable of playing, and I’m feeling like I didn’t live up to my own expectations. I’m hungry to get back after it, to prove to myself, prove to the team, my worth.”

As I recall, the biggest complaint about Burks was his inability to shed or avoid the blocks of bigger players.

There’s considerable speculation that Burks’ troubles have revealed a lack of depth at inside linebacker that the Packers might try to fill with a high draft choice. If so, Burks will have to first beat out a rookie to win the preseason battle for the starting spot alongside ILB Blake Martinez. Gutekunst thought Burks was a hidden gem in the 2018 draft, but that gem still needs a lot of polishing.

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Rob Born

Someone else said it first but I popularized it: “Athleticism is important in athletic pursuits.” It took three years, but the Packers finally listened. My new mantra: “Trading down is fine, but never trade up.”

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15 Comments

  1. Howard April 19, 2019

    I’m not sure who is going to have a breakout season, but the Packers had better hope the defensive backs have a collective breakout season. The Packers had 7 INTs. last year. No team with single digit INTs except the Cowboys made the playoffs. The Packers don’t have 2 of the players on the team that accounted for 5 of those 7 INTs.
    If you want a defense that is going to impact games you need some DBs that are going to make impact/change of possession plays. It would also help if several of the DBs would quit avoiding contact.

    1. r.duke April 24, 2019

      Should be a safety at #30 or 44 with speed for the back end, Amos covering the Black hole occupied by Dix. Probably draft anothe CB or bring in a veteran, preferably Harris from Denver and you have a playmaking unit. Faster, better pass rush should get tihe INTs back. Alot of the Qbs are dumping the ball or throwing it away in lieu of challenging the law of diminishing returns like Farve did–gaining the Interception HOF.

  2. PF4L April 19, 2019

    As far as Geronimo Allison. It seems to me it’s “show me” time. If he can stay healthy, and produce to the numbers our esteemed author speaks of, he’ll be the MVP of players making under 3 million.

    A 50-catch, 700-yard, 6 TD season is something a couple “superstar” players from our team would have liked last season. We as fans sometimes expect too much from these “superstars”. For 23 million we expected more than 4 td’s combined (go figure huh?). Us Packer fans are very demanding.

    Funny how all people can talk about is Rodgers this, Rodgers that. Completely ignoring the plethora of other problems on this team. Starting from the top down. The top, where Championship teams are born from. Almost any dysfunctional team can end up at 6-9-1. See Murphy.

    Who is to blame for this dysfunction you may be asking…Well, according to many, it’s Rodgers. But then you run into a somewhat knowledgeable NFL football fan, and you discover it’s much more complex and deeper than that.

    This team has 20 problems, Rodgers is #21.

    As always….No charge.

  3. Tom April 20, 2019

    Oren Burks in rd 3 was a huge reach. I can’t seem to find any articles justifying the selection? I did read some things not written by Packer media saying that Burks could’ve been had in 4th, most likely 5th round. Vanderbilt? Really? I’m praying King can stay healthy because he looks the part. Anyone know why Jones hasn’t lived up to his second round draft selection? I’m also hearing that last years second rd draft pick Josh Jackson isn’t a true NFL corner back? Where could he be moved to this season?

    1. KILLER April 20, 2019

      Those 3 players each fit a type of category of player mistake.

      BURKS — The Reach. Is it Gute the Bad thinking he is smarter than everyone or clueless as to how a player is valued? You like the guy but do you really need to take him two rounds too early. No, you don’t. By trying to look smarter he actually looks dumb. What if he’d waited two rounds and Burks wasn’t there? (gasp) Well, then, take the next best ILB and, guess what, that guy would have been better. Ted Thompson did this kind of stuff all the time. Take a 3rd round DT middle of round 1 (Harrell), take a 6th round DT in round 3 (Thornton) and so on. They’re out there, basically, making 3rd round choices into 6th rounders. Like that Rodgers TE as well. Many other examples out there. The word for this is Incompetence.

      JONES — The Mystery. Athleticism off the charts. Great performance in college. Yet drafted much later than you’d think and does poor on the field. What is the deal? Whatever it is, most teams know it. Otherwise he would have gone Top 10 in the draft. Does he interview like an idiot? On drugs? It is SOMETHING. Something we don’t know but the Packers do or should have then and do by now. The word for this is Incompetence.

      JACKSON — The College Hero not good enough for the pros. He nearly ran a 4.6 40. That’s it. You can’t CB in the NFL with that kind of speed. Lack of speed. It does not matter how many plays he made in college. His lack of athleticism does not translate to the NFL. Very easy to see it would not. Take out stop watch. Look at it. Don’t draft. Done. Instead, bye bye round two pick, see ya later, don’t need ya. The word for this is Incompetence.

      Sorry to be so negative. I am a Vikings fan, fair warning. But, what I wrote is still true.

    2. Ferris April 20, 2019

      Pray a lot…King will be on IR by week 4 when he makes his first tackle.

  4. Mitch Anthony April 21, 2019

    Pick 101(4) and 147 (5) were traded so Oren Burks could be had at pick 88 (3). When it happened I wondered why. I thought for sure this guy could have been had at pick 101 and no trade was necessary which meant losing a pick. Now in hindsight it seems he is of the quality that could have been had at 147 or much later.

    Right there Mr. Burks. Your pick was essentially two players. Earn this.

    Yeah, here’s to hoping he can have a breakout season.

    1. PF4L April 22, 2019

      Except for the free agent plunge, Gute’s drafting style reminds me of Ted. Of course in Ted’s last “active” season, he did get involved in free agency, but unfortunately he crashed and burned. Much like what is looking to be the case with Gute in last off seasons free agency endeavors.

      Maybe this years free agent class will be better, time will tell. But considering all that cash handed out, it damn well better be a lot better.
      GO BILLY GO!!

      If Gute feels that his O line has been addressed with the return of Madison, and the signing of lottery winner Billy Turner, then yea, Gute is the ghost of Ted Thompson.

  5. Deepsky April 22, 2019

    I think Geronimo Allison is what he is. I think he’s capable of putting up 500-700 yards, but that’s about it, which is actually a good number. He’s slow. He’s not muscular. He going to run good routes and make catches and then get dropped hard.

    All three receivers taken last year have a bigger upside. Each I think has potential to become special. All three won’t, but I think at least one will.

    Hopefully Rodgers will try to make a point this year of throwing to these guys instead of looking off them, in an effort to prove wrong rumors of not being in sync with his young receivers.

    1. PF4L April 22, 2019

      Where are you coming up with 3 wide receivers, they only drafted two…..

    2. PF4L April 23, 2019

      ……..wide receivers that could actually get on the field. I think the mere fact that Rob didn’t even give J’Mon Moore a mention, speaks volumes.

      When your team desperately needs to acquire football players, spending a 4th rounder on a receiver that gives you 2 catches for 15 yards for the season proves two things…it was a huge fail, and Rob is correct, he shouldn’t be mentioned.

    3. Deepsky April 23, 2019

      Catches rookie season:

      Donald Driver 3
      Antonio Freeman 8
      Robert Brooks 12

  6. Cheesemaker April 22, 2019

    Moore (4th rd), Valdes-Scantling (5th rd), St. Brown (6th rd) – that’s 3.

    BTW, Deepsky, I agree with your assessment of Allison. He is what he is. Not sure if any superstar WRs have ever posted 4.67 at the combine, but it would seem like he’s hitting his head against his ceiling. Not only am I more interested in those three draft picks from last year than I am in Allison, I’m more interested in Kumerow.

    1. PF4L April 23, 2019

      Allison was on pace for over 900 yards and 6 td’s before surgery. those are numbers the 23 million dollar duo of Graham and Cobb could admire
      Even though Allison missed most of the season, he matched those two in td totals (what’s wrong with that picture?)
      The reason Rodgers likes Allison is because he’s assignment sure, and he gets open. You don’t need to be fast to get open in the NFL, you need to have skills.

  7. Ron Wlowich May 1, 2019

    I believe that our receivers from last year will grow in Lafleurs new system