Next step for Packers Malik Heath in roster push is consistency

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Malik Heath (18) gets a ride during the DreamDrive bicycle ride on the second day of training camp July 27, 2023, in Green Bay, Wis.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Malik Heath (18) gets a ride during the DreamDrive bicycle ride on the second day of training camp July 27, 2023, in Green Bay, Wis. /

Undrafted wide receiver Malik Heath grabbed the attention of Matt LaFleur and the Green Bay Packers coaching staff during offseason programs. To make a legitimate roster push, he will have to carry that momentum into the summer when the pads come on.

"“He’s done a lot of great things,” said Matt LaFleur before Friday’s practice. “He’s a strong football player. He can run through contact. He does a good job of releasing off the line of scrimmage and widening corners when he’s getting press coverage, just ripping through. He’s got really good ball skills, and he’s a bigger guy.”"

Heath played his final college season at Ole Miss, where he caught 68 percent of his 76 targets at 16.0 yards per catch, along with four touchdowns. His 2.45 yards per route run, an efficiency metric as a pass catcher, ranked 61st out of 200 eligible receivers in 2022, according to PFF.

During the OTA and minicamp practices that were open to the media, there wasn’t a day that went by where Heath didn’t make at least one catch. The highlights included a reception down the right sideline with three defenders around him. Back-to-back receptions during a two-minute drill with Sean Clifford at quarterback and another catch on an in-breaking route during 7-on-7s with Rasul Douglas in coverage.

By the end of minicamp, when the Packers were competing in those aforementioned 7-on-7 drills, the offensive and defensive units facing each other were split up into two groups. One group featured the starters on both sides of the ball, and the other group included everyone else. Heath was with the starters.

During Thursday’s full-speed training camp practice, Heath was again paired with the ones during red zone drills. This, in part, was likely a product of his play during the offseason, but it’s also worth mentioning that with Grant DuBose on the NFI list and Dontayvion Wicks out with a concussion that day, the Packers were thin at receiver. In Friday’s jog-through practice, Heath spent one drill with the ones and another with the twos and threes.

Heath has shown what he’s capable of, now the next step is doing it consistently every single day.

"“I think Malik has shown us what he can do,” said LaFleur, “and now it’s about the consistency in which he does it. Like all of these young players, it’s all about that, just how consistently can you do it down in and down out.“He had a situation yesterday where he ran the wrong route and had his head down, and I was like you can’t worry about that. Mistakes are going to happen, it’s all about how you respond.”"

The first four roster spots at the receiver position are accounted for by Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, Jayden Reed, and Samori Toure. You can probably include Wicks in that group as well as a fifth-round pick. It’s not a given that the Packers will keep a sixth receiver, as this player’s role on offense will likely be close to nonexistent with five receivers ahead of them on the depth chart, along with how active Green Bay’s running backs and tight ends are in the passing game.

However, if the Packers do keep a sixth, Heath has positioned himself well. Rookie Grant DuBose, who still may be the favorite for that role as a 2023 draft pick, is still yet to practice at all with Green Bay. Of the other receivers on the roster, Heath has easily stood out the most.

In addition to what he does on offense, Heath will likely have to find a way to contribute on special teams, just as many back-end of the roster players do.

"“I think he’s a talented young player,” added LaFleur. “A guy we look forward to putting into some situations and seeing how he responds in a game.”"