Green Bay Packers: James Jones the backup plan
If you’re a die-hard Green Bay Packers supporter as I am, you’ve probably been overly consumed with this one word that emerged from a Tuesday-afternoon update on the recovery status of Jordy Nelson—Hiccup.
The word is typically used to describe a momentary blockage or interruption in the process of food breakdown within our digestive systems. Nelson picked that term to mildly inform reporters that he had experienced a setback in his rehab from last year’s ACL tear.
While we all expected the coaching staff to ease in the 31-year-old vertical threat during a long preseason in which the Packers are scheduled to play five games, no one could have foreseen Nelson hit a stumbling block this early.
The pain he’s currently dealing with is in his non-surgically repaired left knee that is most likely due to favoring his good joint during workouts.
ESPN beat journalist Rob Demovsky quoted Nelson stating that he “plans” on being ready to play in Green Bay’s Week 1 road trip against the Jaguars.
However, the competitive spirit of most professional athletes often makes them the worst people to assess the duration of their respective recovery times. In other words, Packers fans are advised to hope for the best and expect the worst.
Since Nelson’s issue in his left knee is only a case of tendonitis, I would fully anticipate him playing this year. But he should by no means be forced to rush back only to make good on his “plans” to be in uniform for the season opener.
Given the fact that the Packers medical staff is among the more conservative groups in the NFL, I’m fairly certain of the fact that No. 87 will only be given clearance once he starts moving without any restrictions.
But can the passing game survive another extended absence by its top wideout? And what if the tendonitis continues plaguing Nelson once he’s back, making him a weekly fixture on the team injury report?
While we should all be confident that a healthy Randall Cobb will outperform his dismal and injury-riddled 2015 campaign, Davante Adams is quickly running out of chances to consistently deliver on the flashes of brilliance we witnessed in rookie season two years ago.
And of course, there’s postseason hero Jeff Janis waiting in the wings for a larger role provided he executes his plays like a veteran rather than a wet-behind-the-ears neophyte.
Last year’s rookie sensation Ty Montgomery, on the other hand, gave us all glimpse of his breathtaking run-after-catch ability that could make him an electrifying weapon if he ever fully comes back from his ankle woes.
The tight ends will be a huge part of the game plan and should even be employed in tandem while rookie Trevor Davis can’t be counted on to contribute much on offense especially in the early going.
A lot will be revealed during exhibition play given the relative youth of Green Bay’s receiving corps, which demands that they get in an ample amount of game-time reps.
If there is any indication of the offense being at risk of suffering another malaise that could linger for weeks, it might be time to run to the crimson-red bat phone and dial up this old veteran lying in wait.
While some fans may snicker at the thought of the 32-year-old pass catcher gearing up for one last gun fight in a bright yellow helmet, he outperformed both Cobb and Adams for much of the season in 2015 and tied tight end Richard Rodgers with a team-high eight touchdown receptions.
Jones is infamous for being a rather plodding pass target that lacks a second gear to separate downfield, but yet it was this last-minute free-agent addition that bailed out the offense on several occasions.
Have we already forgotten his heroics against a formidable Rams defense in Week 5? It was that aging move-the-chains guy who converted a crossing route into a 65-yard catch-and-score on a day when Aaron Rodgers completed only 19 passes for 241 yards in a 24-10 victory aided by a 45-yard Quinten Rollins pick-six.
The San Jose State alum uses his thick 6-foot-1 frame and long arms to outmuscle defenders for the football. He’ll occasionally push off and sometimes out-leap the opposition when the ball is coming in his direction.
Jones’ 50-percent catch rate wasn’t the stuff of legends, but he had a way of maximizing a high amount of receptions into chunk plays by averaging a career-high 17.8 yards per catch.
Jones placed 48th overall among 121 ranked wideouts for his receiving exploits alone last season according to Pro Football Focus, which made him a slightly above-average performer on par with NFL peers Markus Wheaton and an underachieving Demaryius Thomas among others.
Does this grizzled gridiron gladiator have what it takes to be a productive member of Green Bay’s receiving corps over the course of an entire season?
At his advanced football age, he may not, but he doesn’t have to be.
If Jones only contributes his services for a stretch of games over the period of a month or two, it might very well help put the Packers in position to be in contention for the division title while Nelson gets back to 100-percent and the younger receivers continue to round into form by following the lead of old No. 89.
Then again, Nelson’s hiccup may only be a temporary preseason impediment for the ninth-year pro. Better yet, maybe Janis (or another of the team’s younger weapons) will exhibit marked improvement in his overall game and blossom into the kind of threat every team will need to account for.
But what if these best-case scenario outcomes fail to materialize?
Does Ted Thompson look at the free-agent market and bring in a crafty journeyman in the form of Lance Moore to help the offense along provided he’s still available a few weeks down the road?
Why would he do that when a familiar face like Jones can come in and pick up right where he left off in 2015?
Next: Packers depth chart projections ahead of preseason
Hopefully it won’t come to that, but it doesn’t hurt being prepared to reach out to the man in the green hoodie one last time.