GREEN BAY, Wis. — No Greg Jennings. No Donald Driver. It seems like an ideal scenario for a backup wide receiver like Jarrett Boykin to emerge in the Green Bay Packers’ high-scoring offense.
Boykin doesn’t see it that way, though. Not because it isn’t, in fact, a great opportunity for the second-year receiver to have a much bigger role this season, but simply because Boykin refuses to let the departures of Jennings and Driver affect his approach.
“Honestly, that’s something I don’t think about,” Boykin said. “I just take it a day at a time and just prepare like I did last year coming into it and just let everything take care of itself. I try not to overthink everything and just keep working. Just let everything go from there.”
That may sound like a clichéd response that no professional athlete could actually mean, but with Boykin, it’s easy to believe. His path to an NFL roster was even rockier than most undrafted players, getting cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars in May 2012 after a three-day rookie minicamp.
“It’s not my place to say what (Jacksonville’s) decision-making process was, but everything happens for a reason,” Boykin said. “I always believe that. Of course my mind couldn’t get a grip on what happened (with the Jaguars); it’s kind of like a blessing in disguise.”
Boykin turned his short-lived appearance in Jacksonville into becoming one of the surprises to make Green Bay’s 53-man roster last season. So, if Boykin is cautious about getting ahead of himself when it comes to the role that awaits him with the Packers in 2013, his past experiences have taught him that may be the right mindset.
“I feel like if you come in overwhelmed, you tend to overthink things too much and it kind of throws you off,” Boykin said. “Right now I’m just taking it slow, relaxing and just letting the game come to me. When an opportunity presents itself, I’ll just try to make the most of it.”
Even with Jennings now playing for the division-rival Minnesota Vikings and Driver enjoying retirement life, the Packers still have one of the NFL’s better receiver groups. Randall Cobb led Green Bay in receptions, targets and yards last season, while James Jones led the entire league in touchdown catches. A year earlier, Jordy Nelson was third in the NFL in touchdowns and ninth in receiving yards.
Behind those three receivers, Boykin will battle with seventh-round picks Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey, as well as 2012 holdover Jeremy Ross and a slew of undrafted rookies.
“It’s going to be wide open,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said during organized team activities in June. “We usually keep five receivers, and I think the top three are pretty set in stone. There’s a lot of guys fighting for those other two spots, so it should be interesting to see who comes out in training camp.”
Boykin appeared in 10 games as a rookie last season, playing 96 snaps and catching five passes for 27 yards. Those obviously aren’t game-changing statistics, but most would consider it a successful season for a player who had already overcome unlikely odds just to make the team. Boykin, however, wasn’t impressed.
“Honestly, last year’s (goal) wasn’t just make the team,” Boykin said. “We’re all football players and we all have dreams and aspirations of being good at something. We don’t just come out here and just do it to do it. We want to be the best at it.”
Boykin has an edge over the majority of NFL receivers with his 10 1/4-inch hands and 3XL-sized gloves, but his speed had been a concern as he entered the draft out of Virginia Tech. Forget the big hands and subpar speed, though. Boykin doesn’t think it will be those positives or negatives that end up contributing the most to how his career plays out.
“You can’t really measure the heart in a guy,” Boykin said. “I figure if any guy comes out there and they have the heart and the will and they’re willing to work, they’ll (be fine). If you’re going to study the small things that can create that little bit of extra separation or that can get you open on certain routes, then it’ll be visible out there for fans to watch and see, ‘OK, this guy really studies the ins and outs of the game and what he has to do to get better and to get open.'”
At least one receiver aside from Cobb, Jones and Nelson is going to have to step up if the Packers’ passing offense is going to continue to rank among the league’s best. Only 23 years old and with minimal NFL experience, Boykin isn’t going to replace Jennings’ production. But if Boykin finds himself as the fourth receiver on Green Bay’s depth chart when the regular season begins, it will be yet another significant step in a career that didn’t appear very promising a year ago.
“What I try to do is just work on the little things that affect the bigger picture,” Boykin said. “If there’s steps I need to do on a route or extra time in the meeting rooms or anything I can do to help better myself, to instill that confidence in the quarterback’s head and the coach’s head; I’ll just do whatever I can to make myself better.”