Training camp is a fun time to follow — and get all dreamy about — the prospects of rookies and new players. Due to the Green Bay Packers heavy reliance on their passing attack, much attention is properly focused every August on the team’s wide receiver corps.
While I’ll keep my fingers crossed that any number of these guys will step up their game, the reality seems to be that the Packers have but one wide receiver (who gets to play, so excluding Jeff Janis) on the roster with above average skills. As he has been for the last several seasons, Jordy Nelson remains the backbone of the Packers’ receiving unit.
Nelson’s 2016 Season
Had coach Mike McCarthy not been over-cautious with Nelson at the start of last year, Nelson’s stats might have exceeded his personal best year of 2014. As I worried at the time, coach McCarthy’s paranoia about bringing Jordy back too soon after his ACL surgery did indeed result in somewhat reduced stats for Nelson last year.
Breaking Jordy’s performance down into quarters of the 2016 season, for the first four games, Nelson averaged 61 receiving yards per game. In the second quarter, he averaged 66. Over the last two quarters of the season, however, Jordy averaged 93.5 yards per game – nearly as much as in 2014, when he ran up 1,519 yards and averaged 94.9 yards per game.
Given the above stats, there is no evidence to suggest that Jordy has passed – or yet reached – his peak. And he only recently turned 32.
Rodgers to Nelson Is the NFL’s Top Combo
Last year, I dredged up a pretty telling study in which an analyst calculated the quarterback ratings just when top quarterbacks threw to their top receivers. The conclusion: by a wide margin – the Aaron Rodgers/Jordy Nelson duo was the most efficient and productive QB-WR combination in the league for several years running, prior to Jordy’s knee injury.
The health of Rodgers and Nelson will again be indispensable if the Packers are to make a bona fide postseason run.
Team Remains Thin at WR
Veterans Randall Cobb and Davante Adams cannot dominate an opponent, or handle double-teams, like Jordy can.
Prior to this year’s draft, I gave my opinion as to how thin the receiving corps was after Nelson, Cobb, and Adams. I was disappointed that the team passed the first two draft rounds without selecting a wide receiver and shocked they waited until the fifth round.
Many fans have attached unreasonable hopes for Trevor Davis and Geronimo Allison, who at best can provide support, but cannot lead the Packers’ offense to success. Though the duo continues to get some buzz among fans, the fact is they combined for only 226 receiving yards in 2016.
DeAngelo Yancey, Malachi Dupre, and Max McCaffrey, drafted in the fifth round, seventh round, and originally undrafted, certainly won’t be a significant part of this year’s offense. This is especially so since Rodgers tends to only involve receivers after a lengthy apprenticeship. It took both Jordy and Donald Driver four years before either one accumulated more than 600 annual receiving yards.
Bottom line: despite the lesson of 2015, the Packers have made no contingency plans if Jordy Nelson misses several games this year due to injury. Green Bay’s season hopes are hanging by a pretty thin thread.