Packers’ Receiver Weaknesses Have Been Exposed
In the midst of a funk over the loss to the Minnesota Vikings, I don’t want to make too much out of a game utterly dominated by injuries to Green Bay Packers players. Still, along with the other five games played to date, some clear and disturbing patterns are emerging.
I’ve been saying for some time that the Packers do not have any depth at receiver. That still applies, but to it we need to add that the Packers’ starting threesome is not currently very awesome either.
On the year Nelson has 19 catches in 28 throws, for 230 yards, a catch average of 12.1 yards and six touchdowns. The latter stat is the only impressive one. Even taking into account some injury problems (including no catches vs. Atlanta), these numbers are considerably down from those of his past several seasons.
Jordy’s high point on the year was the first game, when he had seven catches for 79 yards. Omitting his injury years of 2012 and 2015, in 2011 Nelson averaged 78.9 yards per game; in 2013, it was 82.1; in 2014, it was 94.9; and in 2016 it was still 78.6. For the current season (and omitting the Falcons’ game, when he left early with an injury) he’s averaging 46 yards per game.
I don’t mean to scare fans, but I’m not sure if Nelson has another 100-yard receiving game in him. In the good old days of 2016, he had five such games, and three more of more than 90 yards. In 2014, he had seven games of between 107 and 209 yards.
Until this year, Nelson frequently got behind defenders for long gains – often 50 yards or more. The only time you even saw such patterns run this year was when Aaron Rodgers drew a defender offside and had a free play.
Nelson is still a great target for getting first downs and in the red zone, but he isn’t getting the separation from defenders that we once took for granted.
As it becomes apparent he’s no longer a credible deep threat, he will be played tighter and his separation abilities will erode further.
The aging process has apparently started to affect Nelson’s talents sooner than I expected. At 32, he’s starting to look like I would have expected him to look at 34 or even 35.
The trouble with being a team’s WR1 and viewed as the top receiving threat, is that you usually are defended by the opponent’s top cornerback or double-teamed. Against Minnesota, safety Harrison Smith shadowed Adams instead of Nelson. Adams managed to catch five balls for 54 yards. As usual, however, it required a lot of throws, 10, to get those five completions. This has always been Adams’ pattern. As Davante assumes the top receiver label – this year or next – his low productivity or efficiency is bothersome. Adams proved he can get free for the back-shoulder catch with the best of them, and his slant route across the middle has been productive, but he simply can’t make all the plays, which is what is expected of a WR1.
I have no explanation for why Cobb is in the midst of his third mediocre season in a row. His yards per reception is way down from his 2011-2014 numbers, and probably as a result, the number of times he’s being targeted has been dropping too. Cobb pretty much ranges between five and 10 yards downfield these days. It certainly looks like Cobb will need to take a pay cut if he’s to sign a new contract with the Packers at year’s end. On the other hand, the Packers are so in need of dependable and productive veterans, they might not dare to let him go elsewhere.
Can we declare the Martellus Bennett experiment a dud? Through six games, Marty has 22 catches for 216 yards, or 36 yards per game. And no touchdowns – and several drops at inopportune times. I’ll give him two more games before abandoning hope. Unless Rodgers’ backup and Bennett can get on the same page, the Packers might as well have stuck with Richard Rodgers.
Do you see a bright future in Green Bay for Geronimo Allison, Trevor Davis, or Jeff Janis? Me neither. That leaves… no one… unless you want to consider practice squad receivers Michael Clark or DeAngelo Yancey – and the Packers might have to before the end of the season.
A Rodgers-less Pass Attack
The Green Bay aerial attack was not clicking on all cylinders even with Rodgers on the field. We got a glimpse of what’s in store for Brett Hundley, or whoever the team unearths to be the new starting QB, against the Vikings. They teed off on him, daring him to move the ball in the air against their fine secondary before their pass rushers reached him.
Even if the Packers are able to someday have a healthy group of pass blockers, you can bet almost every team is going to harass the next quarterback mercilessly. With teams aware of the lack of experience at QB, it’s going to be doubly tough to resurrect a capable passing game.
Unless… the Packers are able to pull off a trick like the Vikings did last year: acquire a capable veteran thrower like Sam Bradford. Even if that could somehow happen, it would likely to be a very costly proposition. Right now, the team with the most QB depth is Minnesota – and there won’t be any trading done there. That’s right, there’s Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater is coming off the PUP list, and Case Keenum now has put together three decent outings on the still-young season.