Packers rookie Romeo Doubs has become Aaron Rodgers’ favorite receiver

Every NFL team has its annual training camp stars, and you never know how that will really work out until the season starts. But in the case of the 2022 Green Bay Packers, their preseason star might be able to quickly become the best buddy of their future first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback.

Nevada alum Romeo Doubs, selected with the 132nd overall pick in the fourth round of the 2022 draft, has been the apple of everyone’s eye throughout Green Bay’s offseason process.

«It’s never been too big for him. I really like the approach,» Rodgers recently said of the rookie, via Packers Wire. «He’s a very humble kid, but you’re starting to see the personality come out a little bit, which is fun to see. He’s had a lot of opportunities, which have been great. With Sammy not practicing a couple of days, and Christian being out, a lot of opportunities for him, and he’s made the most of it.»

Sammy is Sammy Watkins, acquired in free agency on a one-year deal. Christian is Christian Watson, the receiver taken by the Packers with the 34th overall pick in the second round. Both players have been out due to injury, and when that happens, it’s the next man up, and opportunities for others to shine.

So far, Doubs has been incandescent.

(Syndication: PackersNews)

«It’s not just the team stuff. I thought he ran good routes yesterday in the one-on-ones against [cornerback Eric] Stokes,” Rodgers continued. «It’s just a matter of the mental stuff. He’s still making some mental mistakes, but you expect those. It’s the approach, his release patterns, he catches the ball with his hands.

«Every single day, there’s been at least one ‘wow’ play. And that’s rare for a young guy like that. We’ve had some guys over the years before that, but they are all in the top 10 of Packers receiving history. Good start for him.»

Head coach Matt LaFleur has been part of the choir, as well.

«Romeo is the first one in the building,» LaFleur said as training camp got underway in late July. «He is in his locker getting primed. I see him in the weight room getting his body and mind ready. He’s already kind of established a routine for himself, and I think that’s one of the things that rookies have a hard time finding, and once they do, they can take off.»

Count receiver Randall Cobb in, as well.

«Nobody knows his ceiling just yet,» Cobb said of Doubs in late July. «He has a lot of tangibles, a lot of special gifts. That’s potential. We all know potential is one thing…it’s going to take a little bit of time to figure out how good he is going to be. But he has the pieces. We never want to set too high of expectations for people, but he’s shown some flashes.»

Backup quarterback Jordan Love? Yeah, he’s in, as well.

«Just the way he’s catching the ball,» Love said last week. «He’s making those contested catches, and those tough plays, he’s making them look easy. And it’s not easy to do,»

The need for new blood at the receiver is patently obvious. With the trade that sent Davante Adams to the Raiders, and after losing Marquez Valdes-Scantling in free agency, the depth chart is a bit thin — something that got up Rodgers’ nose even when he had Adams.

Doubts might be the answer. His college tape shows that

(Syndication: Reno Gazette Journal)

In his senior season for the Wolf Pack, Doubs caught 80 passes for 1,109 yards and 11 touchdowns. Per Pro Football Focus, 12 of those receptions, 444 of those yards, and eight of those touchdowns came on passes of 20 or more air yards. Carson Strong was a proficient deep passer in 2022, but that wouldn’t have been the case to the degree it was without Doubs’ efforts.

On this 66-yard touchdown against Colorado State, Doubs showed interesting acceleration for his size (6-foot-2, 201 pounds) to fly right by Colorado State’s deep coverage. Then, after leading the safety inside, he dragged the route to the boundary, and made himself open.

And on this 61-yard touchdown against Air Force, Doubs displays the concentration required to stay in line as a receiver even as he’s nodding the safety to sleep with a quick outside move, and more speed to the boundary.

Finally, there’s this 28-yard touchdown against UNLV. Here, Doubs just gets obnoxious with the intermediate stutter, and makes an acrobatic end zone catch for the denouement.

NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein loves to come up with new terms to describe draft prospects. Outside of “slot bully,” my favorite receiver term of Lance’s is “route chef.” Doubs comes into the NFL with the ability to stir up some pretty tasty stuff in that regard — especially on deep balls. He has an impressive sense of how to gain space and leverage.

(Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)

Last season, per Sports Info Solutions, only the Buccaneers, Cardinals, and Chiefs had more receiver screen targets than Green Bay’s 43. Packers receivers caught 41 of those screens for 270 yards, 285 yards after the catch, and one touchdown. Receiver screens are a major part of Matt LaFleur’s offensive structure, and as Davante Adams was Aaron Rodgers’ favorite target on those passes by far with 26 catches for 173 yards and that lone touchdown, someone is going to have to pick up the slack.

Doubs caught 13 screens on 14 targets for 84 yards and 115 yards after the catch last season, so he could very well be one of the guys to do that. On this 21-yard screen against San Diego State, Doubs makes it clear that he knows how to wait for blocks to set up, and then, he just houses the defense. You like to see this functional acceleration, wiggle to get free, and contact balance.

On this 12-yard play against Fresno State, Doubs establishes that if you want to bring him down, you should bring some friends with you.

(Syndication: Reno Gazette Journal)

The Packers have already seen how Doubs gets subtle separation from defenders.

So, maybe that’s offensive pass interference in any world not inhabited by Michael Irvin, but the point stands — Doubs is able to use his size and technique to make things very tough for opponents when it comes to the contested catch.

We saw something similar during Senior Bowl practice week.

Even when Doubs can’t shake a defender, he’s pretty expert and uses his height to bend the catch radius.

Those are ways to paint a favorable picture for your quarterback. We’ll conclude our tape study with the most obvious ways in which Doubs does it — by bodying defensive backs on what are supposed to be contested catches.

(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

Randall Cobb has already commented on Doubs’ ability to turn contested catches into wins.

«The biggest piece is just his ability with the 50-50 ball,» Cobb said in late July. «When it’s thrown up and it’s between him and the DB to make a play. That’s one thing you can’t coach. You can’t really teach that. You either have it or you don’t, and he has it. That’s special.»

It was special on this 11-yard touchdown against Colorado State. This isn’t really about route nuance — this is, get to the end zone, and get hops on your cornerback. Doubts can do that all day long.

And as this 28-yard touchdown against Hawaii showed, you may start the route with the idea that you’re going to contest the catch, but you’d better be ready to compete through the route. Doubts is just fine getting physical through that route is that’s what is required.

There’s also this from the Senior Bowl, which Jay Norvell, Doubs’ and Strong’s college head coach, saw as familiar. Which he should have.

(Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports)

The 2022 draft included one of the more stacked receiver groups in recent memory, but did teams make a mistake in allowing Doubs to drop as far as he did? He was the 19th receiver taken, and even in a group that had six first-round picks, that seems like a precipitous slide for a guy with his talent and tape.

There is the matter of the knee injury and cold that prevented him from participating in scouting combine and regular pro day drills, but it would appear that it’s cleared up, and he ran a 4.5-second 40-yard dash at a special workout just before the draft.

There is the fact that he played in an Air Raid offense, and I get that some NFL teams hold a bias against players from those kinds of offense as the route concepts are allegedly limited, but the tape shows a receiver capable of doing all kinds of things in all kinds of ways.

More than one draft evaluator pointed to Doubs’ lack of route diversity and indifferent blocking, and… okay, sure. Doubs was primarily a go/post/dig/slant target last season in Norvell’s offense, but he was good enough with the routes he was given. And you never know what the lack of a complete route palette really means — can the receiver really not run those routes, or was he simply not asked to, and he’ll be able to diversify once he’s given the chance?

(As an media-level evaluator, I learned this lesson specifically from DK Metcalf’s process as a rookie)

As for the 4.5 speed and what that means on the field, I’ll leave that to Norvell himself. Because this assessment jibes with what I see on tape.

«Romeo is a classic example of a guy who has competitive speed,» Norvell said in 2020. «If you take him out on the track, his times probably aren’t that impressive. But if you put him on the football field, he only has one speed. That’s the way he practices every day. He just works so hard, and every great receiver I’ve been around, that’s the quality they have. They practice as hard as they play.

«I’m not comparing him to Jerry Rice, but that was one of the qualities that Jerry Rice had. He didn’t have an impressive 40 time, but on the field nobody ever caught him, and he ran away from people. I think that’s a great quality Romeo has, and on game day he just seems faster than he does when you time him on a track.»

Nobody here is comparing him to Jerry Rice, either. But as the Packers progress through training camp and into the preseason, Romeo Doubs is a name to remember.

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