Packers’ WR Corps Could Reverse Fortunes

A position group that practically ran out of players for the playoffs will be well-stocked for the upcoming season.

Oddly, the most disappointing position on the Green Bay Packers’ roster for most of this season could be its deepest position for 2016.

Without Jordy Nelson, the Packers’ passing game went from striving for greatness to struggling for mediocrity.

— Randall Cobb went from 91 receptions for 1,287 yards (14.1 average) and 12 touchdowns to 79 receptions for 829 yards (10.5 average) and six touchdowns. He scored just twice in the final 13 regular-season games.

— Davante Adams failed to live up to the preseason hype. His production increased, if only barely, in his second season, as he went from 38 receptions for 446 yards (11.7 average) and three touchdowns to 50 receptions for 483 yards (9.7 average) and one touchdown. Out of 139 players who caught at least 32 passes, he ranked 134th in yards after the catch per catch.

Without the expected production from the Packers’ projected top three receivers, the passing game suffered a staggering decrease in production. In 2014, Aaron Rodgers won his second MVP award behind a 112.2 passer rating. In 2015, his rating tumbled by nearly 20 points to 92.7. He failed to hit even 100 in the final 10 regular-season games along with both playoff contests. His completion percentage went from 65.6 to 60.7, and his yards per attempt crashed from 8.43 to 6.68.

Put it all together and Green Bay finished tied for 25th in passing yards. Since the arrival of Brett Favre and Mike Holmgren in 1992, the Packers finished outside the top 10 in passing just twice.

As quickly as the passing-game production plummeted in 2015, it could soar in 2016.

First and foremost, Nelson will be back. He had six touchdown receptions of 59-plus yards in 2014. The entire team had only two during the 2015 regular season, with James Jones’ 65-yard touchdown vs. St. Louis being the only one by a wide receiver.

“I think Jordy will come back better than ever,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “Just like you knew he would, he’s so far ahead with the rehab. He looks great. There’s no reason to think he won’t be good as new.”

Nelson’s return should give Cobb some much-needed room to operate. Cobb had five games of 100-plus receiving yards and 12 catches of 25-plus yards last season. This year, he had just one 100-yard game and six catches of 25-plus yards. Half of his touchdowns came in the Week 3 win over Kansas City.

Adams will be pushed for playing time, and maybe even a roster spot, next season. In 2015, the coaches stuck with Adams because they had nowhere else to turn, especially after rookie Ty Montgomery went down in Week 6 with an ankle injury. Compared to Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis, Adams was a proven vet with 100-yard games vs. New England and Dallas in 2014.

There will be plenty of options for the upcoming season, though. Montgomery (15 receptions for 136 yards and one touchdown in six games) will be back after showing flashes of his versatility, strength and quickness. Abbrederis (nine catches for 111 yards in the regular season) has chemistry with Rodgers. Janis (seven catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns in the playoff loss to Arizona) showed flashes of his immense physical talent.

Along with those six, the Packers could bring back Jones, the free agent who will turn 32 in March. Plus, the Packers could add one or more in a draft that lacks a lot of high-end talent but offers plenty of depth.

“When you put it all together and you see that group battling, tremendous competition,” offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett said. “That’s what you want. You have competition like that, it raises the level in that room, and that’s a big important part of it. When you have guys competing on a daily basis, pushing each other to be the best they can possibly be, that helps the team overall, and I think it could potentially be that type of situation next year with all of those guys battling for play time.”

Bill Huber is publisher of 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 www.twitter.com/PackerReport.


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