No, we don’t yet know if the Green Bay Packers will be without Jordy Nelson in Dallas, but we assume that will be the case. Are the Packers finished without him? Will we see a regression of the offense to 2015 form, when Nelson was out with a torn ACL?
Yes, we’d prefer to have Nelson on the field, but the Packers can survive without him. Here’s why.
We criticized Rodgers early in the season for his level of play then and rightfully so. He was playing at the same level as he did in 2015, which is to say not a good one. He was undisciplined, inaccurate and not fundamentally sound. Around the Washington game this season, that all changed. You saw what Rodgers did to the Giants top-flight secondary on Sunday — 362, four TDs, no picks, 9.1 per attempt and a 125.2 rating. Dallas’ secondary is nowhere near as good as the Giants’.
A healthy Randall Cobb is an effective Randall Cobb. The Packers finally decided to rest Cobb and his injured ankle, holding him out the final two games of the season after playing him in two games after he suffered the injury. Cobb was not a factor in those games he played with the injury. Rested and presumably injury-free, Cobb came back and torched the Giants to the tune of five catches, 116 yards and three touchdowns.
There was a period this season when opposing defenses were honoring Adams as the Packers’ No. 1 receiver. There was also a stretch where Adams was first or second in the league in all major receiving categories (through that span of games). Obviously, Davante Adams has developed into a pretty solid receiver, something he was nowhere near in 2015. On Sunday, he put up eight for 125 and a touchdown. The bulk of those numbers came after Nelson went down.
Tight end Jared Cook is a matchup problem, plain and simple. He’s too fast for linebackers. He’s too big for cornerbacks. The best matchup for the opposition is a safety and that takes a safety out of run defense or of a double team on a receiver. In short, Cook is either going to be open or he’s going to be opening up the field for someone else. The Packers get it. Cook has been more and more involved in the offense as the season has gone on. He can line up tight or wide. Cook adds another dimension to the offense.
Here’s another matchup problem that the Packers don’t utilize nearly enough. Whether they hand the ball to Montgomery is really moot for this conversation. Where the Packers can expand his role is as a receiver out of the backfield. Montgomery showed his big-play potential on Sunday with a 34-yard reception. It’s just another weapon in the arsenal, which is well stocked with weapons with or without Nelson.
The list is led by rookie Geronimo Allison. Although he wasn’t terribly involved on Sunday, we have seen Allison step up when other players get injured. He did so in the two games Cobb was sidelined, catching eight balls for 157 and a touchdown. Aaron Rodgers obviously trusts Allison and we expect a larger role if Nelson is out. And, we’d be remiss if we didn’t at least mention Jeff Janis, who has provided playoff heroics before.