Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Jordy Nelson Is Out For The Season And Who's Going To Replace Him

The word from WR Jordy Nelson and his doctors is bad, and his 2015 season is already over.
If I had one complaint about the offense last season; it was a bit top heavy. But there's also no reason to complain that QB Aaron Rodgers had three elite receivers to work with (Nelson, Cobb, and Lacy). Below is the statistical breakdown from Football Outsiders and it includes almost everyone who caught a pass in 2014:
DYAR Passes Rank
Nelson 482 151 2
Cobb 479 127 4
Adams 19 66 63
Boykin -38 12 n/a
Quarless 24 46 22
Rodgers -8 30 34
Lacy 112 55 4
Starks -20 29 46
Using their stat DYAR as a guide, the Packers now have to replace about 40% of their receiving production. Most of that is expected to go to WR Davante Adams but there's no guarantee he'll stop dropping passes and become a consistent 300 DYAR weapon. Maybe they can turn Lacy into a Le'veon Bell type threat as a receiver. They could get more from the tight end position, but last season those two were more of a safety valve than a downfield threat, and the Packers will still need a dump-off option for Rodgers in 2015.

I think the answer is going to be that everyone will have to step up. I'm looking back at the 2012 season, when Nelson and WR Greg Jennings were lost for a combined 13 games due to injuries, and here's the statistical receiving breakdown from Football Outsiders:
DYAR Passes Rank
Cobb 300 104 12
Jones 287 98 13
Nelson 257 73 17
Jennings 38 62 64
Driver 13 13 n/a
Finley 84 88 10
Crabtree 69 12 n/a
D.J. Williams -32 15 n/a
Alex Green -20 29 39
Kuhn 60 18 n/a
C. Benson 45 15 n/a
The Packers got some sneaky good production out of four players (Driver, Crabtree, Kuhn and Benson) who caught just over one pass per game. They didn't have anyone like that in 2014, and maybe Kuhn can do it again in 2015. Whoever wins the battle for the No. 3 tight end might be asked to be like Tom Crabtree. TE Justin Perillo seemed to be the No. 2 tight end during their first preseason game against the Patriots, but he missed the Steelers game with a concussion and TE Kennard Bachman didn't impress against the Steelers.

Maybe WR Ty Montgomery will surprise me, or WR Jeff Janis, but I look at what Davante Adams did in 2014 and find it hard to believe either one of them could be better as a rookie than Adams. Cobb excelled as a rookie in 2011 but he's the exception, not the rule. WR Myles White has his moments in the preseason, along with some drops, and seems like an unlikely savior.

Other than WR Koren Robinson in 2007, I can't think of a veteran receiver that the Packers even tried to plug into Mike McCarthy's offense, and Robinson wasn't a success. James Jones is mentioned now as a trade target, if the Giants do release or trade him, but the Packers drafted three receivers in 2014 to replace him. Plus the Giants wouldn't gain much in trade and Jones has gotten off to a strong start with them. I can't see any other veteran free agent fit, and there should be some demand when teams like the Bears and Panthers are also trying to replace injured wide receivers.

So it's a tough situation for Green Bay. Instead of relying on Nelson to get open against whatever tight coverage faced him, the Packers are probably going to have to get creative with different personnel and spreading the ball around to many receivers.

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