Earlier this afternoon, the Green Bay Packers announced that WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling was being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. This further weakens a position group that had recently seen Randall Cobb placed on injured reserve. MVS is vaccinated, according to reports, so he could still play against the Browns if he is asymptomatic and receives a negative test. If he can’t, however, the Packers will be without one of their most valuable weapons on Saturday. MVS provides a deep-threat ability that no other players on the roster can replicate. This loss stings even more considering that MVS is coming off of one of his best games of the season.
Who Needs to Step up to Replace MVS?
As I mentioned, there aren’t really any offensive players on the roster that can replicate the pure speed of MVS. However, there are 3 players that I believe can help the offense stay on track against the Cleveland Browns.
1. Allen Lazard
This is a somewhat obvious answer, as Lazard has served as the Packers’ WR2/3 for most of the season. However, he is coming off of a relatively quiet game, catching 2 of 4 targets for 23 yards and no touchdowns and getting 1 carry for 5 yards. While both of those catches went for critical third-down conversions, he dropped another third-down ball – though a DPI call ended up bailing the Packers out. A drive later, he was temporarily forced out with an injury after falling awkwardly in the end zone while trying to reel in a target. Further complicating his day, he was overthrown while wide open in the end zone near the end of the game for what could have been Aaron Rodgers’ record-breaking touchdown. We have seen the Packers feature Lazard in the passing game before. They’ll need him to step up and perform at a higher level this week against the Browns.
2. Josiah Deguara
Deguara only had 3 receptions on 5 targets for 16 yards against the Ravens. However, the second-year hybrid tight end/fullback has stepped into an expanded role in the latter half of the season. Over the last 5 games he has accrued 119 yards and a TD on 12 catches. This is quite a jump from the 44 yards and zero TDs he recorded in the first 8 weeks. Matt LaFleur has used him in a variety of ways, including as a fullback and as a traditional Y tight end. I expect that to continue with Robert Tonyan out for the season. He’ll need to keep up his contributions to cover for Valdez-Scantling’s absence.
3. AJ Dillon
The Quadfather. Quadzilla. Whatever you want to call him, AJ Dillon has been fantastic this season. In fact, he has essentially become the leader of Green Bay’s two-headed backfield over the last month or so. Over the last 5 games, Dillon has recorded 74 attempts for 281 rushing yards and 3 TDs, compared to Jones’ 47 attempts for 194 yards and 1 TD. During that span Dillon has also outpaced Jones in the passing game, though Jones does have two receiving TDs to Dillon’s one. He has gotten 140 yards on 14 receptions, compared to Jones’ 9 catches for 103 yards. Dillon has become a legitimate, versatile weapon in the Packers offense. He may not be a deep threat like MVS, but he can still help pick up the slack that MVS’s absence will leave.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling is a critical part of the Green Bay offense. Without him, the offense will have to lean on a variety of players to achieve victory against the Browns. One last thought before we go: although there are certainly other players that could be critical in the outcome of the game, the stats outlined above highlight the ascension of the 2020 draft class. The jury is still out on Jordan Love, but a large part of the much-maligned class appears to be working out excellently.
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