Since the Green Bay Packers traded All Pro wide receiver Davante Adams there has been a lot of talk about who will step up and take on more responsibility now that Aaron Rodgers’ favorite target is no longer with the team. Many people are focusing on veterans like Allen Lazard or Sammy Watkins, some look at rookies like Christian Watson or Romeo Doubs while others point to tight ends and running backs as likely to get more catches.

But don’t overlook second-year man Amari Rodgers. The Packers third-round pick of a year ago looks ready to do a lot more in his second NFL season than he managed to do in year one of his pro football career.

2021 was a tough year for Amari Rodgers. He had a lot of things go against him in his first NFL campaign. The Packers traded up to draft him and he played a position that was undergoing lots of scrutiny to begin with and both of those factors only put more pressure on him.

Then, Amari Rodgers saw his playing time cut before training camp even started when the Packers re-acquired veteran slot receiver Randall Cobb. Cobb was able to serve as a mentor for Amari, but he also took away much of his potential playing time because he was a veteran playing the same role who already had the trust of quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Amari Rodgers did start the season as the team’s primary punt returner but even that turned into an adventure. The rookie struggled to make decisions as to when to field punts, when to make fair catches and when to let the ball roll. He also had trouble hanging onto the football, whether it was muffing punts or fumbling after he fielded them.

On offense, he was on the field for only 103 plays all season and caught just four passes for 45 yards in what could only be described as a disappointing rookie campaign.

But this offseason, Amari Rodgers has been preparing to take a step forward in his second season in the NFL. Prior to his rookie year, Amari Rodgers bulked up, thinking he would need the extra size to play against larger NFL defenders. Instead, adding all the muscle took away some of the quickness and explosiveness that made him so effective at Clemson.

This offseason, the second-year wide receiver took off the weight he added last offseason and the quickness and explosiveness he had in college seemed to return at minicamp and OTAs.

“This offseason, I locked in on getting my body right,” Rodgers said during minicamp. “I lost like six pounds, I lost four percent body fat. Lost all of it my torso, so I feel like I’m getting in that area where I was in college as far as where I want to be to move how I want to and play receiver the way I should.”

Cobb saw progress in Amari Rodgers at OTAs and indicated he would continue to mentor the young slot receiver. He also stressed patience with Amari. “What we do is not easy and for anybody to think that you can just walk into a place and become great … it’s a process,” Cobb said. “So, just give it time. Some people take a little longer to blossom. It’s about me helping him understand and build confidence and know who he is and allowing him to continue to grow.”

Position coach Jason Vrable also saw more a marked improvement from Amari Rodgers. “Biggest thing we worked on, I talked to him in the offseason, how do you get your confidence? Well, you work and train harder than you ever did,” Vrable said. “So, if you were to see him right now, he already looks faster and stronger than he ever did. He’s in the best shape of his life. His mindset is, ‘I’m going to be the No. 1 guy at all three positions.’ He has that going for him. His route-running is already cleaner and crisper. He’s trained an entire offseason.”

Now the key is for Amari Rodgers to get it done on the field when it counts. Can he make plays in preseason and more importantly when the regular season starts? If he can take that step forward, Amari Rodgers could be a pleasant surprise for the Packers offense this season.




Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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