Green Bay Packers

Roll out the reaction 8/3 | Examining previous Green Bay Packers rookie wide receiver performances

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Roll out the reaction returns as Patrick Kotnik takes a trip down memory lane at various rookie seasons for wide receivers of the Green Bay Packers.

Each year during training camp, there’s always at least one lesser-known player for each team who turns heads right out of the gate. For the Green Bay Packers, that player is rookie wide receiver Romeo Doubs.

 

This got me thinking…who was the last rookie wide receiver for the Packers to have a solid first-year campaign? A lot of that depends on what you think meets that criteria.

As I mentioned last week, some of Green Bay’s stellar wideouts during this Aaron Rodgers era weren’t counted on to be among the team leaders in production during their rookie seasons like Christian Watson and Doubs will be expected to this season. 

Davante Adams hauled in 38 passes for 446 yards with three touchdowns during his rookie year in 2014 — the same season in which Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb each caught over 90 passes for over 1,200 yards and double-digit scores.

Speaking of Nelson and Cobb, the latter’s 25 receptions for 375 yards and a touchdown during his rookie season in 2011 was when Nelson led the team with 68 receptions for 1,263 and 15 touchdowns. Greg Jennings was behind him with 949 receiving yards and nine scores on 67 receptions. 

Jennings and Donald Driver were the team’s top two targets during Nelson’s rookie year in 2008 in which he tallied 33 receptions for 366 yards and two touchdowns. 

Even if we go back further to the Brett Favre years, Antonio Freeman had an underwhelming rookie season in a 1995 season in which Robert Brooks had nearly 1,500 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns on 102 catches. Brooks, meanwhile, mustered only 126 receiving yards and a touchdown as a rookie in 1992 during a Pro Bowl and All-Pro season for Sterling Sharpe.

Sharpe had a successful rookie campaign for the Green Bay Packers in 1988 — leading the team with 55 catches for 791 yards in 1992 (team-highs), while James Lofton earned Pro Bowl honors for the Green Bay Packers as a rookie in the Pre-Favre era back in 1978. He racked up a team-high 818 receiving yards on 46 receptions with six scores. 

Boyd Dowler earned Rookie of the Year honors in 1959 and Billy Howton had perhaps the best rookie season of any Green Bay Packers player with 53 receptions for 1,231 with 13 touchdowns back in 1952 — earning a Pro Bowl nod. To date, Howton is the only wide receiver for the Packers to reach 1,000 receiving yards in their rookie season.

It’s obviously tough to compare different players in different eras, especially with how much the game has evolved, but the moral of the story remains the same — these specific pieces in the franchise’s history show that rookie wide receivers have had success in Green Bay during that first year and some didn’t. 

A lot of those who didn’t weren’t depended on to do so because the Green Bay Packers already had established talent at the position, but nevertheless, a rookie wide receiver having a solid first year in the league can indeed happen in Green Bay.

Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs may be well on their way to having strong rookie campaigns. How many rookies get that sort of raise from Aaron Rodgers in the tweet seen above? The answer is pretty much no one. Doubs and Watson almost need to have solid seasons for the Green Bay Packers to have a successful year. Along the way, they’ll be aided by the team’s No. 1 pass catcher in Allen Lazard and possibly, Sammy Watkins and Amari Rodgers (who had a dreadful rookie season last year) — two players in search of redemption.

If these two can emerge, Packers will be channeling their inner Lou Brown week after week. “Starting to come together, Pepper! It’s starting to come together!”

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