Over the next two weeks, Acme Packing Company takes a look at each position group on the Green Bay Packers and provides grades and insight on how they performed in the 2015 season. Today, we continue our series by examining the wide receivers..
The Green Bay Packers' wide receivers unit was arguably the most disappointing position group on the team in 2015. After position coach Edgar Bennett was promoted to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt was charged with handling the receivers as well as Aaron Rodgers and company.
Unfortunately, the unit was shorthanded from the start of the season onward, with its best player going down for the season before it even began. One other player was placed on injured reserve, while a pair of others had to deal with nagging injuries all year long, contributing to the unit's struggles. However, adjustments by defenses to press coverage early in the season ended up being something that the receivers could never overcome.
Nelson's season was shut down after the Packers' second preseason game. He suffered a torn ACL on the Heinz Field turf and was put on Injured Reserve shortly thereafter. Packers fans knew his absence would hurt, but it seems that few if any expected it to have as massive a ripple effect as it did.
Like Nelson, Cobb suffered an injury in the preseason as well, spraining his AC joint in his shoulder during the Packers' third preseason game against the Eagles. While that was probably affecting him all season long, Cobb battled drops and an inability to separate from press-man coverage as he posted the lowest yards-per-reception average of any season in his career (10.5) while finishing with his fewest yards per game (51.8) since his rookie season.
It was a massively disappointing season for Adams, who was tabbed as the team's "offseason MVP" by head coach Mike McCarthy. Instead of living up to those expectations, he had persistent ankle issues and caught just 53% of his targets, seeing his yards per reception drop from 11.7 to 9.7 as well. Like Cobb, Adams had a number of untimely drops too, and too often seemed slow in and out of his breaks while running his routes.
Signed after final cut-downs to bolster the receiving corps with Nelson out, Jones picked up where he left off when he departed Green Bay after the 2013 season. Jones only ended up leading the Packers in receiving yardage and touchdowns, and he set a career-high with 17.8 yards per catch as he was a frequent target of Aaron Rodgers' downfield passes on broken plays or after drawing opposing defenders offsides.
Jones' season had a dark side as well, though, as he caught his 50 passes on 99 targets, a catch rate even worse than Adams'.
The Packers' third-round pick in 2015 paid some instant dividends over the first five games of the season, serving as the Packers' fourth receiver and kickoff returner. He provided a little bit of a spark for the offense in those early games by taking some snaps out of the backfield, and showed that he definitely has potential as a slot receiver. Unfortunately for the rookie, his season was cut short by a serious ankle sprain suffered in week six, after which he was unable to return to game action and was eventually placed on Injured Reserve.
After two years of waiting, Packers fans finally saw the Janis Hype Train let out of the station against the Cardinals in the playoffs. Sure, he was a key special teams player, playing extremely well as a gunner on the punt coverage team and breaking a few big kickoff returns after taking over for Montgomery following the rookie's injury. However, it took injuries to four of the five names above him in order to see any meaningful action on offense.
And boy, did he deliver in the crunch, catching two passes for 101 yards and a Hail Mary touchdown on the Packers' final offensive drive of the season. For that game, he put up seven catches total on 11 targets for 147 yards and two scores, a sure sign that he deserves to get more playing time next season.
After missing most of the preseason with a serious concussion, the Wisconsin Badgers product spent the first few weeks of the season toiling on the practice squad. He was finally promoted to the active roster before week five, and was on his way to a nice game against the Lions in week 10 (4 catches, 57 yards) when he took a solid hit and suffered a rib injury. Once he finally returned, he gradually earned more playing time (apparently slower than his quarterback would have liked, too) and played a key role in the playoff game against Arizona. In that game, he saw 12 targets and caught just four of them, but all four moved the chains.
Overall Grade: D+
For the love of Pete, GET OPEN. That was the refrain from Packers fans all year long, and with good reason. Still, every one of the Packers receivers except for Jones and Janis dealt with injuries this season, and it seems that the lack of a dedicated wide receivers coach hindered the unit's ability to adjust to the press-man coverage schemes that defenses threw at them after the first few games of the year.
In all, the receivers' struggles led the Packers' passing game to finish 25th in the league in total yardage, an embarrassing showing for a unit with plenty of raw talent and past production. Frankly, it is terrifying to imagine what this unit would have done if not for Ted Thompson's shrewd decision to bring Jones back into the fold; the team may well have missed out on the playoffs entirely. The receivers' struggles, whether due directly to injury or not, were a major contributing factor to the offense's issues as a whole.