When hearing the names, fans immediately think of them as two of the greatest receivers in Green Bay Packers team history. In seven seasons together, wide receivers Greg Jennings and Donald Driver were fan favorites and top targets for Packer quarterbacks Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, combining for 839 receptions, 12,040 yards, and 86 touchdowns.
On February 12th, Driver retired from the Green Bay Packers. One month and four days later, Jennings signed a five year contract with the NFC North division rival Minnesota Vikings.
A double-dose of hard pills to swallow, Packer fans will remember Driver, the Packers’ all-time leading receiver, for his touchdown shimmy, wide-mouthed grin, and his 1st place finish on the popular television show “Dancing with the Stars”. Fans will remember Jennings’ knack for finding the endzone in addition to his incredible ability to gain yards after the catch (career 5.8 YAC), his clutch Super Bowl XLV performance (two touchdowns, 31-yard catch on 3rd down and 10 in 4th Quarter), and unfortunately, another former Packer who left for Minnesota (previously: Darren Sharper, Ryan Longwell, Robert Ferguson, Favre).
In each of their seven seasons together, the Packers passing offense ranked in the top nine in the NFL, and Packer receivers have caught 228 touchdown passes. Jennings and Driver caught 86 of those passes (37.7% of receiving touchdowns).
Although Jennings and Driver had a large part of the Packers’ offensive production in their seven years together, 2012 was a season to forget. Jennings missed half of the regular season games with an on-going groin injury and caught only 36 passes for 366 yards, both career lows. Driver was an outcast in a relatively young receiving core, catching eight passes in 13 games, his lowest total since his 1999 rookie season.
With no Jennings and Driver in the fold, the 2013 Packer receiving core revolves around veterans James Jones (29 years old) and Jordy Nelson (28), tight end and wide receiver hybrid Jermichael Finley (26), and rising star Randall Cobb (turns 23 in August).
Last season, Jones led the NFL with 14 receiving touchdowns, Nelson caught 49 passes and seven touchdowns in 11 games, and Finley caught the most passes (61 receptions) by a tight end in team history. If the Packer passing game continues to soar on the NFL grass though, it all depends on the success and growth of the youngest player of the receiving bunch.
In only his second season out of Kentucky, Cobb led the Packers in receptions (80), receiving yards (954), catches of 20 or more yards (17), total yards after the catch (479), and all-purpose yards (2,342). Cobb was second on the team in receiving touchdowns (8), didn’t fumble at all, and caught 77% of Rodgers’ passes targeted his way, the best rate among Packer players who Rodgers had targeted at least 60 times.
Packer fans will probably miss seeing Jennings and Driver don the numbers 85 and 80, respectively, but the Packers return their four best statistical receivers who helped the team win the NFC North Division title last season. Losing a fan favorite in Driver and a Super Bowl hero like Jennings may make the Packers look worse on paper compared to 2012. Looking at the youth and last season’s statistics, the Packers’ receiving core may not be getting worse…they may only be getting started.
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