13

June

Diondre Borel Catches the Eye of Aaron Rodgers on Day 1 of Packers’ Minicamp

Photo: David Dermer, Getty Images

NFL teams rarely keep six receivers on their 53-man rosters. Seven is almost unheard of.

But if the young players comprising the Green Bay Packers depth chart at receiver continue to impress as they have to start this offseason, GM Ted Thompson may have no other choice than to select more than five for his final roster.

After the first day of the Packers mandatory three-day minicamp Tuesday, quarterback Aaron Rodgers singled out one of those young receivers to heap on more praise: Second-year receiver Diondre Borel.

“Diondre Borel is a guy that gives us a different look because he plays a similar position of that of Randall Cobb,” Rodgers said in an interview with Packers.com. “Diondre has made as big of jump as anybody from year 1 to year 2. He really made the most of his reps on the scout team last year.”

The Packers signed Borel as an undrafted free agent in July of 2011. Despite catching just two passes for 35 yards during the preseason, Borel impressed Thompson and the Packers staff enough in camp to earn a spot on the team’s eight-man practice squad to start 2011.

What made Borel’s inclusion on the practice squad all the more impressive was the fact that the former Utah State Aggie was making a transition back to receiver from quarterback, a position he played during his final three seasons in college. At Utah State, Borel threw for almost 7,000 career passing yards—ranking him second in school history—after playing in eight games as a receiver during his freshman season.

Borel was impressive enough during his time on the Packers’ practice squad that he eventually received an offer from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to be on their active 53-man roster—an invitation Borel declined for a pay bump in Green Bay and a chance to make the roster in 2012.

At just 6-0 and a little under 200 pounds, Borel doesn’t possess a unique frame or blazing speed. 6-foot-4 Tori Gurley—another practice squad receiver who will be competing with Borel for a roster spot—has the height that no other Packers’ receiver has. But Rodgers thinks Borel’s history as a quarterback gives him the mental capacity to make his mark on the receiving depth chart this summer.

“He’s a great teammate, hard worker and he really understands the game,” Rodgers said. “I think he has the luxury of being a quarterback in college. He sees the game through a quarterback’s eyes and that gives him a slight advantage over guys who he’s competing with because he understands timing and progression maybe a little quicker some of the than the other guys.”

In many other NFL cities, Borel would be looking at a fantastic opportunity to make the final 53-man roster. The log-jam situation in Green Bay, however, complicates his arrival as an active NFL player.

The contract re-structuring for Donald Driver is a strong indication that the veteran receiver will be back for one last season in Green Bay, which leaves the Packers with five solid bets to make the final 53: Driver, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb. Jennings, Nelson and Cobb are locks, while Jones is still a sure bet despite trade rumors in back-to-back offseasons and Driver would likely need to suffer a major injury to be released before the 2012 season.

Given that reality, Borel would need the Packers to keep six receivers on the roster—and beat out Gurley and the other bubble receivers (Jarrett Boykin, Dale Moss, Shaky Smithson and Curenski Gilleylen)—to land on the Packers’ 53-man roster later this summer. There’s a chance he could land back on the Packers’ practice squad even if he comes up short in that quest, but a strong offseason—combined with the interest he received towards the end of 2011—would likely lead to another NFL franchise offering Borel a spot on the active roster. While there’s a comfort level in Green Bay, no one would blame Borel for leaving if there’s no room on the Packers’ depth chart to start 2012.

Speaking with FSN Wisconsin’s Paul Imig, Borel certainly didn’t commit to staying in Green Bay if the practice squad scenario unfolded again.

“If you’re on a practice squad, you’re available,” Borel said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. But when that time comes, then that’ll be my decision. I’ll have to decide what I want to do.”

Despite the uncertainties of his near NFL future, early indications point to Borel making the most of his opportunities this spring. In the eyes of Rodgers, Borel has been one of the Packers’ top young players while taking the kind of steps forward expected of a 23-year-old receiver.

“Diondre has really had one of the top springs from the guys who you were looking for to make a jump,” Rodgers said.

Time will tell whether that progression continues in Green Bay or starts again elsewhere. Catching the eye of the franchise’s most important player certainly can’t hurt either cause.

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Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.

You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.

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14 Responses to “Diondre Borel Catches the Eye of Aaron Rodgers on Day 1 of Packers’ Minicamp”

  1. pointerjeff says:

    I will say it yet again: I love the death out of Donald Driver, but I do not get bringing him back at the expense of talented younger players. This is not Thompson’s style. So my question: Who is that man posing as GM TT, and what have you done with the real Ted Thompson?!!!!

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

  2. Ron LC says:

    Need to wait and see what happens on the field with contact before making any conclusions. There’s plenty of time to make that call. “Coach Speak” doesn’t always match reality. Let the competition begin for the WR positions.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  3. Sol Rosenburg says:

    pointerjeff said: “…but I do not get bringing him back at the expense of talented younger players. This is not Thompson’s style.

    We know what we get from Donald. The most recent game, the playoff loss, what did we get from him? GOOD HANDS, unlike what we got from everyone else.

    You act like Driver sucked or dropped tons of passes last time out when, in fact, he performed better than the younger guys.

    I love Gurley, and Borel and Moss seem like they have tons of potential. But with “potential”, often times they don’t “perform” on the big stage when given the opportunity.

    This team is ready to win Super Bowls now, and it’s less risky to roll with the sure-thing Donald than it is to roll the dice with such inexperienced receivers who need to be on the same page with Arod.

    Trust in Ted & Mike when it comes to offense.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

    • Wagszilla says:

      This is true of 2011 DD but when we won the Super Bowl in 2010 he was injured most of the season and pretty transparent in the playoffs.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  4. Bubbaloo says:

    While Rodgers comments feed our (fans) appetites, the truth is that he is biased. He knows that he’ll be there for many years to come and that Driver won’t be, therefore he’d hate to see that young talent leave the team. I agree with pointerjeff on “Why Driver vs young talent” but I also believe that this is Driver’s “Last Hoorah” and it’s nearly untouchable. We’ll see! I like both Borel and Gurley, but should one of them not make the final 53 and not want another year on the PS, I’m pretty certain one of the other young guys in camp will gladly fill that spot.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

    • Mojo says:

      Right Bubba, one consolation of perhaps losing Gurley and/or Borel is it does open up some PS spots for a couple of the eligible players from the 90 on the roster. My guess is the Pack will have no problem culling 8 ‘stars of the future’ from the 30 plus players who won’t make the final roster.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  5. Robbo says:

    Perhaps DD will be playing safety??!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  6. Wagszilla says:

    As interesting as I think it’d be to see a Cobb and Borel tandem, I don’t think that Borel will make the 53.

    Guys like Cobb come off as really nice gadget players but you can’t rely on them as your #1 or 2. Well you can try like Minnesota has with Percy Harvin but their record pretty much speaks for itself.

    I’m much more interested in seeing Gurley making the team. I think they want him to be a “Finley type” to draw a lot of attention in the backfield and he seems to have the size and hands to be a big time player.

    I could see them taking another WR on the 53 in favor of dropping a TE or two but a lot of it comes down to if they can play special teams or not.

    We’ll see.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  7. El Guapo says:

    If Diondre Borel is anything like Cobb then there no way he doesn’t make the team. Don’t tell me that Cobb or Borel can’t be starting WRs in this league because Victor Cruz sure showed he was capable of it last year and they are all similar players.

    Like Borel, Cruz was an undrafted FA that just racked up 1500 yrds and 9 TDs for the Giants in only his 2nd season.

    If Borel can show even a fraction of that ability on the field in the preseason then it would be dumb to cut him, or Gurley for that matter, to keep a guy like James Jones and his 3 million dollar salary for at best the 4th WR job.

    I understand them keeping Driver for one more year, he gave us 13 years the least they could do was give him 1 year even if they don’t need him.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  8. James david Marsh says:

    There is NO WAY that GB will not keep the wide recievers that give them the best chance to win. WR Cobb will be a rising star on offence this year. In the playoff game against NYG, WR Driver was guarded by linebackers and during the regular season, he had more “drops” than WR Jones had on a % basis. I hope that GB keeps TE`s Finley, Taylor, and Williams and WR`s Jennings, Nelson, Cobb, Jones, Gurley, Borel, and Moss. When and if Quarless comes back from the PUP list, maybe GB could trade one WR for a draft pick instead of just having one picked of of the RS.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. aaronqb says:

    I agree with several of the posters here. I do not understand TTs logic in paying Driver $1.2 million and bringing him back for another year. He will be at best the #5 WR on the team and he doesn’t play special teams (except on the hands team). It’s a waste of a roster spot. He made catches against the NYG because he was being covered by a LB.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  10. Tarynfor12 Tarynfor12 says:

    No matter who Rodgers has his eyes on in the WR group…All eyes of fans are on DD and each side looking for vindication of their belief of keeping or releasing.

    I myself feel he can play to a limit and should be allowed to do so…elsewhere as there is no true upside in keeping him in GB.Trade rumors of JJ have swirled again and what he may bring in return.I would rather keep JJ and trade DD for what he was valued in the beginning and is now in the end…a 6-7th rd pick.There is no argument possible that could sway me to believing DD merits a chair over JJ at this WR table.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    • Dean Somerville says:

      At this point and at 28 years old, no chance to ever be more than #3 or 4 in Green Bay, even a 6th rounder is worth more than Jones, if he is replaceable with Gurley and Borel, even Smithson & the return ability. Fully expect a practice squad spot for Moss, with at least one of Driver or Jones being gone…. the WR depth would still be very good without either.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. [...] Utah State who has transitioned back to receiver in Green Bay, made several plays in the slot and caught the eye of Rodgers after Tuesday’s practice. If the Packers keep six receivers, Borel (6-0, 199 lbs.) might be [...]

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