Nelson, Cobb allow Packers to overcome Jones’ departure

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Nelson, Cobb allow Packers to overcome Jones’ departure

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In an earlier post, it was noted that retaining James Jones should be one of the Packers’ top priorities this offseason. The three-pronged receiving corps of Jones, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb would have given the Packers one of the best wide receiver trios in the entire NFL.

But free agency came and saw Jones depart Green Bay for the Oakland Raiders. It cannot be expected for a team to retain every one of their free agents, and a variety of factors led to Jones signing elsewhere.

Keeping Jones would have further bolstered the Packers’ passing attack, but the current receiving corps is more than able to compensate for his departure. With Nelson’s veteran leadership, Cobb’s electrifying playmaking ability and Jarrett Boykin’s emergence in 2013, Green Bay’s offense should not skip a beat in 2014.

First, Jordy Nelson is perhaps one of the most underrated wide receivers in the NFL. Some may view Nelson as an average receiver, but his production and consistency place him in the top tier of the league’s wide receivers.

In 2013, Nelson finished in the top 20 in every notable receiving category, including tenth in the league in receiving yards and 16th in touchdowns. But these statistics do not tell the whole story behind Nelson’s level of play.

First, he played half the season with a combination of Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn. When Aaron Rodgers is on the field, his numbers should be expected to be even better. He also rarely drops the ball when it is thrown at him; his career drop percentage places him in the top five among active receivers, ahead of superstars like Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green.

There are also aspects of Nelson’s game that don’t appear on the stat sheet. Few receivers in the NFL are able to make acrobatic catches (especially along the sideline) the way Nelson does. He is also able to line up at different spots, and he has excelled in both the slot and out wide. This versatility makes him even more dangerous.

Nelson may not be as big or as fast as some of the NFL’s other receivers, but it is undeniable that he can no longer be referred to as average. He has solidified his spot among the league’s best receivers.

Meanwhile, Randall Cobb gives Green Bay a second option that will help in the absence of James Jones. Though he only played in six games in 2013, he recorded four touchdowns and over four hundred yards. His speed and exceptional hands make him a constant threat to score whenever he touches the ball.

Like Nelson, there is more to Cobb than just his receiving stats. The Packers have occasionally used him as a running back, and Cobb has responded by averaging 13 yards per carry when he is given the ball. Cobb also played quarterback in college, which gives him a stronger sense of what Rodgers wants him to do as a receiver.

The game against the Bears that sent the Packers to the playoffs this past season exemplifies Cobb’s route-running awareness. Cobb only had two receptions in that game, but both of them were for touchdowns. The game-winning touchdown came on a play where Cobb abandoned his original route and ran a new one based on what he saw in the defense.

Both Cobb and Nelson are excellent at playing the wide receiver position, and both seem to go largely under the radar. Their playmaking abilities make them both strong receivers, and if both remain healthy in 2014 they can easily reach 1,000 yards each.

Losing Jones was still a loss for the Packers, but it was not a loss that will drastically harm their level of play. With Nelson and Cobb at receiver, Aaron Rodgers has the weapons to continue to put up monster numbers. Their statistics on paper and their play on the field show that together they are one of the best duos in the NFL.

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