For the Green Bay Packers offense to reach its full potential, they can’t rely solely on Jordy Nelson‘s return.
At times last season, there wasn’t an offense in the National Football League as poor as the Green Bay Packers’. What was once a feared unit was now being bullied by cocky press coverages with defenses almost begging them to throw the football.
An anaemic passing game paired with an inconsistent rushing attack led to the Packers’ worst offensive display in years. No longer was the defense holding the team’s Super Bowl aspirations back, rather keeping them alive.
For the offense to regain its flair and swagger of 2014 this season, it simply can’t pin the hopes onto a returning Jordy Nelson. Nelson’s torn ACL caught the Packers off guard last August, but relying on the soon-to-be 31-year-old wideout to return and single-handedly awake the unit from its malaise would be a mistake.
After all, football is a violent game, and Nelson is only one big hit or awkward landing away from being placed back on the sideline for any length of time. The Packers need to be prepared with a wealth of talented pass catchers primed to fill in should Nelson get hurt again or hit a spell of bad form.
Davante Adams was the next man up when Nelson’s injury struck. While the news of his season-ender felt like a punch in the ribcage, Packers fans felt their second-year wideout would help fill in the void. Yet Adams, who was returning from an encouraging rookie campaign, failed to meet the bar set by Coach McCarthy when named the “Offseason MVP”.
Frequent drops, sloppy routes and an inability to shake off press coverage was tough viewing each Sunday, and with it came more aggressive defensive looks. Adams was hampered with injuries, too, struggling early in the season with an ankle issue. Just when he seemed to turn a corner in the postseason, a sprained MCL wiped out the remainder of his campaign.
James Jones‘ sudden availability helped patch the hole somewhat early in the year, but his lack of speed and consistency meant it was game over once a premier cornerback got in his face.
Randall Cobb‘s season was frustrating in its entirety. Blanketed by double teams, Cobb was suffocated for room and failed to take advantage of his opportunities. Outside of a three-touchdown performance in Week 3 against Kansas City, Cobb was underwhelming.
Ty Montgomery was coming into his own before suffering a high ankle sprain in the Week 6 victory over San Diego. It could have all been different had he stayed healthy for the season’s entirety, but at this stage it’s all guesswork.
Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis put on a show in the playoff loss to Arizona, which led many to believe they should have been on the field for more snaps during the season. That’s a debate for another day, but there’s a reason neither saw a whole lot of action.
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Health has been the underlying concern for Abbrederis ever since hearing his name called in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Everything from a torn ACL to a long-lasting concussion has held him back.
For Janis, it’s simply a frustrating case of needing development. He has the size, lightning speed, superb athleticism and ability to climb the ladder and make tough grabs in the air, but to say his route running was limited would be an understatement. As a special teamer he dominated, but as a wide receiver there’s still a lot of work to be done.
Nelson aside, youth is on the Packers’ side. Cobb is the oldest at just 25 years old.
The continued development of these receivers is crucial to the success of the Packers’ offense. Adams needs to step up and become the boundary threat the Packers expected when they drafted him in the second round two years ago. Janis needs to refine his skills as a receiver and make the most of his tremendous combination of size, speed and athleticism. If he can put it all together, develop his route tree and establish chemistry and trust with Aaron Rodgers, look out.
Rookie Trevor Davis — a fifth-round selection in this year’s draft — will give the receiving corps another jolt of speed that it sorely lacked last term. Between Nelson, Janis and Davis, the aim will be to force defenses out of press coverage by burning them deep. With more two shell looks, there will be breathing room for Cobb and Montgomery to roam the slot and for a rejuvenated Eddie Lacy to wear down defensive fronts.
Nelson can’t do it alone. By putting all of their eggs in one basket, the Packers would be just one injury away from kissing goodbye to their Super Bowl dreams.
For the offense to bounce back, the entire unit needs to step up. The development of the young pass catchers will be at the root of any success the Packers have in 2016.