Getting Jordy Involved
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times: the biggest reason Green Bay struggled in 2015 was due to not being able to make up for the loss of Jordy Nelson in the preseason.
While quarterbacks are the single most important players out on the field by a wide margin, they cannot do it alone no matter how great they are, and high-quality players at the skill positions carry massive value in any game.
Looking back to 2014, Nelson was a top-5 receiver in the entire league.
He was targeted 151 times (4th in NFL), accumulating 98 catches (7th), 1,519 receiving yards (4th), and 13 TDs (tied-2nd).
More than that, his presence is what truly opened up the Green Bay offense; he accounted for 19 plays of 20+ yards (tied-10th) and 8 plays of 40+ yards (2nd) as part of 59 (tied-4th) and 15 (tied-1st) total for Rodgers on the year, and he piled up 481 yards after the catch as well (10th).
Without Nelson in 2015, Rodgers’ numbers on these explosive plays may not have plummeted much overall (55 20+ plays; 6 40+ plays), but the consistency of them took a dramatic hit — and with it, Green Bay’s ability to inherently strike fear into opposing defenses suffered.
Without the constant threat of Nelson blowing them open, defensive coordinators went with a much more aggressive game plan, lining their guys up one-on-one with Packers receivers and forcing them to win their matchups.
As we know, that ended poorly for the offense far too often, and was key in why Green Bay dropped from a 6-0 start to a 4-6 finish.
So of course, the team was eager to have their best wideout take the field again. The only question would be how long until he is able to get back to those play-making ways?
It was a slow start to the game for Jordy, and the rust was showing throughout multiple moments of this first game — especially early.
His ethereal timing with Rodgers wasn’t quite there yet, and the offense kept struggling against a Jacksonville defense that has talent but much to prove in terms of performance.
As the game progressed though, there were signs of what is hopefully to come.
In the drive preceding the one I discussed previously, Green Bay made it a point to try getting Nelson going — and for the most part, it worked.
On that 9-play/75-yard drive, three of the final four plays went to Nelson and he delivered: 3 targets, 3 catches, 18 yards, and the eventual TD.
That TD was especially nice to see — it was one of those routine Rodgers plays where he buys time while waiting for a coverage breakdown, and he found Nelson in a pocket in the end zone — and it gave Nelson his first TD of the year.
All in all, the day wasn’t spectacular (9 targets, 6 catches, 32 yards, 1 TD, 68.6 PFF grade; noticeably no successful deep plays his way), but it was the first step in the right direction.
Just having him out there helped the offense open up to a degree (Rodgers completed 3 20+ passes; it took until an improbable Week 9 comeback attempt versus Carolina for him to reach that many in a game in 2015), and as he continues to re-acclimate to being on the field he should become closer to the weapon we remember.
Next: Fourth down stop