Brian Gutekunst, Matt LaFleur sing the praises of Packers' rookie WR trio

-- On one hand, much of the Green Bay Packers' offensive roster faces the same adversity in mastering fresh, reimagined concepts under a new regime.

On the other, the learning curve could be a little tougher to master for the second-year wide receivers.

Last year, general manager Brian Gutekunst's first draft featured three pass-catchers in the mid-rounds: J'Mon Moore in the fourth round at No. 133 overall, Marquez Valdes-Scantling in the fifth at No. 174 and Equanimeous St. Brown in the sixth at No. 207.

The latter pair were forced to step into the fire in their rookie season and play significant snaps, catching passes from a quarterback whose expectations were clear straight out of training camp: They needed to get on the same page with him and earn his trust, much like the Packers' most renowned receivers in the last decade have.

But building a connection from the ground-up and meshing with Aaron Rodgers didn't stunt either one of Valdes-Scantling or Equanimeous St. Brown, who played 692 and 358 offensive snaps, respectively. Valdes-Scantling's snap count was second only to Davante Adams.

"I was really happy," Gutekunst said of the group at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine on Wednesday. "Each had their moments at different times of the year. That transition to the NFL game can be a big one. A lot of wide receivers don’t usually see production until their second or third year. I thought those guys had a lot of challenge and met them head-on and gave us help down the stretch.

While J'Mon Moore was leading the receiving corps in special teams snaps, Valdes-Scantling and St. Brown were leading the offense in yards per reception, with the exception of tight end Robert Tonyan who saw only six targets. It's enough of a reason to incite excitement for the potential venturing into year two.

"EQ and Valdes-Scantling had big moments. J’Mon was a little bit behind that, but at the same time, worked every day, showed up and we saw definite improvement throughout the year. I think the future for those three guys is very bright."

Both of Rodgers' most trusted targets, Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison, sustained injuries and battled staying on the field throughout the season -- Allison was on injured reserve shortly after the season's halfway point -- which essentially made Valdes-Scantling and St. Brown defacto starters.

While they had their fair share of struggles at various points, they also flashed an abundance of skill that could translate to future success at the professional level. It doesn't mean the Packers won't look to add to the group at some point this offseason with Cobb set to hit the free agency market and Allison likely to receive a restricted free agent (RFA) offer that would give the Packers the right of first refusal.

But in 2019, the emphasis will likely be on the developments of the second-year group and providing them another opportunity to further formulate their relationship with Rodgers. With Matt LaFleur at the reins now as the team's head coach and the impressive offensive pedigree he brings to the table, there should be no problem finding exclusive roles for them either.

"I'm really excited about those guys," LaFleur said on Wednesday in Indianapolis, essentially echoing Gutekunst's praises. "All three of those guys, there's a reason they were drafted. They are big guys that can all run. That's something we're looking for in our scheme, guys that can stretch the field vertically.

"Just really excited about how those guys will be able to progress throughout their career."

The 2019 NFL Draft -- in which the Packers currently own 10 selections -- showcases a well-stocked class of wide receivers, and they also have north of $35 million dollars in cap space. An addition to the receiver room isn't out of the question, even with the belief that the second-year trio could heighten their abilities in 2019.

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Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Comments (6)

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

February 28, 2019 at 08:39 am

Excited about those 2nd year receivers including J'Mon who you can see physically is very talented. Also, whether Jake K. can take another step.

Pick up a twitchy slot receiver and the Pack offense with Jones out of backfield will be very hard to stop.

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The TKstinator's picture

March 01, 2019 at 03:06 am

O line needs more improvement than receiving corps.

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fthisJack's picture

February 28, 2019 at 09:04 am

agree....there are really good slot receivers in FA and the draft and i expect the Packers to get one. the future looks bright at WR and nobody mentions Allison who was having a very good year before he got hurt.

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Ferrari Driver's picture

February 28, 2019 at 09:30 am

Perhaps it's to be expected, but there is certainly a great deal of room for improvement.

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bodei1newbie1's picture

February 28, 2019 at 10:04 am

$35 million dollars in cap space is not enough the packers have to be wise about there money.

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AgrippaLII's picture

February 28, 2019 at 01:33 pm

The 2019 draft will tell us what Gutekunst really thinks about this trio of receivers!

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