During the Green Bay Packers’ perfect 6-0 start, James Jones averaged 3.5 receptions, 70.7 yards and 1.0 touchdown.
During the Packers’ three-game losing streak, Jones has a total of three receptions for 59 yards and no touchdowns.
What’s happened? How has Jones gone from savior to invisible?
“I don’t know, man. I don’t know,” Jones said. “That’s tough to put your finger on. Once you start catching a couple balls, they start focusing on you a little bit more and you get taken away sometimes. I’m just out there trying to run every route to win. I’ll get more involved here.”
In last week’s loss to Detroit, Jones played 86 of the 87 offensive snaps. The Packers attempted 65 passes — 61 throws, three sacks and a scramble — but Jones was thrown the ball just twice. He dropped both of them, including one in the end zone. For most of the game, he was locked up — and locked down — by the Lions’ top corner, Darius Slay.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers usually throws the ball to whoever has the best matchup. That’s one reason why Jones had two targets against Slay and Davante Adams had 21 against the Lions’ end-of-the-depth-chart corners.
“Just like you’ve seen in years past, we’ve always talked about making the most of your opportunities when they come,” offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett said. “Sometimes coverage dictates that, progression dictates that. When they come, make the most of them. Sometimes they come in the buckets; sometimes it’s here and there. That’s something that’s come up in years past and it’s just part of the process, part of how defenses are trying to take certain guys away.”
The 31-year-old Jones just hasn’t been creating separation with any consistency. Against Denver’s elite secondary, Jones caught one pass (two targets) for 2 yards late in the game. The next week at Carolina, Jones caught two passes (six targets) for 57 yards, including a 36-yarder over star cornerback Josh Norman on a fourth-and-14. That means he’s caught three of the 10 passes thrown his way since the bye.
With the offense struggling, with Jared Abbrederis out for several weeks with injured ribs and with Ty Montgomery aggravating an ankle injury at Thursday’s practice, the Packers might be forced to give Jeff Janis some significant playing time.
Janis, the tallest and fastest receiver on the roster, played 40 snaps in the Week 6 game vs. San Diego, catching two passes (four targets) for 79 yards. Since then, however, he’s played a total of five snaps and didn’t have any passes thrown his way.
Given the state of the receiver corps, the Packers might be forced to play Janis — ready or not.
“Going back to some of my comments from Monday, just got to see him be consistent in the classroom, out on the practice field and he’s done that,” Bennett said. “Now it’s time to apply all of that, all of those experiences, to Sunday.”
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.