On the second day, Valdes-Scantling was there again.
Whether first-year coach Matt LaFleur sent out his base personnel or a three-receiver set, the man known around Lambeau Field as "MVS" was part of the package during this week’s practices.
If the mandatory minicamp revealed anything about the Packers’ new offense, it’s that the second-year pro is a starter. In fact, he probably is the No. 2 receiver behind Adams. with Geronimo Allison likely slated as the slot man in the three-wide look.
“I think this offense is really catered for a guy like him,” Adams said of Valdes-Scantling. “I think he’s seeing that and he’s recognizing it. We’ve had conversations about it, and I think he’s really starting to understand how this thing works. He’s come in and he’s made some plays. And I think that with young guys, it’s hard to know exactly how to deal with that early success, but he’s doing a great job of it right now. I saw the way he hit it in the offseason -- from videos and just our communication -- and he’s taking it real serious right now.”
As a rookie, the fifth-round pick put together a couple of eye-catching games: 103 yards against the San Francisco 49ers and 101 yards two games later against the New England Patriots. He did both on just three catches in each game, establishing himself as a big-play, downfield target. In the games immediately before and immediately after his 100-yard performances, he caught his only two touchdowns of the year. While he experienced the inconsistencies common among rookie receivers in the difficult West Coast offense, he finished with 38 catches for 581 yards and posted the team’s best yards-per-catch average (15.3) by a rookie with at least 25 catches since James Lofton’s 17.8-yard average in 1978.
Any thought that learning a new offense this offseason brought on by the coaching change would slow Valdes-Scantling’s progress was rebuffed almost immediately. In fact, he said early on this offseason that it actually helped, because the offense was new to everyone on the team, so all the receivers were essentially on equal ground.
“We’re all learning together,” Valdes-Scantling said. “I’m not walking into an offense where guys have been there five, 10, 15 years. I’m walking into it at the same time. We’re all learning together, we’re all growing together, and it makes it easy when everybody is making mistakes and everybody is learning at the same pace.”
Valdes-Scantling has become a student of LaFleur’s offense, watching film of what the coach ran last season as offensive coordinator with the Tennessee Titans and how the teams that previously employed him -- from the Atlanta Falcons, with whom LaFleur was the quarterbacks coach, to the Los Angeles Rams, for whom he was a non-playcalling offensive coordinator -- operated on offense.
The offense -- predicated on motion, bunched formations, misdirection and play-action -- seems like a good fit for Valdes-Scantling. Then again, what offense wouldn’t be a fit for a 6-foot-4, 206-pound receiver who runs a 4.37-second 40?
“Just the tempo, the type of routes we’re running, the marriage between the pass game and the run game, and some of the play-pass stuff, there’s a lot of speed involved in all things,” Adams said. “And the way he played, he runs fast, but he plays even faster. And you don’t always see that with the guys who run 4.3. Sometimes, they come out and play slow. But he’s not thinking much. He’s just going.
"He’s a really, really smart guy too. People don’t understand that. He’s picked up stuff. I always make jokes with him; I bet he was the guy in science class who’d finish his test and start distracting other people. You can tell things kind of come easy to him. Combine that with the ability that he has on the field, that’s dangerous.”
Learning from Adams, the new dean of the Packers' receiver room, hasn’t hurt, either.
“I think MVS has really been watching [Adams] closely and picking things up and playing as fast as his time,” Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “I think that’s an issue with any player. You might time at a super quick 40, but how fast do you play? It’s that football speed. It’s kind of the opposite for a guy like James Jones, who timed kind of slow but he played fast. MVS is playing a lot closer to his 40 time speed, which is saying a lot, because he’s pretty damned fast."
So for now, at least, the Packers’ 1-2 combination appears to be Adams and Valdes-Scantling. To be sure, there will be other receivers who take their turn; Jake Kumerow, for example, has put together another productive offseason, and Allison looks healthy after groin surgery ruined his 2018 season.
“I think this is offense is built for guys like myself who can run well, run good routes,” Valdes-Scantling said. “You’ve seen guys in this offense who put up a lot of great numbers. I hope I can be the next one of those guys. And when you’ve got a guy like Davante on the other side, an All-Pro guy, you can’t just double one guy now when you’ve got an offense like this that create different matchups.”