For Packers’ Geronimo Allison, replacing Jordy Nelson is all about embracing expectations
GREEN BAY — Jordy Nelson would be impressed. He would not be surprised.
Given the lifestyle change Nelson, the ex-Green Bay Packers star wide receiver and one of quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ best friends, has been adjusting to with the Oakland Raiders, he’s had little time to keep up with his former team. He saw Rodgers and fellow longtime Packers teammates Randall Cobb and Davante Adams — the three wideouts and the quarterback posed for a pregame photo prior to their preseason matchup last month, and Rodgers even tossed a pass or two to his old pal — but Nelson wasn’t following the Packers’ day-to-day goings-on during training camp.
Of course, even if he had, he would have found scarcely a word written about Geronimo Allison, the third-year wide receiver slated to take over many of the 805 snaps Nelson played for the Packers last year.
For while the 6-foot-3, 202-pound Allison’s role in the offense figures to be significant, starting with Sunday night’s season opener against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field, he took his predictably quiet approach during the summer. While he made some eye-catching plays in practice and had respectable preseason numbers (five catches for 83 yards and a touchdown) given his limited playing time, he steered clear of the locker room during media access periods and didn’t seek out the spotlight that might’ve otherwise shone on him.
That’s been the M.O. of the man most teammates refer to as “G-Mo” since he arrived as an undrafted free agent from Illinois in 2016 and worked his way onto the 53-man roster after starting that season on the practice squad. And it has a decidedly Jordy-esque vibe to it, given how unassuming Nelson was throughout his decade in Green Bay.
“It’s great. It’s one of those things we noticed with him right when he got here,” Nelson said of Allison’s serious, focused personality. “It’s always funny how us older guys will talk about the young guys when they come in and what we see. He has a very unique skill set of being that big and still quick and have the speed with that stride as well and his hands. Everything. And the work that he put in, even when he was on the practice squad and in the meeting rooms — he knew the game plan even though he wasn’t going to be playing.
“I think that showed a lot to the coaches and gave all of us confidence when he got moved up that if he got put in the situation, he’d know what to do.”
Last season, when they were together in the wide receivers meeting room, Allison would sit directly in front of Nelson so the veteran could lean forward and impart advice whenever he wanted. Allison had some highs (six catches for 122 yards, including a 72-yard catch-and-run on third down in overtime to set up a winning field goal in an early-season victory over Cincinnati) and some lows (his fumble late in the fourth quarter of a loss at Carolina in Rodgers’ return from a broken collarbone snuffed out the Packers’ playoff hopes) throughout the year, but you wouldn’t have known it from his demeanor.
Now, he’s carried that mentality through to this season, even though his limited experience (35 career regular-season receptions in 645 snaps over his first two seasons) might have him panicking about his increased role.
“That was important to me, to kind of take that approach,” Allison said. “So that was my goal coming in — just being ‘G-Mo,’ taking it easy, approaching it the same way and just grinding. Not changing my preparation, just going out there and executing. And then, the plays that come my way, I’ve said since my rookie year, I want to make those plays.
“I feel like I’ve done a good job of just being on an even ground. Not getting too high, not getting too low. Not being cocky or conceited, or expecting anything should be handed to me. Grinding with my playbook, making sure I’m on the same page with Aaron, making sure I’m diving into it how a veteran should and being a step ahead of the game just anticipating.
“Sometimes with this offense, once you get a real grasp of it, you can see things out there where you almost can anticipate if (Rodgers) is going to make a check here, possibly, what the check should be, and if he doesn’t make the check, so be it — go with the play that’s been called. This year, I’m seeing that more. I’m definitely seeing that more. And I’m just more poised than I have been in the past.”
Rodgers is among those who have noticed. He and Allison hit it off during that 2016 training camp — Allison’s studious ways allowed him to get on the same page as the him more quickly than most young receivers, including this year’s batch — and Rodgers has shown faith in him ever since. That likely won’t change now that Allison will be on the field more.
“G-Mo, I’ve always had a lot of confidence in him. He’s a great teammate, he has a great professional work ethic, he’s prepared, he knows the offense really well, and that’s the starting point of any type of trust,” Rodgers said. “So I expect him to be in the right spot and to run the routes the right way and if he’s open, he’ll get the ball.
“I have a ton of confidence in him. That’s a good starting point for any of those guys.”
That’s not to say Allison has gotten to a Nelson-like connection level with Rodgers, which is why he continues to work at it. While pleased that his quarterback believes in him, Allison isn’t about to take it for granted. After all, Nelson never did, despite 10 years together.
“I’m happy with where we’re at. (But) there’s always room for improvement, definitely — as a friendship, as teammates, as players. There’s always going to be room to grow with each other,” Allison said. “And that comes throughout the season, spending time together, having 1-on-1 talks with each other, and sometimes outside football, whether it’s it’s lunch, it’s dinner, it’s coming over to each other’s house just to chill, it’s whatever … our relationship can be built however far we want it to go. Just the more we spend time with each other, he knows what type of person I am, I’m starting to understand how he operates. It’s been growing.
“I’m ready. I’m excited. Because I know it’s going to be fun. I have high expectations — but I’m not afraid of them. I’m ready to go out there and compete. It’s a big year for me, but I’m not going to go out there and make it bigger than it has to be. I’m going to go out there, I’m going to succeed. That’s my job.”