Jones, Kuhn Vital For Offense

Without James Jones, the Packers would have had a dangerously thin receiver corps. Without John Kuhn, they would have lacked a proven third-down running back. With both re-signed to three-year deals, the offense could be as explosive as ever.

The Green Bay Packers made two vital moves to strengthen their offense on Sunday, reaching three-year deals to bring back free agent receiver James Jones and fullback John Kuhn.

Had Jones departed in free agency, the Packers would have been left with just Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and 36-year-old Donald Driver as proven weapons for quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Had Kuhn followed Brandon Jackson out the door in free agency, Rodgers would not have had a proven third-down pass protector.

"He's an important part of this team. He plays a big role for us," said Rodgers of Jones, who he lobbied for in the media as well as to the Packers' front office. "We need to add him back. We need to add John Kuhn back. Those are two guys out there right now who are important to us. It's not my decision, but I'm definitely pulling for those guys to bring 'em back."

Instead, with Jones and Kuhn back in the fold and tight end Jermichael Finley returning to the lineup after missing most of last season, the Packers' offense could be more dangerous than ever.

Jones is coming off the best statistical year of his four professional seasons, with career highs of 50 catches and 679 yards and a career-high-matching five touchdowns. His 304 yards after the catch ranked third on the team, according to STATS, but his 6.1 yards of YAC per reception topped the receiver corps and ranked seventh among all NFL receivers. His terrific, leaping touchdown catch in the divisional playoff game against Atlanta put the Packers ahead for good.

Certainly, his inconsistent hands are a well-known problem and is quite possibly what scared off the Vikings and Jets, both of whom showed interest earlier in the week. According to STATS, Jones dropped six passes during the regular season. Only Driver (seven) had more on the team, but those blunders were magnified by circumstances. He dropped five passes that likely would have been turned into long touchdowns, including the Eagles in the playoffs and the Steelers in the Super Bowl. His late fumble due to sloppy fundamentals wound up costing the Packers a Week 3 game at Chicago, and he irked the coaches by making no effort to break up a pass that resulted in an interception against Miami a couple weeks later.

Still, the Packers' receiving corps would have been dangerously thin without Jones. While Jennings is one of the best in the league, Nelson's hands have been about as suspect as Jones' over the last couple of years. Even in Saturday night's first practice of training camp, a non-contact workout, Nelson dropped a short crossing route. Driver is coming off his worst season since 2003, and at his age, who knows if he can bounce back and be a major contributor again. Because of the lockout, second-round pick Randall Cobb is behind the eight-ball at a position that rarely generates big numbers as a rookie even under the best of circumstances.

As for fan-favorite Kuhn, he almost certainly will be the third-down back, at least to start the season. Ryan Grant has never shown himself to be a blocker or receiver. Second-year player James Starks and rookie third-round pick Alex Green have identical stories: Their college history suggests they can handle the receiving part of the role but they've yet to show they can pick out a blitzer and stop him in his tracks, like Jackson did so often the last couple of years.

On 107 snaps in which is sole duty was pass protection, Kuhn allowed no sacks, one quarterback hit and three pressures. Grant allowed one pressure on five snaps as a pass blocker and Starks two pressures in 41 snaps.


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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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