To anyone who paid attention to the Green Bay Packers’ 2015 campaign, it was obvious that the team’s offense was not as dominant as it has been for the greater part of the last decade.
While Eddie Lacy and the running game were not as effective as they had been over the last couple years, it was the passing attack’s apparent disappearance that was much more noticeable to the team and its fans.
There were a number of potential reasons for this drop off in production from Aaron Rodgers and company. Rodgers was not as sharp as he normally is and revealed he played through an injury this season. The absence of Jordy Nelson for the entire year had an undeniable effect. Other key weapons like Davante Adams and Randall Cobb seemed to regress and could not replace Nelson’s contributions.
James Jones served as a temporary stop gap, but he is not likely to return in 2016. But even with Jones’ probable departure and the overall ineffectiveness of the receiving corps in 2015, the Packers do not need to find a wide receiver in free agency or use an early draft pick on one. Green Bay’s 2015 receiver problems can be fixed with the current roster.
The Packers obviously struggled throwing the ball in 2015. Green Bay ended the season with the league’s 25th-ranked passing offense. To put that in perspective, it was the first time the passing game ranked outside the top ten since2003, when the Packers finished 16th in that category.
Jones led the Packers’ wide receivers with 890 yards, just the second time since 2003 that Green Bay failed to produce a 1000-yard receiver (Randall Cobb had 954 yards in 2012). Despite the struggles, there is every reason to expect that the Packers’ current roster of pass catchers will return to form next season.
The 2014 Packers had the league’s top scoring offense and the eighth best passing attack. That roster included five receivers for most of the season: Nelson, Cobb, Adams, Jeff Janis and Jarrett Boykin. Boykin was not on the team in 2015, but the other four will almost certainly make the roster in 2016.
Second year receiver Ty Montgomery is a lock to make the team as well, and looked like a legitimate weapon before an injury forced him to miss all but six games last year. Jared Abbrederis has the greatest chance of being cut among the Packers’ current receivers, and even he flashed potential when given playing time last season.
Green Bay will not have more than six wide receivers on the 2016 roster, and there is a very real possibility that those six slots have already been filled. But those six are more than capable of helping the Packers’ offense rebound.
Nelson’s return will give an immediate boost to the entire unit. Cobb would benefit from getting to match up against opponents’ second cornerbacks, and Adams has the athletic ability to be one of the best number three receivers in football. Montgomery possesses speed and versatility to be a big play threat, while Janis and Abbrederis are both still developing but are valuable special teams players.
If a top tier receiver such as Laquon Treadwell were to somehow slip to the Packers, then they would still be smart to draft one if he was the best available player. But Green Bay does not need to reach for an overvalued receiver in the draft or pursue one in free agency.
The current Packers’ receiving corps can and should rebound next season and will allow the team to address more pressing needs in the offseason. Nelson and Montgomery will return from their injuries, Cobb and Adams will benefit from Nelson’s return, and Janis and Abbrederis will continue to develop and contribute on special teams.
At the very least, Green Bay’s passing game will be better than it was in 2015. But it is more likely than not that Aaron Rodgers and the receiving corps returns to a top ten unit and prove that the past season’s struggles were not a sign of a long-term problem.——————
Sean Blashe is a Packers fan who grew up in Bears territory and is currently a journalism and history major at Marquette University. Sean is a writer with PackersTalk.com and you can follow him on twitter at @SeanBlashe .