Sunday, August 23, 2015

Who Will Replace Jordy Nelson's Production for Potent Packer Offense?

Nobody wants to see their number one receiving target go down, let alone on a non-contact play, on a crappy field, in a meaningless exhibition. Nonetheless, here we are Packer fans. All indications are Jordy Nelson suffered a season ending knee injury during the second preseason game on Sunday. This is bad news no matter how deeply shaded your green and gold colored glasses are.

However, the Packers are better positioned than most to replace a vital cog in the offensive machine. Remember Aaron Rodgers is still taking snaps, and he's dangerous enough to make any journeyman receiver into a Pro Bowler, right Greg Jennings? Whoops - too soon??.

Here are the top five players that will be counted on to absorb some of the firepower Nelson leaves on the field should he really be done for the season as feared:

1. Ty Montgomery - It is a fool's errand to count too heavily on rookies to make major contributions in the NFL. Typically this would hold true for Montgomery as well. Unfortunately he will be thrust into a more vital role than expected. The rookie was well groomed playing at Stanford in a pro-friendly offense. Formerly under Jim Harbaugh and now under David Shaw, Stanford has placed receivers less heralded in college(Doug Baldwin) than Montgomery into major contributing roles on NFL teams.
It also helps that Montgomery started training camp as one of the most talked about players. Nearly every practice he was making plays  in a variety of ways. Even before Nelson's injury, Montgomery had shown enough to earn playing time. However, there is a big difference between making one or two plays a game and being counted on every down like Nelson. But Montgomery has the skill and pedigree that a seamless transition is not out of the question.

2. Richard Rodgers - The Packers offense has missed a big red zone target since Jermichael Finley. Many scoffed at the Rodgers pick after he was somewhat unexpectedly taken in the third round, well ahead of many projections. Even last year as a rookie, Rodgers never really stood out or made any jaw dropping plays. This season however, he is starting to make some strides. McCarthy noted his improvement earlier in camp and seems prime for more snaps in lieu of Andrew Quarless's looming legal trouble.
In the very same Pittsburgh game that derailed Jordy's season, Rodgers had two impressive catches extending his hands away from his body to secure the ball. The second effort resulted in a 21 yard touchdown reception. Rodgers will never be the deep threat that Nelson posed, but his 6'4" frame will be a challenge to deal with in the red zone.

3. Eddie Lacy - A bit of a cheat, but whatever. Unlike the Packer's offense in 2011 when top receiving target Greg Jennings missed five games due to injury, the 2015 offense has a pretty effective running game. Lacy's ability to grind out yards and punish defenders will force opposing defenses to honor the threat of the run game and open up the passing game for everyone.
Not only that, but Lacy has been improving as a pass catch out of the backfield. Entering last season Lacy joked he wanted to be called "Moss" due to his amazing hands. He then went on to back it up with 42 catches for 427 yards and four touchdowns in the 2014 season. Like Rodgers, Lacy will not be blowing by safeties with the long ball. The screen game combined with old fashioned smash mouth running game will keep Lacy as an effective and more versatile piece of the Packers offense. After all, what defender wants to take on Lacy gaining a full head of steam on a check down?

4. Jeff Janis - Janis has been a fan favorite and media darling since a few big plays last preseason. Janis has the size and speed coveted at the receiver position. However, aside from those training camp spurts, Janis has yet to show he can be a reliable target for Rodgers. 
Unlike the previous two entries on this list though, Janis most certainly can provide the deep threat the Packers lack without Nelson. Don't expect him to turn into a Pro Bowler overnight. But with the new emphasis on defensive pass interference, it wouldn't be a shock to see Janis get one or two opportunities a game to get behind the defense and let the majesty that is Aaron Rodgers deep ball do the rest. 

5. Jared Abbrederis - Already a fan favorite due to his time at the University of Wisconsin, Abbrederis showed promise before battling an ACL injury of his own last season, and a concussion at the beginning of camp this year. This is the  most far fetched solution, but would ultimately be the most entertaining. Imagine Abbrederis being cleared the day after Nelson's injury and coming to the rescue. Not only would the media lap up the Wisconsin born and raised rescues Packers season stories, but the JSComments Twitter feed might actually collapse on itself.
Come on everyone, let's make this happen!

5(for real this time) - Randall Cobb and Davante Adams

Hey everyone, remember these guys?

I'll admit, I'm not quite ready to miss out on these play action bootlegs of beauty between Rodgers and Nelson this season:

Or these masterful back shoulder fade stops:

Part of me hopes the exercise of writing this article will be a reverse jinx of sorts to the MRI Nelson will receive in Green Bay on Monday. As foolish as those superstitions are, part of sports fandom is talking yourself into anything to support your team.
After all, if we can get behind Jeff Janis or Jared Abbrederis as bona fide Jordy Nelson substitutes, perhaps we can talk ourselves into Jordy Nelson never being injured to begin with?
Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

-Neal Olson (@olewr7)

Follow us on Twitter (@WISportsBlog) for up to date news on the Packers, Brewers, Badgers, Bucks, and Golden Eagles. We feature live in-game commentary, breaking news, rumors, previews, and post game discussion. Follow the entire writing team on Twitter: @AndrewVrchota@jheldred@JoeP_Norton@olewr7@Stevie2Westside, and@10iskristin

1 comment: