The Green Bay Packers’ wide receivers corps, after an abysmal and injury plagued 2015, bounced back nicely in 2016, although it wasn't always a smooth road.
Jordy Nelson returned after missing all of last season with an ACL injury, but struggled to reestablish the chemistry he had with quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Davante Adams struggled again with catching the ball. Randall Cobb was still MIA. It looked the same anemic Packers offense that haunted the team in 2015 through the season's first ten weeks.
Then the table started to walk, then jog, and finally the table ran.
Nelson and Rodgers were back making magic. Cobb once again emerged as a threat and Adams finally realized the potential he showed as a rookie.
The offense was back in business, and the wide receivers were a big reason why.
Regular season: 97 catches, 1,257 yards, 14 TDs
Playoffs: 7 catches, 80 yards, 1 TD
As mentioned above, Nelson had a sluggish start to the 2016 season, but with the Packers' back to the wall at 4-6 he and Rodgers finally got back in the groove and once again became the most lethal QB/WR tandem in the league.
In fact, 47% of Nelson's 1,257 receiving yards came during the team's six-game winning streak to close out the season. He also caught 5 of his 14 touchdowns during that stretch.
Nelson suffered broken ribs in the wild card win over the Giants and missed the divisional game against the Cowboys. He did suit up against the Falcons in the NFC Championship with Kevlar armor that would have made Batman jealous. He deserves major props for toughing it out, but it really didn't help as the Packers were blown out of the water.
It took Nelson time to get his feet back under him, but in the end he had an absolutely stellar year leading the NFL in touchdown receptions. He and Rodgers also went into the Packers record book for most touchdowns between a quarterback and wide receiver.
Regular season: 60 catches, 610 yards, 4 TDs
Playoffs: 18 catches, 260 yards, 3 TDs
After a rough 2015, Cobb was hoping to return to the form that earned him a brand spanking new contract before the start of last season. With Nelson back in the fold, theory was that Cobb would ease back into a WR2 role and not have to carry the bulk of the load.
Instead, he struggled with injuries all year with an ankle injury limiting him to zero catches in week 15 against the Bears and keeping him out of the final two regular season games. Aside from the 2013 season where he played only six games thanks to a broken leg, this was Cobb's worst regular season statistically since his rookie year in 2011.
Thankfully, he picked the right time to come back to life. The Packers were struggling mightily against the New York Giants in the wild card game, until Rodgers connected with Cobb on a beautiful Hail Mary pass at the end of the first half to give Green Bay a 14-6 lead. That was Cobb's first of three touchdowns on the day in a 38-13 Green Bay rout.
While it wasn't the season Cobb or many fans expected, it's hard to argue when the player comes up big in the postseason. That said, the regular season wasn't easy for Cobb and he really needs to stay healthy to justify the contract the Packers gave him before the 2015 season.
Regular season: 75 catches, 997 yards, 12 touchdowns
Playoffs: 16 catches, 217 yards, 3 touchdowns
It's not exactly debatable that Adams had a bad year in 2015. Hobbled by injuries and a bad case of the drops, it was a sophomore season that Adams would surely like to forget especially given the potential he showed as a rookie in 2014.
2016 began as more of the same for Adams who again struggled to hang onto the ball early. Unlike in 2015, he was able to bounce back nicely and nearly finished with his first career 1,000 yard season. He also finished two touchdown catches behind Nelson, which tied Adams for second in the league.
More importantly, Adams regained the trust of Rodgers and was healthy enough that he experienced the rebound season everyone hoped he would. Hopefully he can now string together two consistent seasons and earn himself a nice second contract from the Packers.
Regular season: 44 catches, 348 yards; 77 carries, 457 yards (5.9 Y/C), 3 touchdowns
Playoffs: 10 catches, 77 yards; 25 carries, 91 yards (3.6 Y/C), 2 touchdowns
Thanks to injuries to the Packers' backfield and significant depth at the receiver position, Montgomery was forced into action as a running back. Coach Mike McCarthy began the switch at the end of training camp but made Montgomery a full-time halfback midway through the season; he will be going into the offseason as a running back, new number and all. We addressed the bulk of his 2016 season in the running back breakdown on Tuesday.
As far as his receiving performance in 2016, Montgomery really didn't do a whole lot but that was to be expected given his unique situation. He has proven his versatility though, and you can bet that is something McCarthy and the Packers plan to utilize that to its full potential in 2017.
Regular season: 12 catches 202 yards, 2 TDs
Playoffs: 5 catches, 65 yards
The undrafted rookie free agent was only active for 10 regular season games, but he came up big when it mattered most.
In the Week 17 NFC North-deciding battle with the Lions, Allison had four catches for 91 yards and a touchdown. This was crucial, considering both Cobb and Adams were dealing with injuries.
While he won't crack the top three on the depth chart, Allison could prove to be a useful backup in 2017. He could be a Jarrett Boykin-type player though his arrest for marijuana possession could complicate things with a suspension at the start of the season, should the league deem him worthy of one.
Regular season: 11 catches, 93 yards, 1 TD
Playoffs: 0 catches
Could this be the end of the folk hero?
The hype around Janis the past two seasons has bordered on the preposterous and thanks to his Hail Mary catch against the Cardinals in the playoffs last season, it's only gotten louder.
Thankfully, McCarthy wasn't having any of it.
Janis saw very little action on offense, becoming more of a gimmick player on jet sweep plays. His speed is undeniable but his lack of ability to run anything other than a Go route has hindered his ability as a wide receiver.
His value on special teams however is still decent. While he didn't return any kicks for a touchdown, he is a decent gunner and uses his speed best in those situations. This is the only way Janis likely makes the roster in 2017, but who knows what diamonds in the rough will find in the draft?
It's about 50/50 as to whether Janis is on the roster in Week 1.
Regular season: 3 catches, 24 yards, one TD
Playoffs: 0 catches
Davis was drafted in the fifth round out of California to basically be a kick returner. He did score one touchdown this season against the Falcons in Week 8, but he seldom saw any action on offense after that.
He will likely challenge Janis' spot on the roster and could very well supplant him should he continue to develop as a receiver.
Overall Grade: B+
Remember, this is a whole season grade and not just a grade for the final six regular season games and the playoffs.
The receivers, like the offense as a whole, were shaky at the beginning of the season. They showed some flashes but couldn't put full games together, especially during the mid season four game losing streak.
The last six games plus the playoffs were spectacular and should give fans a healthy dose of optimism heading into the offseason. Nelson is most definitely not washed up, Adams is for real, and Cobb finally seemed to figure things out late in the season.
If the Packers can stay healthy and start fast in 2017, there's no reason to believe the production we saw late in 2016 can carry over. After all Green Bay still has Rodgers and that gives them a chance by default.
If his surrounding cast can play like they did when the team "ran the table" to close out this season, then the sky's the limit.