Jordy Nelson, James Jones have big gloves to fill for Packers : Packers Insider

Jordy Nelson, James Jones have big gloves to fill for Packers

November 4, 2010 by  
Filed under News

Nov 4, 2010 ~by Gary D’Amato

~Green Bay — As strange as it may seem without that familiar No. 80 jersey on the field Sunday night, it’s the job of James Jones and Jordy Nelson to make people forget Donald Driver is injured.

It’s a harsh truth in the NFL. When a player goes down – even if he’s the most prolific receiver in Green Bay Packers history – somebody else has to step up.

Driver, who has missed just two starts in the last 5½ seasons, won’t play against the Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau Field. He has struggled with a thigh injury and hasn’t caught a pass the last two weeks.

“We’re going to declare him out for the game,” coach Mike McCarthy said Wednesday. “He is on crutches, and just playing the last two weeks has made it worse.”

It won’t be easy to replace a three-time Pro Bowl selection who plays with the zest of a rookie at age 35, is fearless going over the middle and has 675 career receptions for 9,357 yards and 52 touchdowns.

“It is a little different,” Nelson said. “But that’s the way football goes. And apparently it’s the way this year goes for the Packers. We’re used to people being injured.”

When the Packers go to three-receiver sets against the Cowboys, it will be Greg Jennings, Jones and Nelson. Brett Swain will be the fourth receiver.

Are Jones, who has been up and down this year, and Nelson, who has come on after a slow start, ready for prime time?

James Jones is going to have to be one of the WR's who picks up the slack Sunday night in Donald Driver's absence. Jones has shown before he's ready for primetime. But he's also had a handful of terrible, fatal fumbles in primetime, against the Bears.

“The only thing that changes is we might get a little more opportunity come our way,” Jones said. “But other than that, everything’s the same. We do a lot of rotating as it is during the game. Now we’re just playing with one less guy – a huge guy, a big play-maker.

“So everybody has to step up. It’s not just one guy who has to step up and make plays. Everybody is going to get more opportunities. Guys have to step up and meet that challenge.”

Jones has caught more than four passes in a game just four times in 50 career games (14 starts). Nelson has done it just once in 2½ seasons – last week, when he caught five in a 9-0 victory over the New York Jets – and has never had a 100-yard game.

“Obviously, we know we’re going to get more plays,” Nelson said. “We experienced that last week. (Driver) played some but was out early. I think we’ll be comfortable out there. We’ve just got to go play our game.”

Jones, 6 feet, 1 inch and 208 pounds, has been plagued by inconsistency. His fumble against Chicago on Sept. 27 led to the Bears’ winning points. He was shut out against Miami on Oct. 17 and again against the Jets. The latter game was notable because he dropped a beautifully thrown deep ball from Aaron Rodgers.

But Jones also has had some good moments. Four of his 19 receptions have gone for 30 or more yards, and he is averaging 14.9 yards per catch. He had a 107-yard game against Minnesota on Oct. 24.

“I think James Jones is no different than some of the other players,” McCarthy said. “They have had some really good games and they have had some games that they wish they could have done a little better job in from a fundamental standpoint.”

Jones said he could understand how fans would label him inconsistent.

“Watching the games, that’s definitely how it looks,” he said. “But consistency comes with opportunities. If I go one week with zero balls and the next week I get four balls and the next week I get two balls thrown my way . . .  I mean, it’s not all my fault.

“I can’t throw it to myself. I can’t call the plays for myself. I’ve got to run the plays that are called and hopefully your number gets called. I’ve let a couple plays go. I’m not going to say I’m playing flawlessly. So hopefully I’ll go out there this week and get some more opportunities.”

Nelson, also a big target at 6-3, 217, has caught 16 passes for 186 yards in the last four games after catching 6 for 53 in the first four. Twelve of his 22 receptions have resulted in first downs, but he also has four drops.

He said he hasn’t prepared any differently this week, despite knowing Driver won’t play against the Cowboys.

“When you play football for as many years as we’ve played, you get used to people being injured,” he said. “It’s part of the game. It sucks, but it’s something you’ve got to adapt to. We’re just going through our normal week. We’ve got the game plan in. We’re running our routes and our plays.”

When the Packers go to three receivers, someone will have to take Driver’s spot in the slot.

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