Darrius Shepherd May be In Store for his Fair Share of Opportunities

With no Allen Lazard and potentially no Davante Adams, the Green Bay Packers need help in the receiving game, which could mean more opportunities for Darrius Shepherd. 

As the Green Bay Packers took the practice field on Thursday, we found ourselves in a good news-bad news situation. The good news was that Davante Adams was back at practice after missing Sunday's game against New Orleans. However, the bad news was that Allen Lazard was missing and that he was going to pop up on the injury report this week. 

Unfortunately, we would later learn that he had undergone core muscle surgery, and he will be out "indefinitely" as Adam Schefter put it. So the Packers will be without Allen Lazard for the foreseeable future, and although Adams was back at practice, there is no guarantee that he will play on Monday either. In his Zoom call with reporters on Wednesday, he said he wouldn't be playing unless he was 100%. And as of now, I'm not sure that anyone outside of the building knows where he stands in that regard.

Whether or not Adams plays, without Lazard, there are still going to be opportunities up for grabs in this potent Packers' passing attack. As we've seen through three weeks, in addition to the receivers, the running backs and tight ends will be involved in the passing game, but with Green Bay potentially missing their top-2 receivers, someone in that room will have to step up alongside of Marquez Valdes-Scantling. 

And that player just might be Darrius Shepherd, who put together another excellent training camp and has garnered some high-praise from Aaron Rodgers.

With all eyes on the Green Bay Packers' receiver room this offseason, Shepherd still managed to fly under the radar as an almost forgotten about option. I imagine many still had a sour taste in their mouths from his Week 6 performance in 2019 against Detroit and had written him off. During that game, as the Packers played from behind, Shepherd would muff a punt and then near the goal line, a pass (that Rodgers admits was a little behind Shepherd) would deflect off of him and into the arms of a defender. 

After that game, Shepherd looked very timid returning punts, and he was eventually cut after the Kansas City game before being re-signed to the practice squad. 

For an undrafted rookie who shocked everyone by making the 53-man roster in 2019, although just a handful of games into his short NFL career, that night against Detroit could have been a career-defining moment for the former North Dakota State standout. However, that game only added fuel to the fire as Shepherd used it as motivation, for both personal growth as well as growth on the football field (via Ryan Wood at Packers News):

“After that Detroit game,” Shepherd said, “I faced a lot of adversity personally and had to just overcome it. Growing physically, mentally, emotionally, all that kind of stuff, just learning to overcome. Taking the offseason just to grow and come back and be confident in my play and myself, and I’m excited to show what I do in practice on the game field hopefully.”

With the 2019 season in the rearview mirror, Shepherd once again came into training camp and impressed. In what was one of Green Bay's most intense practices of the year, Mike Spofford of Packers.com wrote that Shepherd had a handful of receptions, with two of them being third-down conversions. One he would score on and the other would set up first and goal for the offense. Call it deja vu, but just as he had done the summer before, Shepherd had again caught the eye of Head Coach Matt LaFleur:

“Shep’s done an outstanding job,” coach Matt LaFleur said. “I think he’s again showed up, consistently separating and has caught the ball pretty well for the most part. I know there’s a couple of plays here and there — just like every guy — that they’d always like to have back. One thing you know about Shep is he’s going to prepare to the best of his ability, and he’s been able to take what he knows from the classroom and put it on the field.”

Ultimately the Packers would choose Malik Taylor over Shepherd when constructing their original 53-man roster, and he would end up on the practice squad. But with Adams sidelined in Week 3, Shepherd was called up to the active roster. Although he didn't haul in a catch against the Saints and was targeted only one time, he played the third-most snaps on offense at the receiver position, behind only Lazard and Valdes-Scantling. 

For over a year now, Shepherd has stood out during practices, and not just with the coaching staff as mentioned above, but Rodgers has been paying attention as well, and some very high praise for the second-year receiver on Thursday:

"I'm very proud of Shep. I think obviously last year, he had a great training camp, had one, basically ond drop on a ball that was a little behind him and a lot of people tried to write him off in training camp and he had a phenomenal training camp. He really did. I mean he was as productive as just about anybody in camp and I really like his approach. He's the one who's always in Davante's ear, listening to what he's talking about. Damn near every time I come in the Hutson Center during training camp when we're starting practice, I walk in and do the same thing, put my helmet down. And Shep is picking Davante's brain about releases and certain things. And look, I try to pay attention as much as I possibly can, but that sticks with you. That impacts you. You're seeing just that desire to improve and get better. And then you see it on the field. You see him consistently using those releases, making plays and I'm really proud of him, just sticking with it, getting activated to the roster and I do have a lot of trust in him."

Up to this point, Shepherd hasn't had many opportunities during the regular season, but that could all change on Monday night, especially if Adams is unable to go. He's taken his lumps, but most importantly, he's learned from them and continued to hone his craft while in practice. Not to mention that he's earned QB1's trust along the way through his actions, and as we've all seen before, that's not a bad spot to be in for a young receiver.

With all of that said, no receiver on this team is going to replace Adams or Lazard, but all signs point to Shepherd being ready to contribute. 

---------------------

Born and raised in Green Bay, WI and I still call it home. After my family, watching the Packers, sharing my opinions on the team through my writing and interacting with other fans is my greatest passion. You can find me on Twitter at @Paul_Bretl. 
 

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7 points

Comments (50)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
jeremyjjbrown's picture

October 02, 2020 at 12:18 pm

Let's hope Adams plays. I like Shepherd but we need a proven guy out there for Rodgers to target.

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murf7777's picture

October 02, 2020 at 12:47 pm

I’d love to have Adams out there, but am happy he’s not going to play unless 100% because I think Packers will still put up 40+ without him. Mlf Offense, similar to Belichek’s, scheme people open regardless of position. That’s what makes this team so exciting to watch you never know who is going to be that guy from week to week. And, you don’t know what position, be it TE, WR, RB or HB that shines. I hope they Let Adams get a couple weeks rest and make sure it’s 100% healed vs risking any reoccurrence.

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Stroh's picture

October 02, 2020 at 10:39 pm

Lafleur's scheme is getting WR open, it did it on both Lazerds big plays last week. Adams doesn't need help to get open, but if the scheme can get Lazard wide open for 40+ yd gains it can do it for any other WR on the roster, or PS for that matter. All the WR needs is for Rodgers to trust him and see he's putting in the work.

Adams, MVS and any WR Rodgers trusts is plenty.

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Qoojo's picture

October 02, 2020 at 12:51 pm

Yikes, so I don't really read any packers news this week, then see this story first. Possibly no Adams too. They do have to watch MVS. I suspect a lot of two TEs sets and 2 RBs.

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mvprzy's picture

October 02, 2020 at 12:38 pm

What happened to EQ?

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Qoojo's picture

October 02, 2020 at 12:43 pm

I think IR with another knee injury.

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ricky's picture

October 02, 2020 at 01:36 pm

Went on IR mid-September.

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madtowndan's picture

October 02, 2020 at 01:47 pm

Not eligible to come off IR until after the Atlanta game.

3 points
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Coldworld's picture

October 02, 2020 at 04:20 pm

And no update on his health. It’s also no given that he would rank above these receivers.

3 points
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splitpea1's picture

October 02, 2020 at 12:48 pm

Shepherd will definitely get his chances. AR will need to stick with him just like he did with MVS. I think it's important to get him involved first with a couple of short throws to get his confidence flowing.

How about more of a ground and pound approach for the upcoming game? More Williams and a possible Dillon sighting, maybe? Nice long, methodical drives resulting in TDs will keep the ATL offense off the field. Despite our WR injuries, I still think we have enough depth at other offensive positions to win this game.

7 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

October 02, 2020 at 08:09 pm

Breakout game for Sternberger. A lot of triple TE sets and power backfield with A. Jones becoming a bigger part of the passing game. Maybe they spring Foster for a send up to the 53.

3 points
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TarynsEyes's picture

October 02, 2020 at 12:53 pm

"Fair Share'

This bs phrase certainly makes it's way into everything. What exactly is his fair share and why is it not coming from winning a starting spot of 5.

I hope he plays well and actually makes a case for a 'fair share' based off of it going forward, but at this moment, he deserves zero fair shares of anything, less those received out of necessity.

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Lphill's picture

October 02, 2020 at 12:56 pm

31 other teams when needing to add a position like wide receiver would trade a pick or two for an available veteran sure handed receiver , the Packers on the other hand would rather fill in the spot with an undrafted player . I'm sure there is a receiver out there somewhere that could be had , and love the opportunity to play with Rodgers.

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Leatherhead's picture

October 02, 2020 at 03:49 pm

Yes, we should mortgage the future to get a guy that we’re averaging 40 points without.

5 points
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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

October 02, 2020 at 04:23 pm

Have you noticed how many times that veteran pick up doesn't work out? And the future is mortgaged because of it. If there were somebody they could get for little to nothing in compensation, I could see it. But neither future drafts or the salary cap should be impacted heavily. At least until they see if Davante can come back after the bye. And if the offense can roll with the guys they have.

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Coldworld's picture

October 02, 2020 at 04:28 pm

Yes, there are a number of excellent veteran receivers sitting on their hands voluntarily rather than starting in the hope that a Team with future hall of fame QB will get an Injury. Moreover, they are clandestinely learning the schemes Rodgers, Brady and Brees Etc. play in by ESP to be ready on immediate notice. What’s more, they aren’t worried about income: will play for free just to catch passes from a Great.

4 points
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CoachDino's picture

October 02, 2020 at 07:29 pm

Lphill....Wrong....why even make a statement like that? Maybe just to get a knucklehead like me to react? lol..

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jannes bjornson's picture

October 02, 2020 at 08:11 pm

Trade deals will not happen until the deadline week.

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frankthefork's picture

October 02, 2020 at 01:10 pm

Football is a game of attrition. Last year the Packers got lucky; this year is not starting to look good injury wise. Fans have to be happy with the depth and that many of our players have stepped in and upped their game. This week is a tough test with a bye next week to regroup. I remain an optimist and believe the TE's and RB's can fill the WR gaps. GB 35 ATL 27. GPG

5 points
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Bear's picture

October 02, 2020 at 11:59 pm

Last year the Packers finished 14th in Adjusted Games Lost.

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Bearmeat's picture

October 02, 2020 at 01:35 pm

Shit. And this, Gute, is what happens when you don't build enough depth at a position. You can't do it everywhere in a hard cap league, but going into this season, we didn't have enough playmakers or solid pieces or depth (one of the 3) at DL, ILB and WR.

And look where we suck??? Hmmm......

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greengold's picture

October 02, 2020 at 02:17 pm

Last I saw, we were sucking at RUN STOP.

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Bearmeat's picture

October 02, 2020 at 03:05 pm

Yes. Hence the mention of DL, ILB and WR. WR's been very surprisingly solid, but the depth is garbage.

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Coldworld's picture

October 02, 2020 at 04:30 pm

How do you know? You haven’t seen it. Wait before panicking that the sky is falling.

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Leatherhead's picture

October 02, 2020 at 08:31 pm

Bearmeat has a problem with premature evaluations.

At WR, our 53 man roster included Adams, Lazard, MSV, ESB for our top 4. Three out of four are injured right now, leaving us with two healthy WRs. If we had squandered a high draft pick for some super duper WR to be our #5, we would still have two healthy receivers. I’m not understanding what he is suggesting.....we should have kept more than 5 on the 53? Or maybe we should have cut the garbage like Lazard and MSV and used other guys?

The defensive line is the same story. We play 2.1 defensive linemen after first down. That means your main dog (Clark) plays a lot and two other guys eat up most of the other snaps. Your other two....Keke and Adams....play special teams and get a few snaps.

So again, what’s the proposal? That we should have spent resources to replace guys we already have under contract and who know the system and who are known by the coaches? Or we should keep more defensive linemen on the roster? What?

I’m reminded of that scene from Apollo 13 where they dump this box of stuff on the table and tell the engineers they have to fix the problem with what is on the table or the astronauts are going to die. Some people would certainly have said “this garbage should have been replaced with a backup system on board before launch”

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CoachDino's picture

October 02, 2020 at 07:53 pm

Big B, The depth IMHO is fantastic. Look what happened to NO when they lost their #1 rec. Not to the Packers. How much more depth is expected? Your 3rd,4th and 5th WR being able to play like 1 or 2 wr? I've never seen a team pull that off, ever. Ever is a big statement so if anyone can think of some please advise.
The point I'd like to make is this offense isn't based on having depth at one position so deep it can take multiple hits, this offense has playmakers/weapons through RB/HB/TEs. Players are still going to scheme open, they no longer need to be as good as DAdams who can get himself open at will.
The Packers have already illustrated this, so its not theory.

No doubt losing your top 2 WR hurts, but the opposing team still has to use resources to cover the WR you put out there.

I've said it before and have heard it before, the defense doesn't need to be great. They just need to be good enough to win.
PFF, which isn't the bible but a solid reference has: Team graded #1, Offense #2 and Defense #14. Last year the defense was ranked in the average range. The defense isn't so bad. I think we can all agree that 2021 draft focus be defensive upgrades but improvements will be slow due too the terrible cap position and the 2020 losses in revenue leading to a 2021 cap reduction.

The team has gone 16-3 and lost in the conference finals with mostly the same players. I see no reason they can't compete again this year. For those who want a guarantee, I am sorry for your assured continual disappointment. The odds of winning a SB are extremely slim. It's a goal, one that this team has been put in position to compete for. How many teams in the NFL can even say that?

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Leatherhead's picture

October 02, 2020 at 08:44 pm

Coach Dino, you’re taking the words out of my mouth. 16-3. Defense not that bad last year , mostly the same guys this year, not that bad. In the most important metric, points allowed, we’re average. Both of our road wins were against teams that were in the playoffs last year AND had top 10 offenses. At home, we choked out a division opponent after the first quarter.

Atlanta has an offense that averages 30...I’ll bet we hold them under that.

5 points
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Leatherhead's picture

October 02, 2020 at 08:45 pm

Double

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greengold's picture

October 02, 2020 at 02:16 pm

Nice work, Paul!

Darrius Shepherd graded out as the 2nd best receiver in the 2019 draft class at PFF. Andy Isabella was #1. He had 5 games with a reception 40+ yds as a Senior at NDSU, 62 catches for 1065 yds and 9 TDs. This guy knows how to play. For his career he had 188 receptions for 2,841 yds and 20 TDs.

Shepherd was also the FIRST guy in the locker room to learn the playbook last year. Yes, even before Aaron Rodgers.

We've got so much talent on this Packers team. Is someone really going to worry about 1 game before the bye week, with Lazard missing? Aaron will have these receiving options:
Adams
MVS
Shepherd
Taylor
Ervin
Tonyan
Sternberger
Lewis
Lovett
A. Jones
Williams

Not sure if 11 receiving targets will be enough to wipe out ATL, but I'll go out on a limb and say, "Fu*k Yeah!!!"

Add to this, we might get our first look at Reggie Begelton this week... I would TOTALLY dig that. We'll be fine. We can always RUN the rock.

6 points
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ShooterMcGee's picture

October 02, 2020 at 02:25 pm

Fans who are also arm chair GMs are often criticized by journalists like our friend Aaron Nagler. When we want our team to draft glaring needs such as WR, DL, and ILB we are short sighted. When we want a free agent signed, this inhibits the development of players already on the team.
So we watched as our team did not draft a WR in a historically deep 2020 draft. OK they have a plan. No reinforcements for the D-line. OK they have a plan. More ILBs on IR than are active. Well some things you cannot plan for. However trying to strengthen the weaker positions on your team during the draft does seem prudent.
Now Gutenkunst is scrambling. Look at all the waiver wire pick ups at wr, but never claimed Hakeem Butler a 4th round pick last year. Why not? For the d-line Billy Winn was signed. The guy hadn't played in 4 years and actually looked decent. But why ignore the position in last years draft?
I must admit though, best decision ever was the hiring of Matt Lafleur. Front office gets an A+ on that 1. What the hell am I complaining about?!? Lack of depth at a few positions! Imagine we could have hired Adam Gase.

4 points
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Bearmeat's picture

October 02, 2020 at 03:07 pm

It's for the fans who dare to question the pros... more often than not, the pros are right. But sometimes (like last year at WR) they're not. And those fans got shelled again and again by Nags and his ilk.

That's fine. I don't need Aaron and Corey to tell me how to be a fan, or how to validate my own thought process in doing so.

My field insists on planning for the worst, and preparing for it. Then being pleased when the task was easier than you prepared for. Not the other way around.

6 points
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Coldworld's picture

October 02, 2020 at 04:36 pm

In the cap era with a massive QB salary and a team that started with major holes, some weaknesses are going to be there and going to be tested.

Rodgers said some very nice things about Shepherd this week. Most surprisingly, that he trusted him as a receiver. Who was the last “garbage” player Rodgers said that about?

RELAX

3 points
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Bearmeat's picture

October 02, 2020 at 08:01 pm

Yes. Some weaknesses are going to be there. And you take the player you think will do well, not the "need." WR has been solid, even with Adams out last week. We'll see if Shepherd can step it up. Or the other PS guys. But it's not a stretch to say that GB has a bottom 5 WR unit without Davante, and it's def bottom 2-3 without Lazard in there too. MVS is very inconsistent.

But DL and ILB? Yeah, I'm calling BS there. Run pluggers can/could be had cheap all offseason. We weren't interested. It's officially a suck-hole in our defense. And it was predictable.

That doesn't mean that GB isn't a good team. It just means that unless that issue is fixed, we'll be unceremoniously bounced in the divisional round (or similar) again.

2 points
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Nate-1980's picture

October 02, 2020 at 05:37 pm

Amen Bearmeat.. Even a mid round rookie wr would/ could help this situation right now.. Everyone thinks everything will be fine on offense and these practice squad receivers will produce.. They might be right, or the offense could suffer and the team could lose a few games.. Adams could get hurt again because he always seems to have something going on every year.. We can’t rely on our defense to keep points off the board( at least not their the first three games), and can’t afford to lose a few games we should win for seeding purposes..

-1 points
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CoachDino's picture

October 02, 2020 at 08:28 pm

Big B,

Not sure who you've been watching or reading but more often then not the "Pros" have been wrong. Be a pro or a fan neither is right or wrong all the time. I've been very disappointed in our packer media and how late they have been to the game (new scheme). I do think CHTV has done, by far, the best job IMO of explaining the situation with the new paradigm in personnel raised by the change in scheme. I would of liked to see it before the draft but to be honest I wasn't totally clear myself as to what they needed to make the improvements they have on offense.

Don't even bother with National media - like they have studied in depth all 32 teams. They are sheep. They all just say the same things. I, like you, make up my own mind and just use media as inputs. Personally, I get just as much good input from CHTV posts as anywhere. We don't need to always agree. That would be boring. I just get a bit annoyed by biting comments that have no real facts behind them and/or are done in a very narrow view (not including cap, learning curves, chemistry, etc...) By far the minority here. I've disagreed with you twice today but I wouldn't be surprised if you teach me something tomorrow.

Here's something I'd like to see more of from local media that does have access more than us fans. Something we don't already know, something we wouldn't know not having the access. That's one place National media, with its allure and relationships does seem to produce.

1 points
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HighPlainsDrifter's picture

October 03, 2020 at 05:42 am

Having a forum to express your armchair GM opinions doesn't give you the right to have your opinions validated. Aaron and Corey are not telling you how to be a fan. Instead, they are simply pointing out that your opinions are incorrect.

If you don’t like having your opinions criticized, get better opinions.

1 points
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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

October 02, 2020 at 04:39 pm

Easy in hindsight . . . .Adams and Lazard are the clear number 1 and number 2 WRs. Any team that loses their top two is going to have struggles, whether they drafted a WR or not. Why not let it play out? Judge him after his career is done instead of smack dab in the middle. So far Gutey has had some success at putting together a roster. The griping by armchair GMs just gets old. It goes nowhere, like pissing into the wind. All the judgments about Rashaan Gary (heck, all the judgments about Davante year 2); all the judgments of many other roster choices. We don't see what they see in practice every day. He made the best choice he could based on things he could control and things he couldn't control.

4 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

October 02, 2020 at 08:23 pm

And Funchess opted out , so the WR depth was valid at the start of the 2020 campaign. He would have had to move into the low teens to get a playmaker @ WR. Not happening. I'm comfortable with Deguara and Dillon to kick some ass as the season progresses. Grind Atlanta into the turf and let the Defense carry some weight for a change. Time for the D to make a statement.

4 points
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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

October 02, 2020 at 04:42 pm

Also, interesting article on Hakeem Butler, and it makes me think I should just trust the GM.
https://www.revengeofthebirds.com/2020/9/8/21427331/az-arizona-cardinals...

3 points
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Coldworld's picture

October 02, 2020 at 05:49 pm

Ouch. I’d bring back Jeff Janis first after that.

3 points
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ShooterMcGee's picture

October 04, 2020 at 06:39 am

Thanks for the Hakeem Butler article

1 points
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HighPlainsDrifter's picture

October 03, 2020 at 05:33 am

Scrambling?? What gives you the idea that Gute is scrambling?

There is no indication that Gute is panicking. The only people panicking are those armchair GMs that you praise so much.

1 points
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mnbadger's picture

October 02, 2020 at 02:43 pm

Dink and dunk with short throws and 4.5 YPC running game. AJ Dillon gets his introduction. Control the ball/TOP, don't turn it over. No bad penalties. As usual, just enough defensive plays and Mason Crosby goes wild.
Pack 33-27.
GPG

2 points
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Archie's picture

October 02, 2020 at 03:04 pm

I for one am looking forward to seeing D Sheppard play Monday night. Two great training camps in a row, is 100% prepared mentally, HC/QB believe in him. Maybe after the game we will be saying GB found another WR. I have a good feeling about him this time.

DeGauara might be back too.

Maybe we unleash Dillon this week.

3 points
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CAG123's picture

October 02, 2020 at 03:37 pm

I’m not too excited about Sheppard the guys a dud to me maybe he’ll prove me wrong

-3 points
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Guam's picture

October 02, 2020 at 04:09 pm

A year ago Lazard was an unknown who grabbed an opportunity and ran with it. Will lightning strike twice? We can only hope so.

4 points
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Guam's picture

October 02, 2020 at 04:09 pm

A year ago Lazard was an unknown who grabbed an opportunity and ran with it. Will lightning strike twice? We can only hope so.

-1 points
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greengold's picture

October 02, 2020 at 04:12 pm

I really don't think he's scrambling. Just doing what he always does in looking to improve his roster. For all we know there is a trade in the works, or not, at NT, WR, ILB... who knows other than he and his staff. But, I think it is pretty clear they are ALWAYS working to increase the talent on this team as prudently as possible.

Personally, I'm not really worried about WR depth, as I think we have a good group there. Begelton and EQ are both players who have been around all year and more. Begelton was signed in January.

For all we know, Keke will be promoted to starter, Winn shows more, and there's the possibility Montravius Adams comes around, along with Lancaster and Lowry all atoning for their miscues early this season.

Ty Summers will get only his 2nd start, but he's been in system for two years now, and is able to make the calls and hopefully more plays. I suspect he will Monday night. Burks looked improved and Barnes has shown well.

Get through this game with a W and hit what has turned into a much needed Week 5 bye to get some players more healthy.

Plus, the Packers have an opportunity to unleash a run heavy attack, with the personnel to make it successful.

7 points
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cheesehead1's picture

October 02, 2020 at 04:25 pm

There are no easy games in this league. Hope we come out fired up, especially the D. Time for them to start putting things together. We’re not going to be putting up 40+ every game. GPG!

5 points
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Lacy's picture

October 03, 2020 at 08:13 am

Let’s give Robert Foster a chance , he is big and fast.. I trust Alabama players and he was one of the top ranked WR is the country coming out of HS is 2018..watch his highlights with Buffalo last year
https://youtu.be/56jjBdJ7Xiw

1 points
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