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No Jordy, No Deep Ball?

Jordy Nelson and Aaron Rodgers

There is a saying in all sports- Winning covers up a lot of flaws.

The Packers are 3-0 for the first time since 2011. On top of that, the offense has scored 32 points a week to rank 4th in the league in that category while being 8th in total yards.

With all that being the case, one might conclude that the Packer offense is indeed going to be fine without the services of All Pro Jordy Nelson. Maybe.

However, I was a little nervous when back in August our fearless leader, Coach McCarthy, said “nothing would change” without Nelson in the lineup. That’s cotton candy for the masses, and he knows it. The fact of the matter is that though the Packers have other gifted receivers on their roster, most notably Randall Cobb, those receivers, including Cobb, are not the deep threat that Jordy Nelson is. In fact, there are routes in our offense that no other receiver on our roster has ran, except Jordy Nelson.

Nelson last season had TD catches of 80, 73, 70 and 60 yards. Where are the Packers supposed to get that kind of big play ability from? An ascendant Davante Adams was the hope. Well, Adams has yet to even get off the ground. The more likely answer is – no where. The Packers are primarily a short to mid-range passing offense now, and that is all. And that’s fine. The New England Patriots won a Super Bowl last season without a deep threat. It can be done.

But let’s not pretend that this is the same offense as last year, and it only seems to be a matter of time before some defense takes advantage of the fact that the Packers can’t stretch the field. If you want proof of that beyond the mere absence of Nelson, check out the longest plays so far this year for the Packers.

  1. Week 3 – Rodgers finds James Jones for 52 yards on a free play.
  2. Week 2 – A 52 yard pass interference penalty results on a deep ball to Ty Montgomery on a free play.
  3. Week 2 – 35 yard run by James Starks.
  4. Week 1 – 34 yard catch by Jones on a free play.
  5. Week 1 – A 34 yard pass interference call results on a pass to Jones.
  6. Week 3 –  A screen to Lacy goes for 26 yards.
  7. Week 1 – Rodgers finds Davante Adams for 25 yards.
  8. Week 2 – Rodgers finds Randall Cobb for 22 yards on a free play.

As you can see, the two longest plays of the season and three of the longest four have come on free plays. James Jones’ two longest catches came on free plays, and Randall Cobb’s longest catch has come on a free play. So, what we’ve seen so far this season is that only on free plays have the Packers struck downfield. The only go route on this list that didn’t come from a free play, and thus was a called go route in the huddle, was the deep ball to Jones that resulted in the 34 yard pass interference call against Chicago.

Of course, as already noted, the Packer offense performed well in all three of these games, for the most part, and didn’t really need to go deep, and one could argue that Aaron Rodgers hasn’t really had time to throw it deep in the last two games. True.

Still, this inability to go downfield other than on free plays is something worth watching. We can be assured that defensive coordinators around the league are watching. If the Packers can’t start stretching the field, then they may find themselves in the opposite scenario of what they faced before Eddie Lacy walked through the door. They may find that defenses are crowding the line of scrimmage and not staying back to give the short passing game the room it needs.

Besides Jeff Janis, who the Packers are bringing in slowly, Packer Nation does have some reason to feel confident that Aaron Rodgers will find a way to get the ball downfield. That reason is the NFL record 16 touchdowns of 70 or more yards that Aaron Rodgers has already thrown in his career. Though Jordy Nelson has six of those, the fact of the matter is that Rodgers finds ways to make big plays in the passing game, regardless of who is catching the football.



Shawn Neuser attended UWGB and lives and works in Green Bay. He enjoys long walks on the beach and being intimate with game film.



  1. Savage57 October 3, 2015

    It points to the range of the skill set that Nelson has developed and brings to the Packers. Guy can do anything he’s asked from any of the WR positions, and aside from JJ, there’s really no one else who’s shown the ability to take the passing game vertical.

    Janis has the wheels, but runs routes like my grandma so I’m not holding my breath for this piece of the offense to return this season.

  2. fred October 3, 2015

    I dont know what your complainging about shawn, is 50 yard pases not far enough?

    1. shawn October 3, 2015

      50 yard passes on free plays only. The Packers are yet to complete a pass over 26 yards that did not come on a free play.

  3. Remedy October 3, 2015

    It’s gotta be Joltin’ Jeff. We gave it a shot when he came into the last game, but it didn’t work out. We’ll see more of him with Davante out.

  4. Bacon October 3, 2015

    I think the lack of good tackles and facing a strong pass rush the last 2 weeks has a lot to do with that. 12 is great but he hardly has the time to look down field on a consistent basis.

  5. Big Gay Clay October 3, 2015

    Yeah our tackle play hasn’t allowed for us to take shots downfield. I would like to see them get Cobb some vertical looks, he has the speed just not the desired height for jump balls

  6. bob October 3, 2015

    Not to nitpick, but you forgot about a nice 29 yard pass to Cobb from our 4 yard line out to the 34 against the Chiefs. Still though, that doesn’t change the fact you’re pointing out. The packers haven’t thrown any designed deep balls this year.

    1. shawn October 3, 2015

      That is correct. That is actually Cobb’s longest catch this season.

  7. Howard October 3, 2015

    It is not so much the length of the pass “deep ball” that is in question. The potential problem is more that the team could miss Jordy’s “big play ability”.Jordy consistently makes someone miss after the catch and goes the distance. Usually a safety looks foolish grasping air as Jordy cuts around him (YAC). In addition Jordy maneuvers the sideline like very few have. Rodgers and Nelson have an ability to know what the other is doing and get it done. No one receiver is going to do what Jordy has done, after all he was #18 in the top 100 players.

  8. Packer Bob October 3, 2015

    Now we should worry about the deep ball? What was it last week? The offensive line? The week before that? Hey, remember when Forte ran for like 150 yards against our defense? Oh, and when we all worried about inside linebacker and depth at corner?

    Please, tell me what we should worry about next week?

    1. shawn October 3, 2015

      The stuff you listed is stuff that MONTY was worried about. Not me.
      I did not say we should worry about the lack of a deep passing game. In fact, I noted the Patriots won the Super Bowl last year without it. See Seahawks the year before… I am merely observing what we have seen so far.
      I appreciate your comments as a voice of optimism in here, but you might be getting conditioned to respond to a cynicism that doesn’t necessarily exist.

  9. UpNorth October 3, 2015

    Honestly, we don’t need a huge vertical game to go far in this league now. Yes, Jordy was always a respectable deep threat and could do anything from any spot on the field, but truth be told, it’s almost a blessing in disguise that we are forced to cope without him this year. It gives the young guys a chance to step up so we can finally see what they have to offer.

    Often times, I go nuts when Rodgers is always looking for a deep play. Playing too vertical in this league can be the death of you as good cover teams like Seattle can force you into looking for a huge play when you should instead be playing small ball aka moving the chains. Just ask the Patriots. The way you beat an aggressive cover defense is using the death by thousand cuts strategy employed in a short/intermediate passing game and respectable running game.

    Of course our vertical game is hurting now and may hurt the whole year, but we will get to see #12 learn what his other targets have to get things done, and knowing him, he’ll use what he has to full effectiveness.

    1. MMTTDCSUCK October 3, 2015

      Great points!

  10. knucklehead October 3, 2015

    Yes, Shawn it is hard not to be conditioned to respond to the overarching cynicism on this site.
    You are correct that you did not write about the other “catastrophes” that Monty imagines on a weekly, sometimes daily basis. Nevertheless, your article is on this site and is therefore part of the general narrative of Total Packers.

    I think Packer Bob was responding to that.

    Good article, and I agree, the loss of Jordy blows. Not only for the deep threat, but just having him as a presence out there on the field in green and gold every Sunday. Great sportsman and great football player.

    I agree, it makes me nervous when we seem to be putting our offensive abilities into a smaller box. The right team with the right game plan and personnel will be able to shut the short game down.

    But football often comes down to the likes of two grandmasters playing chess. Both masters know what the other opponent is doing, but one executes better than the other. Right now we seem to have flawless execution on the field.

    Rodgers is turning into a damned puppet master out there. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything like this before. I’ve never seen one man go out on a professional football field and basically control both teams. These are the greatest days in Packer history we are living through.

    Crazy Earl said it best:

    “These are great days we’re living, bros. We are jolly green giants, walking the Earth with guns.”


  11. JD October 4, 2015

    Rodgers will exploit the SF secondary. I’m betting there will be deep balls in the game, to whom is the question.

  12. Fritz October 4, 2015

    Greatest days? 1 SB win and appearance out of the past 6 seasons when we were acknowledged as the best team in the NFL? Except for the one season we won all 4 post season games on the road to the title? wtf?