Position Series: Receivers In-Depth

Greg Jennings is climbing up the Packers' career record list and headlines a superlative group that the team is getting at a bargain-basement rate. If Jennings is the leader of the pack, who will be 2012's breakout performer and sleeper? Who's on the bubble?

Leader of the Pack

Greg Jennings: Jordy Nelson had the eye-popping numbers as last year's breakout star, but Jennings is the tried-and-true veteran who's produced season after season after season.

Last season, he caught 67 passes for 949 yards and nine touchdowns, even while missing the final three games with a knee sprain. He was on pace for 1,168 receiving yards, which would have given him a team-record four consecutive seasons of at least 1,100 yards.

"Outstanding," was receivers coach Edgar Bennett's one-word description.

Jennings has 6,171 yards in six years. Keep that pace up over 10 years, and Jennings would have 10,285 yards. For perspective, it's taken Donald Driver 13 years to post his club-record 10,060 yards. Jennings ranks eighth in team history in receiving yards. A typical performance would move him past Boyd Dowler (6,918), Antonio Freeman (6,651) and Max McGee (6,346) into fifth place.

Breakout performer

Randall Cobb: Cobb caught 25 passes for 375 yards and one touchdown as a rookie. Among receivers with 25 catches, he ranked No. 1 with an 80.6 catch percentage and third with 7.72 yards after the catch per catch, according to ProFootballFocus.com. So elusive and strong with the ball, Cobb forced six missed tackles. His 2.16 yards per pass route trailed only Nelson's 2.98 on the team. Long the domain of Driver, Cobb led the team with a catch rate of 85.7 percent when in the slot.

"Wow. Wow. Wow," Bennett said. "You know what? It's going to be fun to watch, fun to watch that young player continue to develop and become the player he's capable of becoming."

Sleeper

James Jones: Jones joked to reporters that he'd get some T-shirts reading "Respect" — because he doesn't get any.

He's right.

Yes, Jones drops too many passes. Last season, of the 95 receivers on the field for 25 percent of their team's snaps, Jones ranked 79th with a drop rate of 13.64 (six drops on 44 "catchable" passes), according to ProFootballFocus.com. On the other hand, he was tied for 18th with seven touchdowns and, among receivers with at least 25 receptions, was fourth with 7.68 yards after the catch per catch and ninth with a catch percentage of 70.4. He's powerful with the ball in his hands and has a sneaky second gear.

Bennett sees bigger and better things for the sixth-year pro.

"Out of all our guys coming back, you talk about a guy who's made a significant jump in OTAs," Bennett said. "He had a hell of an offseason. He really did. He made a ton of plays, was very consistent. It's almost like he just picked up and kept getting better and better every day he stepped on the practice field. He practiced with purpose. He did a phenomenal job. He targeted, ‘I want to do this better, I want to do that.'"

On the bubble

Donald Driver: It's not the Packers' way to throw money down the drain, so when they guaranteed $1.2 million of Driver's new $2.3 million deal, it probably locked the 36-year-old into a 14th season with the team. Nonetheless, with the young receivers waiting in the wings, Driver isn't a lock to make the roster. And even if he does make the team, he'll probably see his playing time cut after playing 48.7 percent of the snaps last season. While Cobb forced six missed tackles, Driver had just one despite catching 12 more passes.

Last season, Driver finished with 37 catches for 445 yards. If he matches those numbers this season, he'd pass Hall of Famers James Lofton, Charlie Joiner, Michael Irvin and Marshall Faulk to move into 25th place in receptions.

Noteworthy number

38: The Packers' receivers scored a whopping 38 touchdowns last season, 11 more than second-place Dallas and 13 more than third-place Detroit. That obliterated the team-record 26 touchdowns set by the 1994 team. Sterling Sharpe was a one-man band with 18 touchdowns that season. Nelson had similar production with 15 touchdowns but he got plenty of help. Jennings added nine, followed by Jones' seven, Driver's six and Cobb's one. Among receiver corps only, the Packers were the only team with three in the top 18 in touchdown catches: Nelson (second), Jennings (tie, fourth) and Jones (tie, 18th).

Extra point

Not only are the Packers' receivers good, but they're cheap. To provide the Lions some cap relief, Calvin Johnson signed a deal that's worth $132 million over eight years, with $60 million guaranteed. He counts about $13 million under this year's cap (rather than $22 million). In the final year of his deal, Jennings' cap figure is $7,347,500. Nelson (extension) and Jones (free agent) got new deals last year with 2012 cap figures of $3,825,000 and $3,100,000, respectively, and Driver's revamped deal cut his cap figure to $2,300,000. Cobb's cap figure is $729,414. All told, that's $17,301,914.


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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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