One of the most interesting - albeit hardly one of the most important – battles in training camp figures to be between Diondre Borel and Tori Gurley for the final wide receiver spot on the roster. Both undrafted free agents distinguished themselves last summer and both were given healthy raises by general manager Ted Thompson when other teams were interested in signing them off the practice squad late in the season.
Here’s the tale of the tape between Borel and Gurley – the first in a series of posts that will analyze two players that will either be competing for a starting job or for a spot on the roster.
SIZE/STRENGTH: While Borel has adequate size for the position (6’0, 199), he looks and plays smaller. He has a lean build and only marginal functional strength. He started at quarterback in college, so he probably didn’t spend a lot of time in the weight room. It’ll be very interesting to see what he looks like in August, after spending a full year with Green Bay’s training staff (6.0). Gurley’s best attribute is his size (6’4, 216). His great length allows him to shield defenders from the ball and he can pick blades of grass off the helmets of smaller defensive backs. Like Borel, he needs to get stronger and should benefit from a year in the weight room (8.0).
SPEED/QUICKNESS - Borel ran a pretty good 40 at his Pro Day (4.5), but he doesn’t play particularly fast. He had trouble creating separation on deep routes last summer, even against second and third-string cornerbacks. He relies on his excellent quickness to get open. He often gave Charles Woodson fits when lined up in the slot (7.5). Gurley’s 40 time (4.56) is slightly slower than Borel’s, but he actually ran past more defensive backs. His biggest problem is a lack of quickness. He struggled to get off the line and he rarely created separation on short and intermediate routes (6.5).
ROUTE RUNNING - Borel had never run a pass route prior to the start of camp, and while his lack of experience certainly showed at times, he never embarrassed himself and he improved every day. By the end of the summer, he didn’t look much different from the majority of rookie receivers that have played for the Packers in recent years (6.0). As expected, Gurley didn’t make as many mental mistakes as Borel, but he needs to be less mechanical in his route running. He doesn’t sink his hips or get in and out of breaks quickly. That’s often an issue with tall receivers (7.0).
HANDS - Borel dropped too many passes, but I’d be surprised if that’s an issue this summer. He made enough difficult catches to prove that his hands are more than adequate. In fact, most of his miscues came on routine throws. That suggests a lack of concentration, or perhaps he was concentrating too much on everything besides securing the ball. Either way, he should be more consistent after a year of playing the position (6.5). Gurley put a few balls on the ground, but for the most part, he was reliable. He has extremely strong hands to highpoint the ball and he showed outstanding concentration. If he makes the roster, he’d be yet another weapon in the red zone (8.0).
RUN AFTER CATCH - Borel looks like a poor man’s Randall Cobb after the catch. He’s not nearly as explosive as his more heralded teammate, but he has very similar lateral agility which enables him to string moves together and sidestep defenders. At less than 200 pounds, he won’t run through too many tackles (7.5). Gurley isn’t going to do much after the reception. He ran under 4.6 at the NFL Combine, but he plays faster without the ball in his hands. He might put his shoulder down and gain a few extra yards, but he’s not elusive enough to avoid tacklers in the open field or speedy enough to run away from them (5.5).
BLOCKING - While Borel showed a willingness to block, he didn’t show the ability to get the job done on a consistent basis. This was hardly surprising considering his background and his size. The lack of experience at receiver resulted in sloppy technique and the lack of strength kept him from being able to sustain contact with defenders. He should get better, but this part of the game won’t determine his future in Green Bay (5.5). Gurley looks like former Packer Ruvell Martin, but he doesn’t block like him. Despite weighing 216 pounds, he doesn’t seem all that interested in getting physical with defenders. He’ll get his body in the way of would-be tacklers, but that’s about it (7.0).
INTANGIBLES – Borel is appealing because he’s only scratched the surface of his potential. He has a chance to get a lot better. His ability to return kicks and punts is a major positive if Cobb becomes a bigger part of the offense this season or next and the coaches want to reduce his workload on special teams. Borel could also serve as the team’s emergency quarterback – thus saving a precious spot on the 53-man roster (8.5). Gurley could also help on special teams. He showed a real knack for blocking punts last summer. And his size is unique for the position. The only other receiver over 6’1 on the roster is Jordy Nelson, but he doesn’t have Gurley’s arm length or leaping ability (8.0).
ANALYSIS: There’s a chance that neither of these players will make the final roster if Donald Driver survives for a 14th season, but I don’t see that happening. Either Driver will be released at the end of training camp or general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy will decide to keep a sixth wide receiver. So who will it be? Gurley tallied 50.0 points and Borel 47.5 points in the tale of the tape. The competition this summer figures to be just as tight. At the end of the day, I have a feeling that Gurley’s size and his potential in the red zone will be the difference.