Nah, no pressure.
Jordy Nelson’s season-ending knee injury has set off a domino effect. Without one of the NFL’s premier receivers, more will be demanded from each receiver who winds up making the Green Bay Packers’ final roster.
It starts at the top, where Randall Cobb has gone from the co-No. 1 receiver to the clear-cut No. 1 receiver. At the start of last season, Cobb admittedly buckled under the pressure of pursuing a long-term contract extension. Through three weeks, Cobb had caught 14 passes for just 126 yards. After a Week 3 loss at Detroit, a bitterly disappointed Cobb proclaimed again and again that he needed to do more.
And he did.
Cobb caught seven passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns in Week 4 at Chicago, setting off a Pro Bowl season in which he wound up with 91 catches for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns. From the slot, his 75 receptions for 1,067 yards and 12 touchdowns dominated the league, as he finished with 11 more receptions, 232 more yards and four more touchdowns than the second-place slot totals, according to ProFootballFocus.com.
Cobb vows he won’t try to do too much this time.
“I don’t think that is an issue,” he said. “I pressed last year in the beginning of the season, and I’m not going to do that again. There’s no need for that. Aaron’s going to do his job, he’s going to get us the ball. It’s my job when I get those opportunities to make things happen.”
For Davante Adams, he’ll go from the No. 3 receiver and playing third-fiddle to Nelson and Cobb to becoming a go-to target as the only other receiver on the roster who has done anything in the NFL. When given opportunities last season, Adams generally delivered. That includes seven receptions for 117 yards and a critical touchdown in the playoff win over Dallas last season.
That’s a lot on the plate for a receiver who’s still only 22, but he said he won’t have to adjust his mind-set to prepare for an expanded role.
“Honestly, no, because the way I was going into the season mentally, and the work that I put in and the confidence I had in our room as a whole and myself, I knew that I was going to be able to do things regardless. Obviously, I would have never wanted anything to happen to one of the other receivers for me to have more production, because I was confident in my abilities before, but obviously with Jordy going down, more opportunities are going to come my way. So it’s just a matter of capitalizing, which I was already planning on doing.”
Until Sunday, Ty Montgomery and Jeff Janis were battling to be the No. 4 receiver. Now, one of them will be the No. 3 receiver. What does that mean? During the final nine games of last season, Jarrett Boykin played a total of 79 snaps as the fourth receiver while Adams played 504. That’s a difference of 47.2 snaps per game. Considering Cobb is so good in the slot in three-receiver sets, the Packers aren’t likely to deviate too much from their personnel groupings.
Janis, who is the only receiver on the roster with Nelson’s combination of size and speed, has five catches (nine targets) for 56 yards with one touchdown and one drop in the preseason. He called it a “huge opportunity” but didn’t see it as pressure.
“Not really,” he said. “Everybody in our whole room has to step up. That’s a huge blow to our room, but everybody in our whole room has to step up and start making more plays.”
At Tuesday’s practice, it was Montgomery who took the first snap in Nelson’s spot. The third-round rookie has had an excellent training camp. He’s played most of his snaps from the slot, though he was primarily an outside receiver at Stanford. In the preseason, he’s caught two passes (four targets) for 28 yards with no touchdowns or drops.
“That’s a big hypothetical. A big might. I don’t know,” Montgomery said of there being pressure in what could be a greatly expanded role. “No pressure, though. I can’t let that affect the way I think about things and the way I do things because pressure’s external, it’s not internal. I can’t be worried about external things right now.”
Nelson caught 98 passes for 1,519 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. That production won’t be replaced by just one player. It will be up to the group to fill that void. That’s an unspoken fact, the players said. No team meeting was necessary to drive that point home.
“Guys have just got to step up. Plain and simple,” Montgomery said. “Nothing else to be said. It just has to be done.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.