Jennings and Nelson: Incredible to Invisible

Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson have done almost nothing after a parade of big plays and touchdowns last season. Jennings has 78 yards this season, a total he surpassed 41 times in his career. Nelson, meanwhile, has seen his per-catch average fall by 6.0 yards.

In a sense, the Green Bay Packers' offense had nowhere to go but down. It's hard to go up, after all, from ranking second in NFL history in scoring.

"It's never the same from year to year," coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday, echoing what he's said going back to training camp.

That's especially true in the passing game. With the Packers rampaging to 35.0 points per game last season, Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson combined for 135 receptions, 2,212 yards and 24 touchdowns, even with Jennings missing the final three games of the season with a knee sprain.

Their production has been practically nonexistent this season.

Jennings, who's missed two games and most of a third, has 12 catches for merely 78 yards. Going deeper inside the numbers, he's averaging 6.5 yards per reception and is averaging just 3.0 yards after the catch, according to ProFootballFocus.com.

Jennings has been one of the league's premier deep threats. Over the previous five seasons, Jennings led the NFL with 30 receptions of 40-plus yards and was tied for the lead with 58 receptions of 25-plus yards. He entered the season with 49 career touchdowns. Those averaged 30.7 yards, with 18 of them covering at least 40 yards.

This year, his long gain is just 13 yards.

Nelson picked up the slack for Jennings last season en route to one of the great receiving seasons in franchise history. In Week 16 against Chicago and Week 17 against Detroit, Nelson rang up 15 catches for 277 yards and five touchdowns — including scores from 36, 55 and 58 yards. In five games this season, Nelson has 23 catches for 289 yards and one touchdown. His long gain is just 28 yards. He's gone from 18.6 yards per catch last season — good for second in the NFL — to 12.6. He was held to two catches by Indianapolis, and both of those came in the first quarter. For three quarters, Nelson incredibly didn't have a single catch and was targeted only three times, with one of those netting 30 yards for pass interference.

"It's just the way it worked," offensive coordinator Tom Clements said. "They didn't do anything specifically to take him away as far as double-covering or anything like that. They just played their coverages and it's just the way this game went that. I don't know how many times he was targeted, but there were some targets to him early on the first series, had a chance up top, weren't able to connect on it. We went to him early, but they didn't really do anything to take him away. It's just the way the flow of the game went."

The consistent production just has not been there. Nelson caught 73.1 percent of targeted passes last season. This year, his rate is 63.9 percent. Jennings' catch rate has tumbled from 69.8 percent to 57.1 percent.

Meanwhile, the lone bright spot has been second-year player Randall Cobb. He's caught 22 passes for 244 yards and one touchdown — almost matching last year's 25 catches for 375 yards and one touchdown. His 7.7 yards after the catch per catch is 3.4 yards better than the second-best receiver, Nelson. He's caught 22 of 25 passes, a rate of 88.0 percent.

Cobb, however, has played in 145 snaps, a shockingly low number given his productivity. By contrast, Nelson has played in 315, James Jones in 291, the injury-plagued Jennings in 136 and forgotten veteran Donald Driver in just 45.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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