Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings gave the Green Bay Packers an unstoppable receiving duo last season. Even with Jennings missing three games late in the year with a sprained knee, they combined for 2,212 receiving yards and a whopping 24 touchdowns.
They haven't been nearly as productive this season.
Nelson missed the Jacksonville game with an injured hamstring and returned for a handful of snaps against Arizona but turned an ankle. He's been good but hardly great, with 40 catches for 532 yards and five touchdowns. His per-catch average has fallen from 18.6 to 13.3. Jennings has played about nine quarters and probably will miss another couple of games after abdominal surgery.
As a rookie, Cobb caught 25 passes with one touchdown. In just nine games this season, he's caught 45 passes with six touchdowns. Over the last six games, Cobb is tied for seventh with 34 receptions and is tied for third with all of six of his touchdowns.
Jones had an excellent season last year with a career-high seven touchdowns. He's already got eight this year – most of those have been of the highlight-reel variety.
Last year, the receiving group as a whole combined for 38 touchdowns and 24 drops. This year, they're on pace for 39 touchdowns and 30 drops. (The drop numbers here and throughout the story are from ProFootballFocus.com.)
-- Randall Cobb: Cobb (45 catches, 500 yards, 11.1-yard average, six touchdowns) is a one-man gang. With 556 kickoff-return yards, 500 receiving yards, 211 punt-return yards and 96 rushing yards, Cobb's piled up 1,363 all-purpose yards. That puts him on pace for 2,423, which would eclipse the team-record 2,250 yards by Ahman Green in 2003. That's the only 2,000-yard season in franchise history. He's third in catch percentage (78.9) and fifth in yards after the catch (254). The only knock is he's tied for fourth with seven drops. Grade: A-minus.
-- Jordy Nelson: Nelson (40 catches, 532 yards, 13.3 average, five touchdowns) is second in the league with 20 touchdown catches since the start of last season. Before the injury, Nelson and quarterback Aaron Rodgers were operating like a well-oiled machine, with 17 completions (in 21 targeted passes), 243 yards and four touchdowns. Nelson's dropped six passes after flubbing only two all of last season. Grade: B.
-- James Jones: Despite an inconsistent career with as many drops as big plays, Rodgers went to bat for Jones when he was a free agent following the Super Bowl season. It turns out, Rodgers was right on the money. Jones (40 catches, 462 yards, 11.6 average, eight touchdowns) has been outstanding. He's tied with Cincinnati's A.J. Green for the league lead in touchdown receptions and has only one drop. Grade: A-minus.
-- Greg Jennings: Jennings (12 catches, 78 yards, 6.5 average, one touchdown) was one of the NFL's most-feared big-play artists over the last several seasons but this year has been a dud. Even when he was healthy, the numbers are startling: In 90 career games, Jennings had 41 games of at least 78 yards, and his long gain this year has gone for just 13. This is no way to head into the offseason in hopes of collecting one more giant payday. Grade: C-minus.
-- Donald Driver: Judging by training camp and the preseason, Driver appeared primed for a pretty good farewell season. Instead, he's been a forgotten man. Even now, he's played fewer snaps (123) than Jennings (136). The franchise's career leader in receptions and yards has caught seven passes for 65 yards and a touchdown. He's dropped three – none bigger than what should have been a touchdown at Seattle. Grade: D.
-- Jarrett Boykin: Boykin (three catches, 16 yards, 5.3 average) got 20-plus snaps in each of the last two games but was a nonfactor. Grade: D.
Number to note
22: Touchdown receptions by the Packers' receivers (Jones, 8; Cobb, 6; Nelson, 5; Driver, 2; Jennings, 1). That's No. 1 in the league by a mile, with Denver a distant second with 14 and Tampa Bay and Cincinnati next with 12.
Offensive coordinator Tom Clements, on Cobb: We assumed (he'd be this good). We were hoping he would be. These plays we're running now with him in the backfield and moving him around, we've been working on them since the spring, so it was by design. We felt he had the type of ability that if we could get the ball in his hands. I've said it a couple of times now, he can make things happen."
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.