It was not renowned, but there were times last season when comeback player of the year Jordy Nelson didn’t want to lace them up on Sunday. Nelson told ESPN’s Jason Wilde, “If you ask my wife [Emily], I’ve told her five different things this past year. From, ‘Don’t ever let me play again this year,’ to ‘Don’t ever let me play after this year,’ to OK, I can play another five years.” Hard to believe this was coming from a guy who had one of the most productive seasons of his career and led the NFL in touchdown catches. If Nelson really is losing interest in the longevity of his football career, then what is to be expected in 2017?
Nelson lost an entire season in 2015 when he tore his ACL. The mental effect that has can be just as severe as the physical effects. Working to accomplish what were once simple tasks on and off the field takes a toll and tests the patience of even the most even keeled athletes.
Nelson handled it like a pro. He went to work right after surgery and made it back two weeks into training camp before the 2016 season kicked off. Nelson was back for the first game of the season, however it was clear that he needed time to get back to game speed. Slow out of his break and no signs of being able to create adequate separation begged the question as to whether Jordy would ever get back to being his old self again.
Luckily, Nelson did pick up the pace as the season played out. In five games he eclipsed the 100-yard mark. He also caught at least two touchdowns in three games.
His stats tell an impressive story, but they may warrant a grain of salt. Nelson’s 97 catches for 1,257 yards and 14 touchdowns usually leads to an easy Pro Bowl bid. This was not the case as he was snubbed into being a first alternate. Clearly his quarterback was responsible for much of his shine in 2016. Aaron Rodgers escaped the pocket often allowing him to prolong plays in order for his receivers to get open. Nelson in particular.
Nelson had one less pass catch than his flamboyant 1,500-yard campaign in 2014. He received one less target as well. Plain and simple it is now obvious he can not stretch the field like he used to. 15.5 yards per catch is now down to 13.
Nelson is still one of the most sure handed players in the league, there is no denying that. Nevertheless, his best years are behind him, but the good news is that a receiver’s pass catching ability is the last thing to go.
With Davonte Adams, Randall Cobb, and Geronimo Allison in the mix, Jordy will not attract the attention he once did. In fact, he won’t even lineup on the outside as much as he used to.
Packers receiver Jordy Nelson outperformed 54 WR's who ran at least 130 routes from the slot WR position with his 2.75 yards per route run. pic.twitter.com/nkleoQSUlP
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 16, 2017
If Nelson is lining up in the slot more it may not prolong career. Though, it will allow the Packers to get the most out of what he has left. Short over the middle routes and quick hitters to the flats will likely be the bulk of his productivity. With two years on his contract and no real eagerness to continue afterwards? Perhaps 70 pass catches for 1,000 yards in the second to last year of his contract is all we can expect from one the greatest receivers in Packers history.
___________________Brandon Carwile was a Cheesehead at birth. His dad grew up attending games at Lambeau and passed on the legacy. He has covered the Packers for over five years and currently works with packerstalk.com. Find him on twitter at @PackerScribe.