When Carson Wentz threw a touchdown to Travis Fulgham on “Sunday Night Football,” Cris Collinsworth congratulated Wentz for finding success throwing to receivers whose names he might not even know. Aaron Rodgers could be in line for similar kudos on Monday Night Football.
Down both Davante Adams (hamstring) and Allen Lazard (core) due to injury, the undefeated Green Bay Packers will take on the winless Atlanta Falcons with a crew of misfits at wide receiver. The future Hall of Famer Rodgers has only thrown two touchdown passes in his career to a former first-round pick (both to Marcedes Lewis), so he likely won’t care too much. But this will be a more mashed-up crew than even Rodgers is used to, with Marquez Valdes-Scantling serving as the veteran of a group that also features Darrius Shepherd and Malik Taylor.
Green Bay could choose to lean on its running game of Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams even more than normal to make up for the receiving absences. But Atlanta has also allowed nine passing touchdowns and more than 1,000 yards passing through three weeks, so expect Rodgers to look for success through the air even with his less-than-heralded crew.
Here’s a breakdown of the various players who could catch passes for Green Bay on Monday night:
Valdes-Scantling takes on a role as elder statesman for the Packers without Adams and Lazard. His 72 NFL receptions look like millions when compared to the limited top-level work for the other receivers in this group. Valdes-Scantling’s biggest calling card is as a deep-ball threat. He has already reeled in a 45-yard touchdown this season, and on two other plays, he was tackled by the ankles from behind on what would’ve been touchdown passes from Aaron Rodgers over the top.
After some promise as a rookie in 2018 out of South Florida, Valdes-Scantling disappointed with inconsistency in 2019. His solid start to 2020 will be put to the test as the top option in this WR corps Monday night.
Shepherd was part of four FCS national title teams at North Dakota State. That wasn’t enough to get him drafted, though. He joined Green Bay last season and caught one pass for one yard. After seeing 23 snaps in Week 3, Shepherd will likely be Green Bay’s No. 2 receiver in Week 4.
Last season in Week 6, Shepherd playing on Monday Night Football for the Packers and had a nightmare evening – he fumbled a punt and dropped a pass that led to an interception. Shepherd will get a chance at redemption against the Falcons.
“He didn’t let anything that happened last year rattle him,” Davante Adams told The Athletic. You could tell by the way he came in and just focused on the footwork aspect of it, catching the football, just everything. You can tell his antennae were up and he wanted to come in and shut a few people up. And I feel like he’s doing a good job of that.”
Taylor attended Division II power Ferris State, where he was a top receiver and return man. In 2017, Taylor caught 61 passes for 906 yards and six touchdowns for the Bulldogs.
In 2019, Taylor spent the entirety of the season on Green Bay’s practice squad – he was even more unknown than most Division II standouts due to missing most of his final season with an injury. At Central Michigan’s 2019 pro day, Taylor ran a 4.4-second 40-yard dash. If Taylor catches a pass against the Falcons, it’ll be his first NFL reception.
Ervin is listed on the Green Bay roster as a running back and wears No. 32, but he’ll spend most of his time out wide before going into motion when he’s on the field for the Packers in Week 4. A classic gadget player, Ervin has four rushes and four targets already this season, in addition to returning kicks and punts.
In Week 1 against the Vikings, Ervin ran three times for 38 yards. While he’ll run screens and short pass patterns, if Ervin has a game-breaking play Monday, it’ll likely be on some form of end around or reverse.
A tight end, Tonyan is in his third year with the Packers after playing his college ball at Indiana. He’s on pace to shatter his best NFL numbers, already having caught seven passes for 75 yards and two scores this season. At 6-5, 237 pounds, Tonyan serves as a big weapon down the seam for Rodgers along with providing a strong presence in the red zone.
Sternberger is the more hyped of Green Bay’s top two tight ends, even though Tonyan has seen more work in the early going. He was a third-round pick in 2019 but was only targeted once the whole season. So far in 2020, Sternberger has three catches for 36 yards.
Checking in at 6-5 and 251 pounds, Sternberger is a bit bigger than Tonyan but still ran a decent 4.75 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine in 2019. Down receivers, Green Bay likely will rely heavily on two tight-end sets against the Falcons, giving Tonyan and Sternberger both plenty of action.
Green Bay could also choose to call up a wide receiver from its practice squad ahead of Monday night’s game. The three WR options from the Packers’ practice squad are Robert Foster (who’s played in the NFL for the Bills), Juwann Winfree (who’s played in the NFL for the Broncos), and Reggie Begelton (who has never played an NFL game since leaving Lamar College).
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