22 Days 'Til Camp: Big-Play Nelson

Every day until the start of camp on July 26, we'll provide one juicy nugget to whet your appetite for the return of football. We'd give you more but the CBA forbids two-a-days. Sorry. After three so-so seasons, Jordy Nelson has become one of the NFL's premier big-play receivers

Picking up where we left off in Day 24 of our Training Camp series, where we showed that Jordy Nelson was on pace for one of the greatest receiving seasons in NFL history, the numbers show he is one of the most lethal deep targets in the game.

Who could have seen that coming?

During his first three seasons, Nelson caught 100 passes for 1,268 yards -- an average of 12.7 yards per catch. Other than an 80-yard touchdown in 2010 he had shown almost no explosive ability whatsoever. His longest gain as a rookie was 29 yards, his longest in 2009 was 51 yards.

The last three seasons have been remarkable. In 2011, the year in which Ted Thompson made one of his best decisions by signing Nelson to a contract extension not even a month into the season, Nelson caught 68 passes for 1,263 yards (18.6 average) and 15 touchdowns. Nelson battled injuries in 2012 but caught 49 passes for 745 yards (15.2 average) and seven touchdowns. Last season, even with four quarterbacks starting, Nelson caught 85 passes for 1,314 yards (15.5 average) and eight touchdowns.

That gives him a three-season average of 16.4 yards per reception, which ranks fifth in the league among players who have caught at least 125 passes during that span.

The big jump in production came from a combination of growing opportunities and his comfort level in the offense.

"Probably to become fully comfortable, it would be maybe my third training camp, to where when we went out to practice, they called the play and I knew it right away and didn't have to think about anything," Nelson said. "You get to the point where you're able to focus on the defense, focus on the guy across across from you instead of thinking every little about the play, the adjustment. It just comes natural to you."

Amazingly, given the revolving door at quarterback after Aaron Rodgers sustained a broken collarbone, Nelson had a league-high 19 receptions of at least 25 yards. Since STATS began tracking that figure in 1994, only Calvin Johnson (21 in 2012), Jerry Rice (21 in 1995), Rob Moore (19 in 1997 and Marvin Harrison (19 in 1999) can top that number.

Over the last three seasons, Nelson's 41 receptions of 25-plus yards trails only Calvin Johnson's 48 and Demaryius Thomas' 42.

Nelson did some of his best work well beyond the line of scrimmage last season. According to league data, Nelson's average catch came 10.66 yards down the field. That ranked 17th in the league.

According to ProFootballFocus.com, Nelson caught 13-of-19 passes thrown 20-plus yards down the field. That 68.4 percent catch rate led the league among receivers getting at least 12 long-ball chances. He ranked sixth in the league with 13 catches, eighth with 439 yards and had no drops on those deep throws.

What does he do for an encore, with a big payday on the horizon?

As with just about everything he has done on the field the past three seasons, Nelson makes it sound so easy.

"I keep my goals pretty simple," he said. "It's just doing my job, and when you get the opportunity make the most of it."

RankNameTeam25-Yard Catches
1Jordy NelsonGB19
2Demaryius ThomasDen17
3DeSean JacksonPhi16
4tJosh GordonCle15
4tAlshon JefferyChi15
6Pierre GarconWas14
7tJimmy GrahamNO13
7tTorrey SmithBal13
9tDoug BaldwinSea12
9tAntonio BrownPit12
9tDez BryantDal12
9tEric DeckerDen12
9tA.J. GreenCin12
9tAndre JohnsonHou12

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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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