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Romeo Doubs shines at Packers OTAs for second consecutive year
For the second straight year, wide receiver Romeo Doubs has shined during the Packers' offseason program.
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The Green Bay Packers enter the third week of organized-team activities. Once OTAs wrap up on June 8, the Packers will have just one more week of on-field work -- mandatory minicamp from June 13-15 -- before the players head out of town for over a month. They won't return until the start of training camp.
With that in mind, the work over the next few days will have a more lasting impression. The coaches will review the practice tape and use it to inform the positional rotations during training camp in late July and early August.
Today's edition of The Leap tackles arguably the biggest on-field story to arise during the Packers' OTAs. We also look at some of the young players with the most at stake.
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What does or doesn't Romeo Doubs' showing thus far during OTAs mean for his 2023 outlook?
Jason B. Hirschhorn: Any conversation about an OTA standout necessarily comes with caveats. As you might remember, Josh Jones once looked like a field-tilter in shorts and helmets before completely fizzling out once the pads came on. Every team has an offseason superstar or two that amounts to little by the time the Week 1 arrives.
But Romeo Doubs has blown up in this exact situation before and maintained the momentum. As a rookie last year, Doubs flashed during the offseason workouts and then continued to perform well during training camp. That led Aaron Rodgers to declare that the "standard for him is not going to be the standard for a normal rookie here in the past." Doubs validated the praise, catching 31 passes for 314 yards and three touchdowns before a high-ankle sprain derailed his season.
Now fully recovered, Doubs has regained his full explosiveness while also demonstrating some refinement as a receiver. By most accounts, nobody on the roster had a more impressive showing during the first two weeks of OTAs.
Because Doubs has already shown he can turn a hot start from OTAs into the regular season, it doesn't seem unreasonable that he can do so again. This time, Doubs begins with the inside track to a starting job and, at least among the receivers, the most returning targets from a year ago.
With that as the backdrop, Doubs looks like a true breakout candidate. That doesn't necessarily make him the top weapon in the Packers' passing game, but he could very realistically become the go-to target on third downs. His slipperiness and his renewed burst position him well for that kind of role.
Peter Bukowski: Last week on Locked on Packers, I made the case Romeo Doubs was the X-factor for the 2023 Packers season. The reasoning was simple: The offensive line and run game will be good, Christian Watson looks like a star, and those things should allow Jordan Love to just run the offense as called in a proto-Jared Goff kind of way.
If we expect the defense will be up-and-down -- time to put up or shut up, Joe Barry -- then what Green Bay desperately needs is another pass catcher to step forward and complement Watson. While long term the best chance on the team to be that player may well be Luke Musgrave given his unique physical profile, Doubs showed incredible potential last year.
His ability to win as a route-runner, to -- and I know we’ve over-used this phrase both on The Leap and LOP -- be a bucket-getter, will be the difference in an offense that can simply not take a big step back and one that can actually get better overall.
Doubs flashed movement skills that made his head coach compare him to Davante Adams and his old QB1 to compare the rising sophomore to players like Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, and others in terms of the most impressive rookie receivers he’s seen. In games, his inability to handle physical play is a fixable flaw given the jump in competition he faced coming to Nevada. Even as a rookie, his ability to win contested balls won out.
If Doubs is good in 2023, the Packers offense will be too.
Which non-Doubs second-year offensive player has the best chance to significantly alter his future with the Packers?
JBH: This question and the next one that follows it don't concern which second-year pro can or will demonstrate the most improvement. Rather, they ask which of these players can do the most to change their stature within the team by carving out a larger role. Here, that eliminates options like Christian Watson that already hold large roles in the offense.
That also means that a player like second-year offensive tackle Zach Tom probably doesn't count either. Tom already appears on track for a starting job, both in 2023 and beyond. While he could realistically take a leap this season, he has already established himself as a starting-caliber player.
Conversely, another of the Packers' second-year offensive linemen could see his star rise in the near future: Caleb Jones.
The 6-foot-9, 370-pound Jones has yet to appear in a regular-season game and doesn't have a guaranteed spot on the 53-man roster. However, he does have elite size for the position and looked impressive during 2022's training camp and preseason. He also has practiced during OTAs as the top backup to David Bakhtiari while Tom competes for the starting job at right tackle.
Given how Jones' status as a former undrafted free agent, his physical attributes, and the challenges he has already conquered, he has the opportunity to become the Packers' next Yosh Nijman. Before working his way into a starting tackle job, Nijman also entered the league as a UDFA. Though not a star by any means, Nijman would represent an upgrade for more than half the league's starters at his position.
Jones won't take a starting job in 2023 no matter how well he performs between now and the regular season. However, he can carve out a niche for himself as a swing tackle and potential future starter if he takes advantage of his opportunities over the next few weeks and months.
PB: This is an easy answer for me: Sean Rhyan. He was a non-entity last year for the Packers before getting suspended for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug rules. Brian Gutekunst took the former UCLA tackle in the third round, and Rhyan never even sniffed the fresh-cut grass of the field.
Green Bay eschewing offensive line in the draft speaks to their faith in players like Rhyan, the aforementioned Jones, and Rasheed Walker. Rhyan (and Zach Tom among others) playing some at center during OTAs likewise speaks to a lack of faith in Josh Myers no matter what the coaching staff says about him.
Tackle-to-center position changes are not uncommon and are seemingly even more common for the Packers who convert everyone from tackle to something else. Rhyan should still get a chance to compete with Jon Runyan Jr. at right guard where the team could have already negotiated an extension but has not, at least to date.
Rhyan brings far more physical ability to the table than a player like Royce Newman or Jake Hanson. It’s time to show it.
And which second-year defensive player has the best chance to significantly alter his future with the Packers?
JBH: For all the talk surrounding first-round rookie Lukas Van Ness and his importance to the defense while Rashan Gary remains sidelined with a torn ACL, the Packers have other promising young pass rushers on the roster. Kingsley Enagbare, a fifth-round selection from the 2022 NFL Draft, should also factor into how the team accounts for Gary's absence.
Enagbare only played on less than half of the Packers' defensive snaps in 2022. However, his 15.2 pass-rush win rate led all rookie edge defenders with at least 200 pass-rush snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.
Enagbare doesn't have the same athletic ceiling as Van Ness, but he might well prove better equipped for a major role early in the season while Gary remains unavailable or limited. Independent of that matter, Enagbare has the chance to prove he can provide more than just quality reserve snaps. He arguably had the best season among the Packers' rookie defenders in 2022 and, with the right adjustments and improvements, could become a mainstay of the pass rush.
PB: Jason is very smart, but he’s also profoundly wrong here because there is a correct answer and it’s Quay Walker. Everyday readers of this publication and listeners to my podcast may find it strange I’m arguing in favor of a draft pick and prospect I did not like over a draft pick and prospect I adored, but here we are.
I get this isn’t exactly the spirit of the question, but to me, the difference between a player merely being a starter because he was a first-round pick and the backups were bad (which is what happened last year) and being the literal reason you run the defense the way you do is about as gargantuan a jump (a leap, if you will) as any player on the Packers can make in terms of role, Love excluded.
Last spring, I wrote the Packers want to change the way they play defense for Walker. Even if Enagbare hits, he’s still likely only EDGE3 at best on this team behind LVN and Rashan Gary when he gets back. There’s a cap on Enagbare’s ceiling in Green Bay so long as those guys are around.
That’s not true for Walker. Every member of the Packers brain trust with a hand in draft Walker spoke about their desire to stay in two-linebacker sets and better defend both the run and pass. If Walker fulfills the promise of his potential and Green Bay can actually do that, it fundamentally changes their style of play. They’ll have, in as many words, built the defense around him.
Err … that’s not quite true. They’ll have built it around De’Vondre Campbell and Walker because the idea of drafting Walker was one Campbell is awesome, why don’t we have two?
Still, he’s the only answer here because his mere presence on the field was by clear intentionality from the draft. Green Bay drafted Enagbare to be a backup. Developing into a nice backup is good for the Packers, especially while Gary is hurt. But, long term, that’s what he is. Long term, Walker profiles as the focal point of this defense, the linchpin that holds everything else together.
JBH, again: As the author of the prompts, I would like to point out that the question asked about second-year players carving out larger roles with the Packers rather than simply improving. As Quay Walker started 16 games and played on 82% of the defensive snaps, he doesn’t really qualify whether he takes the leap or not.
Still, the Walker situation holds a lot of intrigue, so we'll let Peter slide this time.
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