The preseason has reared its ugly head yet again in the NFL, and the Green Bay Packers have now been devastated by it more than anyone in the league. When Jordy Nelson went down without being touched on the Pittsburgh grass it was the moment you’re watching these games for praying you do not see. It’s why the preseason games are mostly agonizing to watch, and the fact that there are still four games is a joke.
The four games were put in back in the day because players were not training during the offseason and instead were working other jobs. Times have changed just a little bit. Yet, because of the money they generate and the fact that they screw fans by charging them to pay for tickets, it seems like the preseason will never get reduced. So, you will get these injuries that Nelson suffered every preseason, even though the NFL preaches player safety as its top priority.
No matter whose fault it is that this happened, the season must go on. There is no replacing what Nelson can bring to the table on and off the field. You can tell what he means to that locker room just by how somber the players were in their postgame interviews. Nelson is a consummate professional, always puts the team first, never complains like other star receivers and a is leader on a team devoid of a lot of veteran players. This hurts the most for him personally because of the type of person he is, and because there is no guarantee he is ever the same again at age 31 coming of an ACL surgery and this offseason’s hip surgery.
Nelson could do anything you asked of him within the offense. He could run any route from a post, to an out, to a stick or a slant. He could line up at any receiver position whether it be the X, Z or slot. Nelson was Green Bay’s biggest deep ball threat and was a security blanket for Aaron Rodgers to get a big third down when in trouble.
The chemistry Rodgers and Nelson have takes years together and cannot be replicated. Rodgers trusts him so much on contested balls and on back shoulder throws. He has shown in the past a tendency to not throw to guys who may be covered who he doesn’t trust fully. Randall Cobb is an awesome player, but even he can’t do everything Nelson can.
With all of that being said, as long as Rodgers is there the Packers are contenders. It’s questionable that they’re the favorites they once were in a tough NFC conference, but they should be in the mix. Davante Adams has all the talent in the world and now is presented with a huge opportunity. He does not possess the straight-line speed of Nelson, but has that ability to make the terrific catches in traffic. However, Adams will now be facing the top corner of opposing teams if that player doesn’t follow Cobb to the slot. That’s a huge adjustment for a second-year player.
Cobb will be the No. 1, and he is certainly up for that role. However, without Nelson it will be interesting to see how coverages change against the Packers since Nelson almost always required a safety shaded over the top on his side.
Who will take over the other outside spot is the big question that needs to be answered. For now, the battle will be between third-round pick Ty Montgomery and Jeff Janis. Montgomery has been the talk of training camp, but hasn’t showed up yet in two preseason games. Janis hasn’t done much in practice, but has showed up for games. He caught three passes for 25 yards yesterday, although he had a drop and failed to get his second foot down on a play along the sidelines.
The disadvantage Montgomery has is that he hasn’t practiced much on the outside yet, although at 6-0, 216 pounds he has the frame to do so. He has been lauded by his teammates for his quick learning, and he’s going to have to continue that if he has to transition outside. Janis is the receiver who is most like Nelson physically, as he is 6-3, 219 pounds and ran a 4.42 second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine in 2014. He would be able to stretch the defense better than any of the receivers on the roster currently, but can he be consistent enough to earn the No. 3 job?
It’s very unfortunate that James Jones was signed by the New York Giants, because he is one veteran Ted Thompson might have actually considered. Jones caught five passes for 85 yards on Saturday for the Giants against Jacksonville, so he looks like a good bet to make the team. Although, he’s not a lock since he is fourth on the depth chart and maybe the Giants would want to go younger. Jones would not stretch the defense like Nelson, but would provide a security blanket that Rodgers could use right now. Maybe there is a trade to be made?
Another thing to look for is how much more the Packers run the ball. There’s a strong chance they run it more now, but how much more? Eddie Lacy is one of the top running backs in the NFL running behind one of the best lines. I would look for a lot more 21 personnel ( 2 TE, 1 RB) if Andrew Quarless doesn’t get suspended. The Packers used to run those formations a lot more during Mike McCarthy’s early days. We may see a return of more heavy sets to pound the ball with Lacy. Lacy and Rodgers still represent perhaps the best quarterback and running back duo in the NFL, and will still be a handful for teams.
The best wide receiver on Seahawks and Patriots last year was Julian Edelman, so an elite receiver isn’t necessary to get to the Super Bowl Even with Rob Gronkowski and without Nelson, the Packers’ overall skill players are at least just as good as New England’s last year. Tom Brady was able to win it all with no real deep threat to stretch the field. Brett Favre played with skill players less talented than Rodgers’ current group his whole career and still got to done. It’s what the elite quarterbacks do.
The Packers still have more talent than most teams do on offense and with Nelson getting hurt this early they have time to come up with a new plan. It may be a more bumpy ride than originally thought, but the Packers still have the ability to get to the promised land as long as Rodgers is piloting the plane.——————