A new Packers' Marquez Valdes-Scantling or same old MVS?: Only time will tell

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It's not Marquez Valdes-Scantling's career-high 149-yard game on Sunday that will convince Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur and quarterback Aaron Rodgers that things are different this time for the third-year receiver.

Although it's a start.

It's what happens Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts -- and beyond -- that's just as critical.

They've seen this before. A seemingly breakout game only to regress to -- or below -- the mean. The ghosts are there: one catch for 4 yards last October a week after a 133-yard game or one catch for 19 yards two weeks after a 99-yard game in September.

This time, LaFleur and Rodgers have reason to believe it will be different.

Or at least legitimate hope.

The deep ball, including Sunday's 78-yard touchdown in the 24-20 win over the Jaguars, is one thing: With his 4.37-speed, he has five touchdowns of at least 40 yards since the start of the 2019 season to rank tied for third-most in the NFL in that span. But it was his other three catches on Sunday that resonated with the coach and quarterback.

"It starts with the deep threat," Rodgers said after the game. "We need to keep finding ways to get him other routes. I think the growth we're going to see from him is where he becomes more than just a one-dimensional guy. But I will say there are a couple plays that I really, really liked today from him."

They looked like this:

  • Third-and-6 at their own 23-yard line in the second quarter, and Rodgers has to buy time by moving to his right. Valdes-Scantling follows him and finds an opening for a body catch and a 22-yard gain on a drive that leads to a touchdown.

  • With Davante Adams getting checked out for an ankle injury in the third quarter, Valdes-Scantling does his best Adams impersonation by turning a shallow cross on a designed rollout -- what LaFleur calls a "keeper" -- and turning it upfield for a 31-yard catch and run.

  • From the slot left and with Adams to the outside, Valdes-Scantling takes a bubble screen and turns it into a tackle-breaking 18-yard pickup on a fourth-quarter scoring drive.

"He was flying off the ball on the keeper, on that low cross, and Aaron threw a great ball to him and, shoot, I think we got 30-some yards," LaFleur said. "That's rare, and that's a credit to his speed and attacking it and catching the ball with his hands.

"I think the most impressive play from a receiving standpoint was the bubble we threw him on the go-ahead scoring drive. Just the finish that he showed with two defenders closing in on him, his ability to split those guys and pick up extra yardage, I thought that was big time of him."

All that after a two-touchdown game (his only two catches) in the previous week's win over the 49ers.

Progress for sure, but can he fix his inconsistency (and his drops) or will the Packers just have to live with it?

Even after the last two games, Valdes-Scantling still ranks 152nd among 153 qualified receivers in catch percentage (50%), according to ESPN Stats & information. He was below 50% until he caught four of his six targets against the Jaguars. He ranks second among those receivers in drops (five).

Still, Rodgers has continually talked him up this year. Only he knows if that's real trust or just a quarterback trying to boost his mercurial receiver's confidence. With Allen Lazard expected to come off injured reserve this week and likely return to his role as WR2, it could mean fewer chances for Valdes-Scantling if he doesn't continue to deliver.

But know this: Rodgers had enough faith to listen to him right before the deep ball touchdown on Sunday.

"The previous play we had thrown a quick out route to Davante and I had run a go route on the previous play and saw that I could get behind [Jaguars cornerback Sidney Jones]," Valdes-Scantling said. "He wasn't really respecting deep, so I went back to the huddle and told Aaron that I can get by him. The next play we went out and threw a go ball."