This marks the fourth offseason of my 5 guys that have to be good series. This list is not a top five list of most important Green Bay Packers. Not only will you find that elsewhere, but ultimately it’s the players on this list that just might define the season.
Aaron Rodgers, Mike Daniels and Clay Matthews are going to play well. If the offensive line stays healthy, it’s going to play well. HaHa Clinton-Dix is going to play well.
It’s the players that are “in the margins” that can make the difference between another 11 or 12 win team with a heartbreaking playoff loss and a 14th World Championship.
My old lists are a telling tale. My 15 guys that have had to be good either weren’t or got hurt for the most part.
2013: Terrell Manning, Greg Van Roten, Bryan Bulaga (ACL), Jeremy Ross, Datone Jones
2014: BJ Raji (torn biceps), Brad Jones, Jared Abbrederis, JC Tretter, Datone Jones
2015: Jared Abbrederis, JC Tretter, BJ Raji, Casey Hayward, Sam Barrington (broken ankle)
These are the guys that needed to be good for the Packers to get back to the promised land. They weren’t, and Green Bay didn’t. Who needs to step up for a return to Titletown?
Jordy Nelson is a player that would never normally be on this list. Fully healthy, Nelson is one of the best five or six receivers in the NFL. He’s one of the best two or three players on the Packers. He’s a guy that you can count on to play well, and when he does, it is unsurprising.
The problem is, and the reason he’s on this list is, that he hasn’t practiced in 2016 yet. He was frustrated about not being able to participate in OTAs, and now he’s frustrated about not participating in camp.
Nelson has reportedly suffered a “hiccup” in the non-ACL knee. Injuries due to stress on the “compensating” leg are common with ACL recoveries. I personally have a low level of concern. Nelson was moving around fine, was riding kids’ bikes to practice and the whole works. McCarthy thinks he’s going to be fine and I have no reason not to believe him.
The reason that Nelson needs to be good is his obvious effect on the offense. Green Bay was 19th in passing offense last season. 19th! With Aaron Rodgers!
Not only were the Packers missing ~1400 yards and 10+ touchdowns from their offense they were also out of their hierarchy. Davante Adams was forced to be the #1 outside threat, he wasn’t ready.
Randall Cobb was double teamed consistently, and he wasn’t open. Jeff Janis was supposed to make a big second year jump, he really didn’t. James Jones had to rescue the passing game and without him the Packers would have almost certainly finished ranked in the 20s.
If Nelson is good again, and can play out the rest of his contract, it will be a huge boost to the offense. If Nelson can draw the opposing team’s best corner, or a double team, and beat it, all of a sudden Davante Adams is one on one with 3rd corners. All of a sudden Randall Cobb is open. All of a sudden Janis, Davis, Abbrederis etc. have time to develop.
This just might be the best defense that Rodgers and the offense have had supporting them since 2010. They have to hold up their end of the bargain. Jordy Nelson is key to that. Jordy Nelson has to be good.