Greg Jennings smiled at the cameras and made his pitch to head coach Mike McCarthy.
"Putting the pressure on Mike to use it. So, Mike, hope you're watching this. Big Five," Jennings said in, well, typical grinning, laughing Jennings fashion.
For the first time all season, the Packers figure to have their full complement of wide receivers on Sunday at Tennessee. With James Jones hopefully recovered from a knee injury sustained during the third preseason game, the Packers are in position to take their Big Five formation out of mothballs for their matchup with the undefeated Titans.
With Brett Favre throwing the ball to Donald Driver, Jennings, Jones, Ruvell Martin and Koren Robinson last season, the Big Five was a big pain to opposing defenses. With Aaron Rodgers making such good decisions in place of Favre and rookie Jordy Nelson at least as good as the creaky-kneed Robinson, there's no reason to think the Big Five won't be as effective.
"It always causes matchup problems," Jennings said. "I think the first few times we used it last year, [the Vikings] had to call timeout. It always causes some type of defensive adjustment. Hopefully, we use it. We're definitely looking forward to it."
The advantage for an offense is obvious. In a league in which most teams don't have two quality cornerbacks, how on earth can a team handle the Packers' five-receiver sets?
"In my opinion, we've got two No. 1 [receivers] and three No. 2s — two guys who could be No. 1 anywhere, and three guys who could be No. 2 anywhere," Rodgers said. "You have a No. 2 receiver on a third or fourth corner or a safety, that's a mismatch."
"That's exactly our mind-set," Jennings said. "Besides, really, from our ballclub, there aren't too many teams that have defensive backs that can really match up and cause a problem the way we feel like we can cause a problem toward the defense."
The Big Five also can help alleviate the double coverage Jennings has started to see. He was held to three catches for 32 yards against the Colts, who focused on taking away the deep ball to Jennings. With five receivers, Jennings said it's more difficult for a defense to focus on just one man.
"We're all over the field," Jennings said. "It's almost like they're either going to try to take away one side of the field or the other. You can't really pinpoint one guy."
The Big Five provides the added benefit of adding some juice to the offense. Driver, Jennings, Jones and Martin are an inseparable quartet in the locker room — poor Nelson is the odd man out in the daily game of spades, though he did deliver lunch to his receiving mates the other day.
"We love to look in the huddle and see all five of us," Jones said. "After you be around each other so long, everybody gets excited for everybody. It will be awesome to look in the huddle and see five receivers. That would just top it off. As close as our group is, to be out on the field at the same time, it will probably give us a little momentum."
Jones' return is key. After finishing third among all NFL rookies with 47 catches, Jones' second season has been disappointing. He was inactive in Week 1 against Minnesota, caught four passes and a touchdown in Week 2 at Detroit, aggravated the knee by landing on it wrong early in Week 3 against Dallas, sat out Week 4 against Tampa Bay, caught one pass before being sidelined in Week 5 against Atlanta, and then missed the next two games.
Jones thinks he's healthy and says the knee has been strengthened, but he admits he's not sure.
"We've just got to hope now that when I fall on it, I don't get that pain," Jones said. "We know falling on it's going to come. We've just got to hope that I fall and I don't get that pain, and if I do that I'll know my knee is back in shape."
McCarthy, while providing no hints as to whether the Big Five will make its season debut this week, said the powerful Jones will be a welcome addition to his arsenal of weapons.
"He's another playmaker," McCarthy said. "I thought James played very well for a rookie last year and his contributions. He clearly was probably having one of the better training camps, where you really saw the development from year one to year two. It's unfortunate he got hurt in the preseason game up there in Denver, but it's good to have him back. He gives us another big, physical receiver."
Of course, there are some chinks in the Big Five's armor. Obviously, with no running back, there no longer is a run-pass option. And if the defense attacks with a blitz, the ball must be thrown almost immediately. Then again, a blitz leaves the secondary shorthanded, so a slipped tackle can turn into a big play, especially with the receivers' renowned run-after-the-catch skills.
"As a receiver, you always want to see all five guys out there," Jennings said. "No knocks on Donald Lee and those guys (the other tight ends), but that five-wide looks nice when we watch film the next day."
Bill Huber is the Lead Analyst for Packer Report and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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