One of the more unexpected stories of this past season has been the rise of James Jones. For the past month Jones has been one of the most consistent targets for Aaron Rodgers, and now that Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson are out with injuries for the time being he is essential to keeping the offense moving. He has come a long way from the unwanted free agent who took a discount deal with the Packers last year or the most rumored Packer to be on the trading block this past offseason.
If we were able to go back in time and ask all those Packer fans clamoring to trade Jones to any WR needy team you would get a list of a few reasons. Such lists would include: that Packers have younger and more talented players in Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel, that having Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Donald Driver is enough…especially with Jermichael Finley ready for a breakout season, and most importantly that Jones has mental lapses that stop him from tapping into his true potential.
This last reason seemed incurable to the average fan, and it was the most maddening. The best example of this sort of streaky presence for Jones would be the 2010 post season run for the Packers. Jones had some critical drops in Philadelphia…including one that would of helped put the game away early for the Packers. He followed this up with a command performance in Atlanta, making big catches and tip toeing along the sidelines for big games. Then he disappeared in Chicago and dropped important passes in the Super Bowl. Not good. This pattern followed him throughout 2011 and he seemed to slowly disappear from the Packers’ passing attack.
But now those troubles seem to be behind him. The solution? It seems that Jones talks to himself during the game, reminding him to stay focused. Although the image of Jones walking around the field saying "Focus" seems a bit too much like Bill Murray reminding himself to take baby steps or Dory telling us to just keep swimming…it’s hard to argue how effective this has been.
The Packers are going to need Jones to keep his focus up too. Right now it starting to look like Jordy Nelson may miss another game before the bye. If he does Jones becomes the best target for Aaron Rodgers to throw the ball downfield to on Sunday, and may be the Packers best hope to putting points on the board against a struggling Arizona Cardinal defense.