GREEN BAY (AP) — Jayden Reed and Dontayvion Wicks were coming off relatively disappointing finishes to their college careers when they began their rookie seasons in the NFL. Bo Melton spent much of the past two years toiling on practice squads.
The three of them have emerged as some of Jordan Love’s most reliable playmakers while helping the Green Bay Packers make an unlikely postseason appearance. The Packers (9-8) visit the NFC East champion Dallas Cowboys (12-5) on Sunday.
“They’re taking advantage of the opportunity they got and they’re just trying to go out there and make the most of that,” Love said. “And they’re doing a really good job of it.”
One of the most remarkable elements of Love’s debut season as a starter is that he not only is throwing primarily to rookies and second-year pros, but that some of his top options have been in and out of the lineup with injuries.
For instance, Christian Watson caught three touchdown passes in an overtime victory over the Cowboys as a rookie last season, but missed Green Bay’s past five games with a hamstring injury. Romeo Doubs did appear in all 17 regular-season games, but went to the hospital with a chest injury during the Packers’ 17-9 victory over Chicago on Sunday. Both practiced on a limited basis Wednesday.
If they’re unable to go, the Packers will be relying on Reed, Wicks and Melton to help pick up the slack. They’ve done quite well in that regard so far.
These young receivers credit Love for helping the transition by getting to know each of them. They noted how Love invited offensive players over to his house for dinners and team-bonding sessions on a couple of Mondays this season.
“Jordan just has a knack for every receiver,” Melton said. “Our job is to get open as receivers, tight ends, running backs, for all to get open, and Jordan puts the ball right where it’s supposed to be every single time.”
But the receivers sure have done their part as well.
Green Bay selected Reed from Michigan State in the second round and Wicks out of Virginia in the fifth round of last year’s draft. Each of them had produced 1,000-yard seasons in 2021 at their respective school but weren't as productive the following year.
Yet their new teammates realized immediately these rookies had promise.
“I think we knew pretty early on that they were going to be able to make plays when their number is called,” Watson said.
Sure enough, both have delivered big rookie seasons.
Reed has 64 receptions for 793 yards and has scored 10 total touchdowns (8 receiving, 2 rushing) to lead the Packers in all three categories. Wicks scored twice in the Bears game and has caught 39 passes for 581 yards and four touchdowns.
“That’s my brother,” Reed said of Wicks. “I hang out with him outside this building, so we've got that relationship where we can push each other to be better. If we’re not doing something the right way, we coach each other.”
Melton has been the biggest surprise of all.
The undrafted free agent from Rutgers was signed off the Seattle Seahawks’ practice squad in December 2022. He spent most of this season on Green Bay’s practice squad but appeared in five games and finally was signed to the active roster on Jan. 1. He has 15 catches for 211 yards and a touchdown during Green Bay’s three-game winning streak.
“Coming from practice squad, to on the team to the playoffs, you couldn’t draw it up any better,” Melton said. “Thank God, for sure.”
Green Bay’s young receivers haven’t won over everyone. Even after Reed, Wicks and Melton combined to catch 15 passes for 235 yards in the victory over Chicago that clinched a playoff berth, Bears safety Jaquan Brisker wasn’t impressed.
“I feel like we could have tightened up on the receivers a lot more than we did today,” Brisker said afterward. “We gave them too much room. I don’t really have no respect for them at all, just to be honest.”
Maybe they haven’t earned Brisker’s respect just yet. But they’ve sure helped the Packers earn a spot in the postseason.
Now they want to help the NFL’s youngest team keep it going.
“It really don’t matter about the age,” Wicks said. “We step out and we do what we’ve got to do every week. It’s just about preparation and who’s going to be the best when it’s time to get on the field.”
NOTES: Pacers RB AJ Dillon (thumb/neck) didn’t practice Wednesday after sitting out the Bears game. LB Isaiah McDuffie (concussion/neck), who also didn’t play against the Bears, practiced on a limited basis.