Training Camp Preview: Unsettled at Receiver

With training camp potentially set to start on schedule on the 30th, we continue our position series with the wide receivers. While Greg Jennings is an established star, there are plenty of questions about the pecking order behind him.

The Green Bay Packers' wide receiver corps is among the best in the NFL. They get deep. They fight for extra yardage. They get open. They make clutch grabs.

Still, there are some troublesome concerns with training camp hopefully on course to open on July 30.

Greg Jennings is the sure thing, a player whose total skill-set is so much more than his individual parts. Somehow for a player who lacks elite height and speed, he is statistically the NFL's most prolific deep threat. He tore up the league after tight end Jermichael Finley's season-ending knee injury, and in the Packers' six-game dash to the championship, he recorded 142 yards against the Giants, 97 yards against the Bears, 101 yards against the Falcons, 130 yards against the Bears and two touchdowns in the Super Bowl against the Steelers.


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Beyond that, though, is where there are questions.

What does Donald Driver have left in the tank? Driver, who turned 36 in the days before the Super Bowl, went from six consecutive 1,000-yard seasons to an injury-plagued campaign of 51 catches, 565 yards and a team-high seven drops out of 86 targeted passes. Driver has cap values of $5 million in each of the next two seasons. He'll likely be back but it's no longer a sure thing.

Can Jordy Nelson ever be more than a complementary part? He finished with career highs of 45 catches and 582 yards, then added 21 catches in the final three playoff games. However, he dropped four of the 64 passes thrown his way in the regular season, according to STATS, and four more in the Super Bowl. He's fumbled his way out of the kickoff return job the last two years, and there are those around the league who question his toughness.

Will James Jones depart in free agency, and is he even worth keeping? Jones finished with career highs of 50 catches and 679 yards. He matched his career high with five touchdowns, then added two more with terrific scoring grabs in the playoffs. However, he dropped six of the 87 targeted passes in the regular season, and combined with flubs in the playoffs against Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, coughed up five potential touchdowns. He also led the team with three fumbles.

How much can second-round pick Randall Cobb contribute? Receiver isn't just running routes. It's running the right routes given the situation, with the wrong adjustment against a blitz leading to a sack or critical turnover. Cobb, a former quarterback, is a smart player, but without the offseason practices to get acclimated to the offense, how much can he be expected to contribute?

If Jones re-signs, the five-man corps will be Jennings, Driver, Jones, Nelson and Cobb. If Jones departs, Brett Swain and Chastin West are the front-runners for the No. 5 spot. The only other receiver on the roster is Antonio Robinson, an undrafted free agent from Nicholls State who spent training camp with the Bears and was signed to the practice squad on Jan. 20. The Packers will add at least two or three undrafted rookies to the mix.

There's also a new sheriff in town, with Edgar Bennett moving from running backs to replace departed receivers coach Jimmy Robinson. Bennett was a stickler for fundamentals with his running backs so it'll be interesting to see if his approach will cut down on the drops.


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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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