Driver's injury raises big concerns

Experience is shallow behind Packers' Pro Bowl receiver; acquiring Moss would have helped

The worst thing that could happen to the Green Bay Packers' wide receivers unit happened Thursday against Jacksonville, when Pro Bowler Donald Driver went down with a sprained foot, which will keep him out indefinitely.

OK, it's not the worst thing. Driver could've ripped up his knee, knocking him out for the season.

Nonetheless, Driver's injury all of sudden shines the spotlight even brighter on a unit which for now only scares Brett Favre.

The starting receivers, until Driver gets healthy, are second-year player Greg Jennings and third-round pick James Jones. Don't get me wrong, I like both receivers. Jennings, I think, can be a good No. 2 in this league for years, while Jones might have the same or even greater potential.

However, Jones has never played a regular season game in the NFL and has made mistakes this preseason. We have not seen what Jones will do, because he hasn't played a game which counts. With Driver ahead of both, each can assume lesser roles, which is best for them. They're not ready to be a go-to guy.

Driver's injury makes them both go-to guys. This is what concerned me when the Packers passed on Randy Moss this offseason. As long as Driver remains healthy, the wide receiver unit will be solid. But if Driver misses any time, the passing game will be greatly affected because of a lack of proven players.

Moss' addition, which could've been had before the NFL draft via trade for a mid-round pick, would've made this sort of situation a concern, but not a panic situation.

The latest news on Driver is encouraging, but if he is slowed to start the season, the passing game becomes a problem. Driver's presence on the field allows Jennings and Jones to run free, and run free of the other team's top cornerback.

That's huge, considering when the Packers use a three-receiver set one of these players is getting a nickel back. Now with Driver sidelined, they get starters.

Also, Driver's presence was a security blanket for Favre, who would go to his Pro Bowler at any crucial moment. Who is that now?

If Moss was in the green and gold, Favre could now look his way a lot, and Moss would get the chance to prove to everybody he's still as good as he was when he ran by Packers cornerbacks year after year in Minnesota. Then Jennings and Jones could remain in their roles as support players. Without Driver, the support players are Ruvell Martin, Carlyle Holiday and maybe David Clowney. Some suggest the Packers released Robert Ferguson too soon, but based on his history, he would've gotten banged up soon and been sitting on the sideline anyway.

Driver's injury easily is one of the top five things the Packers could not afford to have happen this preseason. Based on Driver's past, injuries normally don't sideline him long. But if this is the time Driver misses more than a game or two, the receiving corps will unfairly be put in a bad position.

What could have helped in this situation is a reliable running game. However, there's nothing reliable about the run right now. Rookie Brandon Jackson is still feeling his way, while Vernand Morency has missed most of training camp with a knee injury.

The passing game was supposed to set up the run, but what sets up what now? Does each part of the offense set up the punting game?

Jennings and Jones have displayed the ability to play in this league, but neither has proven himself as a go-to receiver. It's more than likely Driver will not play in the preseason finale, giving the J&J Boys (Jennings and Jones) a chance to work in new positions.

Driver's injury appears to be minor, which is a good thing, giving each young player a chance to play in different roles. But if they remain in their new positions past preseason, GM Ted Thompson's decision to not take a chance on Moss could burn the Packers.

Let's see, Moss and burn the Packers. We've seen that combination before, but this time it could've been prevented.

Moss is a controversial player, but have we heard anything bad this camp in New England concerning Moss? No. He's with a quarterback and a team he respects.

Because of that, Moss wants to prove himself again. With Favre and the Packers, Moss would've taken the same road. Yes, seeing Moss in green and gold would've been comparable to seeing Jim McMahon in a Packers uniform. It would've made our stomachs turn.

Notwithstanding, once these one-time villains begin making plays for your team, you forget about the past. Moss' addition to the Packers would've given Green Bay two Pro Bowl-caliber receivers for Favre.

Now, with Driver banged up, what's there for Favre? Two young players who may be pressed into bigger roles than they should be in. Like it or not, that's the situation for now.

Doug Ritchay

Doug Ritchay is a frequent contributor to and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at

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