GREEN BAY – It may not seem like it, but this is James Jones’ seventh year with the Green Bay Packers, and the 29-year-old wide receiver the sole holdover from the Brett Favre era.
Randall Cobb is in his third year, and while it seems like forever ago, he caught just 25 passes as a rookie in 2011 – good for seventh on the team that season.
There are no surprises on game day for any in quartet when the stat sheet is barren, or brimming. There is no room for No. 1.
"We know it coming in," Nelson said. "It’s been that way for years and you learn quick that’s how it’s going to be when you come to this team. We’re very deep. We’re very good."
Donald Driver was the last Packers receiver to catch 90 passes in a season, and that was in Mike McCarthy’s first campaign as head coach back in 2006 with offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski.
Joe Philbin came in as the new offensive coordinator 2007 and in his five year tenure with McCarthy only Driver (2007) and Greg Jennings (2008) even caught 80 passes. Then, Cobb caught 80 last year with Tom Clements replacing Philbin at the coordinator spot.
Since 2007, exactly five different Packers receivers have caught at least 30 passes.
Nelson has caught as few as 22 balls (2009) and as many as 68 (2011). Jones has caught as few as 20 (2008) to as many as 64 (last year). On the other hand, Cobb has become more involved each of the last two seasons while, in the three seasons he’s been healthy enough to start 10 or more games, Finley has caught at least 55 passes.
"We know that going into it," Nelson said. "We talk about it in the room all the time – make the most of your opportunity.
"It’s fun to watch. It’s fun to be a part of. That’s when we’re at our best, is when everyone’s out there making plays and defense, I mean, I don’t know what you want them to do."
Since no player is "No. 1" they have to look out for number one by going all out once the ball is in hand. Rarely do you see a Packers receiver catch a pass and not at least attempt to make the first defender miss.
It’s why Finley tip-toed the sideline and pirouetted around Washington defenders on Sunday, fighting for extra yards after completion; why Jones cut back up the field to initiate contact with multiple defenders after a long gain.
"If you let the first guy tackle you, you get no respect when you come to the sideline – I don’t care if it’s a 70-yarder or what not," Jones said. "You get no respect, so you’ve got to make somebody miss to get chips from your teammates."
It’s also why you saw Cobb seem to break a rib stretching for the goal line in Week 1 against San Francisco, why Jones exposed the ball diving for the pylon on Sunday against Washington (a play that resulted in a fumble and a turnover).
"You’ve got to make the most of your opportunities," Nelson said. "That’s how we preach it every day in the meeting rooms is if you get one ball, 10 balls, you’ve got to do something with whatever you get. So, that’s how we approach it every day, even in practice. It’s how we know it’s going to be so that’s how we handle it."
Sunday captured the imagination because of how prolific that balance was:
- Rodgers tied a franchise record with 480 yards through the air
- Jones set career highs in catches (11) and yards (178)
- Cobb had 128 yards
- Finley caught a touchdown
- Nelson hauled in two scores
Oh, and running back James Starks caught two balls and tight end Andrew Quarless added a catch, too.
"The sky is the limit, especially in the receiver room," Jones said. "We pride ourselves on making every play. (Position coach) ‘EB’ (Edgar Bennett) instills that in us and we’ve got a bunch of guys that can make plays.
"It’s a good thing to have, man, when you’ve got a lot of weapons because you can’t really slow us down."
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.