Jordy Nelson & James Jones (Photo Credit: AP)
Since the 2006 NFL Draft, wide receiver Greg Jennings has been a prolific part of the Green Bay Packers offense. He was one of Brett Favre’s and Aaron Rodgers’ favorite targets, including catching Favre’s record breaking career touchdown pass. Now, Jennings has left the Packers for the team he caught that record touchdown against, the Minnesota Vikings. Jennings’ departure means Aaron Rodgers will have to find another “go to” target. Granted, Jennings did miss a majority of the last two seasons with injuries. But when he was on the field, he was a major contributor to the team, including catching two touchdowns in the Packers Super Bowl XLV victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now Jennings is gone and his void is left to be filled.
Jordy Nelson has slowly become Rodgers favorite target over the past couple seasons. During his first three seasons, Nelson only caught six touchdowns and had only 1,200 receiving yards. In 2011, Nelson had his coming out party. He nearly tripled his career touchdown mark by catching 15 touchdowns, and had 1,283 receiving yards, matching his combined career total. The stats are only part of what makes Nelson a favorite of Rodgers. He always seems to be on the receiving end of the back shoulder throw that Rodgers has mastered. Nelson also seems to make that clutch first down catch when the Packers need it.
Another component of the Packers passing game is James Jones. During his first couple years in the league, Jones was a work in progress. While he did have his occasional glimpse of greatness, Jones also came with growing pains. There were many times that Jones just simply could not catch the football. Whether it was a routine catch or a ball that would hit him square between the numbers, Jones could not hold on. He also had ball security issues, fumbling the football after getting hit by a defender. Toward the end of the 2011 season, something changed in Jones. Whether it was the new gloves he got or just new confidence, it seemed Jones was ready to take that next step to becoming a great wide receiver. Jones was now catching those balls that should be caught, while also making a few highlight reel catches. With Nelson, Jennings, and tight end Jermichael Finley hurt, Jones carried the load for the Packers receiving core. He caught a career high 14 touchdowns and 784 receiving yards. Jones proved he was a reliable target and is now ready to become that number one wide receiver.
Along with the developmental wide out Randall Cobb and the aforementioned Finley, the Packers receivers look ready for the upcoming season. With this many offensive weapons, Aaron Rodgers will have to pick and choose who will help him tear apart opposing defenses. The only thing Rodgers will have to worry about is keeping all his targets happy. Hopefully, after this season, Packers fans will be asking “Greg who?”