The 2015 Green Bay Packers had a wide receiving corps that consisted of an elderly man who was cut by two teams in the span of an offseason, a 2nd year potential world beater who couldn’t have had a worse season if Jason Pierre-Paul’s hands were grafted onto his arms, Steve Tasker Jr, 2008 Jordy Nelson, and a very confused Randall Cobb. Grab something with alcohol in it, cause here we go….
After Jordy Nelson tore his ACL in August, the Packers were left with a big pair of shoes to fill. Most everybody thought Ted Thompson would maintain status quo, because hey, Ted Thompson. Simultaneously, the New York Giants released Jones and suddenly there were 2 very staunch groups of Packers fans: Those who wanted to sign him, and those who hated his existence. In an almost shocking turn of events, Thompson actually signed him, and people rejoiced. Or got super mad. Either way, opinions were strong.
Jones initially proved to be a smart pickup. In weeks 1-6, he racked up 424 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns. Weeks 3 and 4 were particularly productive. Against Kansas City in week 3, Jones caught 7 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown. The following week against San Francisco, he was held without a score but caught 5 passes for 92 yards. Not necessarily ground breaking stats, but enough to be a large factor of a 6-0 record.
All good things usually come to an end, and the end of Jones’ resurgence happened against the Denver Broncos. As noted in the Aaron Rodgers edition of the Recap, the Broncos wrote an instruction manual for the rest of the NFL on how to beat the Green Bay Packers in 2015. One of the ways they did this was by using press coverage against the Packers wide receivers. The Chargers had tried this approach 2 weeks earlier, and it almost worked, but their secondary just wasn’t as good as the Broncos. The Denver defense ripped the mask of resurgence off of Jones’ career. The Broncos were the Scooby Doo gang and Jones was Old Man Smitherington.
For the majority of the rest of the season, Jones struggled to find space that wasn’t already occupied by a member of the opposing team. To his credit, Jones never quit. He continued to run his routes, sometimes even before the defender did. The only team after the bye that Jones seemed to be able to play well against was Minnesota, and everybody knows that is only because they are terrified of hooded sweatshirts. He also had a decent Wild Card game against the Washington Kirk Cousins, but that was a recurring theme for the Washington secondary: Bend, but then break.
Jones had one of the most confusing seasons I’ve ever seen a wide receiver have. A hot start followed by a period so void of productivity that Steve Gutenberg sent him a sympathy card, then spurts of decency, a fashion statement that made zero sense, and eventually my eternal love. Yes, I admit it. I cannot help it, there will always be a spot in my heart for James Jones. I will miss him, even if he made me throw things around my house.
Last offseason, Aaron Rodgers said things about Adams that were so complimentary that people have written them into their wedding vows. According to Rodgers, this was the year that Adams would get his arms measured for his Hall of Fame jacket. Then football happened.
Davante Adams dropped so many passes, Mike McCarthy started Jared Abbrederris over him one game. Look at these stats. Just look at them. Take an especially long gander at the first game against Detroit. U-G-L-Y, he ain’t got no alibi, that’s ugly.
Adams hurt his ankle early in the season, and missed 3 games. When he came back, he was clearly hobbled and a large part of his game was gone. In his rookie season, Adams was able to use his unique combination of size and speed to get open and gain yards after the catch. This season, Adams lost his mobility. It was much more difficult for him to find space, and when he did he wasn’t able to maintain it or break it open. Is it possible that a combination of self preservation and trying to make a play that became infinitely more difficult than it used to be caused him to have mental lapses that lead to drops? Probably. I cannot believe that he would have just magically lost his talent, like the kid in Little Big League losing his 102 mile an hour fastball.
2016 will be the pivotal year of Adams’ career. If he comes back and plays like he did in his rookie campaign, then this season will be chalked up to injuries and bad luck. However, if the problems he faced in 2015 continue into 2016, Green Bay has a problem on their hands. They should throw the problem to Adams, so he can drop it. Call it the #ReceptionInception. I dunno.
The little that we saw from Montgomery was promising. The potential he has is limitless. He truly is a multiple threat. If the Packers run a 3 WR set with Lacy and Montgomery in the backfield, who does the defense focus on?
The only player that I’m aware of who has ever caught 2 hail mary’s (hails mary? hail mari? hail maries?) in one drive. The best route runner on the team, as long as the route is “run fast, turn around, jump, and pray”. As long as the rest of the crew is healthy, I don’t expect Janis will be seeing the offensive side of the ball much next year. We’ll always have 2015, though. Thank you, sweet Janis. Thank you.
2016 could be a pivotal year for Abbrederris as well as Adams, but for different reasons. Adams needs to prove that he is not a bumbling dropmonster. Abbrederris needs to prove that he can remain consistent and stay healthy. He earned a spot on the roster at the beginning of the year, and proved that he belonged when he took over for Adams while he was injured and/or benched. His route running this season was the prettiest on the team, and although he dropped a few passes, Abby seemed to earn Rodgers’ trust fairly quickly. I’m looking forward to watching his career bloom.
The argument can be made that of all the receivers, Cobb suffered the most due to Nelson’s injury (Well, next to Nelson himself, obviously. I mean, come on.). As a slot receiver, Cobb has spent his career depending on Nelson’s speed and ability to run deep routes to open up lanes underneath in the middle of coverage. Believe it or not, James Jones and Jeff Janis did not pull coverage away from the middle of the field very often this season. For some reason, defensive coordinators did not respect Jones’ speed or Janis’ route running. Probably because the average 68 year old defensive coordinator can run faster than Jones or more precise routes than Janis. That could be the reason. Whatever is was, Cobb had limited room in the middle of the field all season long. This also resulted in Cobb being less effective out of the backfield, since defenses were playing so tight to the line of scrimmage.
Some players are able to be elite on their own, and some are key contributors to elite position groups. Cobb falls squarely into the latter category. Please don’t misconstrue what I’m saying here, Cobb is no doubt a very good player. He’s versatile, and has many of the skills necessary to be a very good wide receiver in the NFL. But he needs other high quality receivers around him to make him great. Cobb did the best he could this year, and his performances bear this out. I’m looking forward to seeing him line up in the slot again with Nelson and (a hopefully competent) Adams on either side of him.
It’s always strange when a position group underwhelms you as much as the Packers wide receivers did this season. It’s difficult to believe that the loss of one player can undermine the abilities of 4 or 5 other players in such a major fashion. Unfortunately for the 2015 Green Bay Packers, it became a reality.
The next Recap will feature the running backs. I’m eating nothing but cheeseburgers and whole sticks of butter in anticipation.