Aaron Rodgers is sure of one thing—that he’s not sure.
“Not sure what the playing time will be, but whatever [coach] Mike [McCarthy] decides, I'm confident we'll be ready when the season starts,” said Rodgers Wednesday when asked about the Packers’ new plan on offense. The old plan went out the window Sunday when Jordy Nelson suffered a torn ACL on his sixth play from scrimmage.
It’s a good thing the Packers held on to Randall Cobb this offseason. The 25-year-old was tempted with better offers during free agency but decided winning was more important than money. That’s why he chose to stay with Green Bay.
Considering Nelson drew the fourth most targets in football last season, it’s reasonable to expect Cobb’s volume to increase. Unfortunately for target-thirsty fantasy owners, Cobb doesn’t think that’s the case. He doesn’t expect his role to change much in Nelson’s absence.
“We planned on moving around this year, so I don't think our plan changes,” Cobb told ESPN. “It's just finding that guy that's going to be able to plug in and be able to fit into what we're trying to accomplish."
Cobb already has an idea of who that guy might be. He expects Davante Adams to enjoy a breakout season. “He's poised for a big year,” said Cobb. “I look forward to helping him accomplish that."
The 22-year-old’s rookie season, at least on paper, was riddled by inconsistency. He went over 50 yards five times but failed to reach 15 yards on nine other occasions (playoffs included). It was a classic case of boom or bust.
Of course, that lack of stability had less to do with Adams’ skills and more to do with his team’s favorable circumstances. Simply put, Green Bay’s offense was an embarrassment of riches last season.
With Nelson and Cobb healthy and Eddie Lacy leading a rejuvenated Packers backfield, Adams was rarely asked to do the heavy lifting. When Rodgers targeted him seven or more times, he racked up 50-plus yards on each occasion. He went over the century mark both times he saw 10 or more targets. The increased workload should put Davante firmly in the WR2 discussion.
When it comes to the No. 3 spot on Green Bay’s wide receiver depth chart, the Packers are sending out mixed signals. Second-year wideout Jeff Janis replaced Nelson after his injury in Sunday’s preseason game but Ty Montgomery got first crack at No. 3 duties at practice this week.
It’s a fun cat and mouse game the Packers are playing, but does it really matter? Since Rodgers took over as quarterback in 2008, No. 3 receivers for the Packers have averaged 556 yards and four touchdowns. In fantasy, that’s benchwarmer material. Heck, you could find a dozen guys like that on the waiver wire.
But remember, Cobb is no iron man. Last year was the first time he played all 16 games. If Cobb suffers the same fate as Jordy, or even if something minor slows him down like a sprained ankle or a bum hamstring, Janis and Montgomery are going to have major roles. Thankfully for both, none of Green Bay’s tight ends have the receiving chops to threaten their workload.
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Sanders (Hamstring) Still Not at Practice
In today’s pass-first NFL, it’s not uncommon for a team, particularly one with a great quarterback, to boast two elite fantasy receivers. This scenario played out last year in Denver with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders both reaching 100 catches. That hadn’t been accomplished since Dallas Clark and Reggie Wayne did it for the Colts in 2009. For Thomas, it was more of the same. For Sanders, it was a breakout year few could have predicted (101 catches, 1,404 yards, nine touchdowns).
Sanders posted superstar numbers last season, but the fantasy community has been slow to embrace him. A sure thing like Sanders shouldn’t be available late in the third round, yet that’s exactly where fantasy owners are drafting him. His current ADP on Yahoo is an underwhelming 33rd. That puts him behind Mike Evans and barely ahead of Brandin Cooks.
You’d think Sanders would be his own biggest fan, but even he has doubts. “It’s not going to be one of those offenses where you catch it and you’re going to have two receivers catching over 100 passes,” Sanders told DenverBroncos.com back in May. “Hopefully, my goal is really to try to get a 1,000 yards to just help this team win ball games.”
Usually people add insult to injury but Sanders did it backwards. He hasn’t practiced since hurting his hamstring on August 6 and at this point, it’s unlikely he’ll play in the preseason. Sanders expects to be ready for Week 1 but with so few training camp reps, he might not be at his best.
None of these are encouraging signs, but if we’re truly accepting the “Sanders won’t be as good as last year” premise, we have to really buy what Gary Kubiak’s selling. After years of ripping teams apart in the passing game, Denver’s new head coach has promised a more balanced offense this season.
In some ways, it makes perfect sense. Asking Peyton Manning, the league’s oldest quarterback, to deliver 600 passes probably isn’t a great idea. Plus the Broncos have finally found a running back they can rely on in C.J. Anderson.
But Manning knows his arm is too good to waste. Over his last five seasons, none of Peyton’s teams have run the ball more than 45 percent of the time. Manning, who is basically his own offensive coordinator, wouldn’t know balance if it smacked him right on his huge forehead.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’m not convinced Sanders has peaked. He may not reach 1,400 yards again but I don’t think his workload will be that much different from last year.
I used $23 of my $100 budget on Sanders in a recent auction keeper draft and I stand by my decision. Hopefully he’ll prove me right.
Quick Hits: Wednesday must have been an interesting day to be Connor Barth. The placekicker got cut by Denver but signed with the Buccaneers only a few hours later … Ravens QB Joe Flacco said he still isn’t sure if Dennis Pitta will play this season. The tight end is recovering from offseason hip surgery … Terrelle Pryor returned to practice on Wednesday. The quarterback-turned-wide receiver had been out with a hamstring injury … An elbow injury will likely keep Johnny Manziel out for the remainder of the preseason. Fortunately an MRI showed no structural damage … Jadeveon Clowney (knee) won’t appear in Houston’s preseason game this weekend but he should be ready for Week 1 against the Chiefs … Adrian Peterson missed practice Wednesday to attend a court hearing. The NFL Players Union wants Judge David Doty to hold Roger Goodell in contempt of court for keeping Peterson on the commissioner’s exempt list after his suspension was overturned … Construction on the Vikings’ new stadium was suspended Wednesday after a worker fell to his death. Another worker was injured … The Falcons signed journeyman quarterback Rex Grossman to a one-year contract on Wednesday. He’ll be reunited with former Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan … Redskins linebacker Junior Galette will miss the season with a torn Achilles. He suffered the injury at Wednesday’s practice … When asked how he felt after his first practice with the Patriots, Reggie Wayne said “like a rookie” … Patriots safety Devin McCourty didn’t enjoy playing cornerback in last week’s preseason game against the Saints. “It didn’t feel great and I don’t think it looked great” … Pro Bowl linebacker Osi Umenyiora announced his retirement on Wednesday. He signed a one-day contract with the Giants so he could retire with the team that drafted him … Sheldon Richardson is still waiting to hear back from Roger Goodell about his four-game substance abuse suspension. "As long as I get the day of when I can actually return, then I can actually start moving forward. But until then, it will just be a cloud over my head" … 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks was indicted on misdemeanor sexual battery charges stemming from an incident at a pool party last December. His former teammate Ray McDonald was charged with raping an intoxicated woman and will likely face a lengthy jail sentence … Bears slot receiver Eddie Royal missed practice Wednesday with a sore hip. He might not play in Saturday’s preseason game against the Bengals … Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson (MCL sprain) returned to a limited practice on Wednesday. He’s hoping to be back for the season opener against the Raiders on September 13 … Dolphins rookie DeVante Parker (foot) is still a week away from returning to individual drills. It’s unclear if he’ll be ready for Week 1 … Eagles tight end Zach Ertz isn’t sure if he’ll be ready for Week 1. He had surgery to repair a torn groin in mid-August … Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula said the team plans to replace Kelvin Benjamin (torn ACL) with a wide receiver by committee. So much for Devin Funchess having an early impact … How did Cardinals cornerback Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu spend his off day? He put on an apron and scooped ice cream at a Cold Stone Creamery in Chandler, Arizona.