Bubble Series: Receivers

WR Diondre Borel (Jeff Hanisch/USP)

When training camp started a month ago, it seemed like a sure thing the Packers would keep six wide receivers. It didn't take long for Diondre Borel to emerge as that sixth receiver. My, how things have changed.

The Green Bay Packers' preseason finale against Kansas City is all about the bubble.

By our estimation, there are six positions where roster spots are at stake: running back, wide receiver, offensive line, defensive line, inside linebacker and safety.

"Make a statement," was coach Mike McCarthy's advice to those bubble players. "Define yourself, answer a question that's out there about you. Is it consistency? Is it big-play ability? There's different categories you use when you grade and evaluate players, and obviously some players do things better than others. If you can show improvement and show growth and more value, that's what you look for in these game environments."

Wide receiver

The situation: Entering training camp, the question wasn't whether the Packers would keep six receivers but rather who would be the sixth receiver.

A couple weeks into camp, the answer emerged. Diondre Borel was one of the best players on the field. He had a knack for getting open that made him the go-to receiver for Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman with the second and third units. He was being featured in many of the same roles as Randall Cobb, and he looked like a legit kick returner should something happen to Cobb.

Instead, something happened to Borel. A groin injury ruined his momentum and his preseason has been a nightmare. In two games, Borel has caught five passes (out of 11 targets) for just 21 yards. Last week against Cincinnati, he dropped an easy pass and couldn't make a play on what would have been a difficult catch. In the opener against San Diego, he fumbled a kickoff return.

"At practice, I think I have (made the most out of training camp). I've gotten a lot better. Now it's time to show it in a game," Borel said.

Meanwhile, Tori Gurley has been The Invisible Man, with one catch (out of just two targets) for 6 yards. The 6-foot-4 Gurley just hasn't shown the explosion to get open.

Special teams normally determine the end-of-the-roster slots, but neither Borel nor Gurley (a No. 1 on kickoff return last week and this week) has distinguished himself.

"We've got another game. We've got another game to look at," receivers coach Edgar Bennett said, fielding a question about Borel but providing an answer that applied to Borel and Gurley.

The prediction: It would have been a major upset if the Packers didn't take six receivers into the regular season. Now, it'd be an upset if they did anything other than go with the Big Five from last season. Heck, at this point, rookie Jarrett Boykin — who isn't fleet of foot but has enormous hands and clearly has outplayed Gurley and Borel down the stretch — possibly has moved behind Borel but ahead of Gurley for a spot on the practice squad.

"He's certainly gotten better and has made the most of his opportunities on gameday," Bennett said of Boykin. "The kid continues to grow. Those are the things that you look for is their overall improvement. Smart kid in the classroom and is able to take that onto the practice field and you see it on gamedays."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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