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Training Camp

Aaron Rodgers on readying new crop of Packers WRs: 'We're going to be hard on them'

GREEN BAY, Wisconsin -- At 38 years old, Aaron Rodgers remains one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.

He's coming off a season in which he won his fourth NFL MVP award -- and second in a row -- while leading the league with a 111.9 passer rating and tying for the most quarterback wins (13). The big question heading into 2022 is, who's going to be catching his passes?

The Packers' trade of Davante Adams to the Raiders in March means Rodgers is entering the preseason with as little certainty around who will be the No. 1 wide receiver as he's experienced since becoming Green Bay's starter in 2008.

"You've got to trust the coaching first and foremost," Rodgers said of the process. "I need to have a lot of conversations with (wide receivers coach/passing game coordinator) Jason (Vrabel) and make sure we're on the same page in that the things being taught are what I want to see on the field. Jason does a great job of that."

"You have to trust the leaders in the room, specifically Randall (Cobb) and Allen (Lazard), to pass the message on the right way. And then you have to hold them accountable. If you get reps with us, you want to see the right stuff."

In 2021, Adams had more receptions and receiving yards than all other Packers wide receivers combined, and he accounted for 34.3 percent of the team's receiving yards. No other receiver on Green Bay's roster registered more than 60 targets or 40 catches.

"It's a lot of targets and a lot of production that he's leaving for us to be able to pick up and be able to produce," said Lazard, 26, who first arrived in Green Bay in 2018. "Aaron is still our quarterback here who has been successful with many receivers before.

"Having him as a quarterback and leader just makes our job a little bit easier. We're just sticking positive together. ... Obviously there's a lot of young guys in our room, a lot of guys that haven't played with him, and [we are] trying to share our knowledge and whereabouts of how to operate in those situations."

Lazard, who finished last season with 40 receptions for 513 yards and eight touchdowns, has the advantage of having played with Rodgers before, giving him the opportunity to step into that WR1 position, but it will require trust from his quarterback.

"We need to see consistency from those guys, and there are a lot of different aspects of learning the trust of the quarterbacks, whether I'm playing or (backup) Jordan (Love) is playing in preseason," Rodgers said. "You want to see the guys doing the right stuff; it's little things ... it's the adjustment, the skills."

As the team continues to search for its next pass-catching playmaker, Lazard said the energy in the receiver room is positive and that there's not one set leader. Instead, each player brings his own unique ability to provide support.

"Cobb being here before and coming back and the experience he's had with Aaron," Lazard said. "Sammy (Watkins) with his veteran status, he's won a Super Bowl, something no one in our room has done so he's been there and has succeeded at that level.

"The young guys, every day you see someone stepping up and zoning in a little bit more at their craft and being able to pick up the offense and play fast. That's the biggest thing in our room is once you figure out what you're supposed to do, it allows you to play a little bit faster."

Cobb, 31, has been with the Packers for nine seasons (he spent 2019 with the Cowboys and 2020 with the Texans), and he's caught more passes from Rodgers in the QB's career than anyone but Adams and Jordy Nelson. The 29-year-old Watkins, a free-agent signee, helped the Chiefs win Super Bowl LIV with five catches for 98 yards. Lazard, Cobb, Watkins, 2021 third-rounder Amari Rodgers, Juwann Winfree and Malik Taylor comprise the experienced options.

The young guys Lazard mentioned include three rookies: Christian Watson, a second-rounder from North Dakota State, Romeo Doubs, a fourth-rounder from Nevada and Samori Toure, a seventh-rounder from Nebraska.

With Watson sidelined as he continues to recovery from offseason knee surgery, Doubs is making a name for himself at training camp.

The 6-foot-2, 204-pound receiver has had at least one "wow" play per practice, according to Rodgers. As someone who might have been overlooked in the 2022 NFL Draft, Doubs isn't worried about the attention he's receiving now; instead, he's focusing on himself.

"I think what's more important is that I prepare and play at a high level for the Green Bay Packers, because regardless of how the draft went, everyone gets one opportunity," Doubs said. "I'm just really making sure I control what I can control and set that preparation as high as I possibly can."

That preparation will be put to the test in the Packers' first preseason game on Friday, when Green Bay visits the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara.

"We're going to be hard on them," Rodgers said. "We're going to coach them hard, and if I'm talking to a guy, that's a good thing, if I'm getting on a guy, that's a good thing; if I'm not talking to you, that's not the best. You want me to be critiquing and coaching you up and giving you some good feedback. I'm trying to with as many guys as I feel like have an opportunity to be a part of this squad."

Follow Bridget Condon on Twitter.

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