Green Bay Packers: Special Teams Play Could be Difference for Malik Taylor

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Malik Taylor (86) participates in minicamp practice Wednesday, June 9, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis.Cent02 7g5lngz0kdz1mhei671c Original
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Malik Taylor (86) participates in minicamp practice Wednesday, June 9, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis.Cent02 7g5lngz0kdz1mhei671c Original /

When it comes to the receiver position for the Green Bay Packers, there really aren’t that many roster spots up for grabs. With Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard, and Amari Rodgers accounting for four of those roster spots, there may only be one opening available if Green Bay decides to keep five receivers as they did in 2020, or at most two.

As far as who is going to earn that final roster spot or two, well, that won’t be determined until training camp and the preseason takes place. But for Malik Taylor, the former UDFA from Ferris State, his experience on special teams could be what sets him apart from the rest.

To the surprise of what I’m guessing is many, Taylor did make the Green Bay Packers’ initial 53-man roster last season. He finished the year catching five passes on six targets at 13.2 yards per catch along with a touchdown, according to PFF ($$).

With 4.4 speed, Taylor could be used as a motion-man in this offense and someone targeted in the quick passing game—basically, just get him the ball in space. But odds are with the first four receivers on the depth chart, as well as Aaron Jones out of the backfield and several tight ends; there likely isn’t going to be a ton of opportunities on offense for any of the back-end of the roster receivers.

But special teams provides Taylor with the opportunity to see playing time, just as he did in 2020, and a way to provide some value that the other receivers he’s competing with may not be able to.

Taylor was on the field for 210 special teams snaps in 2020 — far more than any other receiver — and that included nine kick return attempts. Admittedly, Taylor returning kicks was a bit rocky at times, and we don’t know if he will maintain that role this season with the addition of Rodgers or perhaps someone new takes over.

However, there is still room for him to make an impact as a gunner—an important role on any special teams unit. We saw — or heard — that Taylor and that speed of his was taking plenty of snaps as one of the primary gunners during mini-camp and OTAs.

A few responsibilities of the gunner include trying to be the first downfield to make a play on the return man, catching a punt before it goes into the end zone, and pressuring the kicker.

Competing for a roster spot with Taylor will be Devin Funchess, who is certainly more talented as a receiver, but how quickly he can shake the rust after not playing for two years and pick up this Matt LaFleur offense are two big questions that we don’t have the answers to at the moment. It’s also worth mentioning that Funchess brings no value to the special teams unit.

Equanimeous St. Brown is another who will be batting with Taylor, and after a bumpy 2020 season that included just 16 targets and several drops, it remains to be seen where he fits in—especially since he hasn’t offered much to the special teams unit either during his career with only 62 total snaps. Far fewer than the 210 Taylor took just last season.

The same can be said for the rest of the receivers fighting for a roster spot—they just don’t have the special teams experience that Taylor does.

As I said initially, training camp and preseason performances are going to determine who ends up with these final roster spots, but don’t overlook the value that someone can bring to special teams—especially when we are talking about the fifth or sixth spot on the depth chart.

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And as we all know, this is a Green Bay Packers special teams unit that is looking to make a turnaround after ranking near the bottom of the NFL in that category by several metrics the last few seasons. So when it comes to keeping a player who can contribute versus one who cannot, that certainly plays a factor in all of this.