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Packers WR Jordy Nelson Chasing ‘Unrealistic’ Expectations

Is Jordy Nelson back? Nelson's not sure how you measure it. But he's improved his production in each of his first three games.

If Jordy Nelson were Twitter, he’d be trending.

After missing all of last season with a torn ACL, Nelson has been more productive in each of the Green Bay Packers’ first three games.

In Week 1 at Jacksonville, he caught six passes for just 32 yards and one touchdown. In Week 2 at Minnesota, he caught five passes for 73 yards and one touchdown. In Week 3 at home against Detroit, he caught six passes for 101 yards and two touchdowns.

So, does Nelson feel like he’s where he wants to be?

“I don’t know what we’re actually looking to get to, to be honest with you,” he said on Wednesday. “And I don’t think there’s a way to judge it. Obviously, a lot of people will look at numbers. I think numbers can sway both ways. I think they can show too much, I think they can show not enough. Personally, the way I feel throughout a game, the way I feel on Monday when we come in after a game, how the body recovers by when we practice on Wednesday, I think that’s what a lot of it is. It’s gotten better and, to be honest with you, I wish we didn’t have a bye week.”

Nelson’s slow start to the season was hardly surprising. After missing last season with an injured right knee, he missed almost all of training camp with tendinitis in his left knee. It was that “hiccup” that led to the Packers keeping Nelson on the sideline for the entire preseason.

“Frankly, I think we made it difficult on Jordy,” coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday. “I think expectations on him were unrealistic, for him to come out of the preseason and think he’s going to go down to Jacksonville and perform. I think he’s exceeded the reality that I had for him. I think he’s done a great job. Football players have to play. They have to play in games, they have to play in live action. It’s not really about them. It’s more about who they’re playing with, the timing, all the things that go into it. We took the safe, high road bringing him back, and it worked. That’s a good thing.

“I think if you watched the Detroit game, you can see a lot of things that you’re accustomed to seeing when Jordy plays, so I think he’s doing a heck of a job for the schedule he’s on coming back. We took as much risk out of it as we could, and he’s benefited from that. But it was a big challenge for him. I think a lot of the expectations that were put on him were unrealistic and probably not fair, but he’s definitely met the challenge. That’s a real credit to Jordy.”

Nelson disagreed with McCarthy’s “we made it difficult on Jordy” line, saying, “my body made it difficult” when his left knee acted up. Regardless, Nelson reached his stated goal by being on the field for the season-opening game at Jacksonville. Being on the field is one thing. Making plays is quite another.

Against Detroit, Nelson looked quite a bit like Vintage Jordy with a 49-yard catch-and-run to set up one touchdown and a 17-yard touchdown when he beat top cornerback Darius Slay up the field. In the first two games, according to our analysis, Nelson had 36 yards after the catch on 11 receptions, an average of 3.3. Against the Lions, Nelson had 48 YAC on his six receptions, an average of 8.0.

Maybe, as McCarthy said, the outside expectations for Nelson were “unrealistic.” Nonetheless, even with the bye week limiting Nelson to three games, he’s tied for the NFL lead with four touchdowns.

“I think it’s helped that this is my ninth year. I’m very experienced in what needs to be done week in and week out,” Nelson said. “I’ve never allowed anyone outside of myself, to be honest with you, to put too much pressure. My goal, or whatever you want to say every week, is just to do my job. You can’t do anything besides what you’re supposed to do, and then do it to the best of my ability. If I handle that, then hopefully we’re making plays, hopefully I’m being successful and we’re being successful as an offense. But if I’m not doing that, then I have an issue with it. But if I’m going out there running a route the way it’s supposed to be ran, then that’s all I can handle. Now, if the ball comes my way, it does. If it doesn’t, then hopefully everyone else is making plays — that’s usually the case. For me, I break it down and make it as simple as possible, because you can’t overthink it. You put too much on that, ‘I need 1,400 yards this year and 14 (touchdowns). I mean, you can’t predict that if you came in healthy, so, there’s no reason to add that extra stress or anything to it. So to me, everyone in this locker room just has to do their job to the best of their ability, and we’ll be in a situation here where we want to be.”

Bill Huber is publisher of and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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