As I mentioned in my most recent FanPost, the last few weeks have been a fundamental transition for me. Essentially, I've gone from quasi-adult to full-fledged adult, solely within the month of May. You can anticipate such a change for years in advance, but it really can't prepare for the massive learning curve and little margin for error that comes with it.
What does this have to do with football? I'll tell you; the transition I just went through is eerily similar to the transition facing the Packers' receiving corps.
The first player that should come to mind is Greg Jennings. In his rookie season, Jennings was inconsistent at best, but showed flashes of his big play ability, including a 75-yard TD against Detroit and a 46-yard TD against St. Louis. 2007 was his coming out party, where Jennings put up 12 touchdowns in 13 games. His third season was easily his best, with a stat line of 80 catches for nearly 1300 yards and 9 TD's.
It's obvious that Jennings has usurped Driver's throne as Green Bay's top receiver. We've been talking about this happening since last season. Jennings is too consistent, has too much explosiveness, runs his routes too well, and creates too many big plays to not be the number one option.
This brings us to Double D himself. Driver is an inspirational NFL story, coming into the league as a 7th round pick, toiled in relative obscurity for a few years, then burst onto the scene as one of the league's most productive pass catchers despite being branded as no better than a number two receiver. Driver's 11-year career includes six 1000-yard seasons, all since 2002. Not only that, but he's a fan favorite and bonafide local hero.
Here's the catch; Driver is 34 years old. With 11 NFL seasons under his belt, his fantastic discipline, work ethic, and physical training can only delay the aging process, not reverse it. Sooner or later, he will lose a step, and there's no telling when that will happen. And don't think he doesn't know this, ad evidenced by his recent absence from OTA's due to contractual issues. Just because Driver's a nice guy doesn't mean he doesn't want to get paid while he still can. I don't blame him, as long as he shows up for minicamp.
So what's to be done? One starting receiver is on the way up while the other is on the way down, leaving one obvious solution: find Driver's replacement. Green Bay's current roster has three strong candidates for this job already. Jordy Nelson, last year's top Packer draft pick, James Jones, a third rounder from the year before, and Ruvell Martin, the tall undrafted Saginaw Valley State product.
Between these three players, there's no clear-cut solution. Jordy Nelson was productive last year, but that was his only year in the league. James Jones has proven to be valuable to the passing game when he's on the field, but injuries seem to derail him just as he gets going. Ruvell Martin might be the most athletic of this trio, but he simply can't produce consistently enough to merit more than 5-10 plays per game.
A dark horse in this race is undrafted rookie Jamarko Simmons. A college teammate of Jennings' at WMU, Simmons has better size than his more famous counterpart. Additionally, he's proved his ability by breaking Jennings' records at Western Michigan. Could Simmons follow his teammate's footsteps from small-time college player to NFL producer? Or will one of the more-established trip of Jones, Martin, and Nelson step up to fill the role?