GREEN BAY – Headline: Rumor mill says Packers interested in trading WR James Jones
Bottom line: The Houston Chronicle reported this late last week, just like several media outlets have in the past, and I’m still not buying it. My question is this: Why the rush to get Jones out of Green Bay?
These are the facts: Jones is the No. 3 receiver in the NFL’s most potent passing attack. That is a critical role in the Packers’ arsenal, and one that Jones filled admirably in 2011.
Jones caught 38 passes last season, 27 of which went for a first down. Eleven of his 38 receptions went for 20-plus yards. That is an average of two big plays in every three games.
He also caught a career-high seven touchdown passes.
That is significant production in the Packers’ passing game. To suggest Jones simply could be cast aside in favor of second-year pro Randall Cobb is both premature and presumptuous.
Cobb caught 25 passes for one touchdown. Three covered 20-plus yards. All are considerably below Jones’ production. It is likely that Cobb’s numbers will increase with an expanded role, but to think he could haul in 63 passes (Cobb’s 25 plus Jones’ 38) is awful optimistic.
Jones’ value to the Packers’ passing game shouldn’t be undervalued.
Let’s say for conversation’s sake that a team offered a fourth-round pick in return for Jones. I would decline in a heartbeat because it seems unlikely the Packers’ next fourth-round pick is going to play as significant a role on the team as Jones currently does.
A third-round pick would give me pause, but I doubt any team would make such an offer. That is based upon the high value of third-round picks in today’s NFL, and the fact that Jones drew minimal interest during his most recent foray into free agency.
Donald Driver’s expected return for a 14th season leads some to think it suggests Jones is out the door. On the contrary, Driver’s numbers in 2011 were comparable to Jones’. I would argue that both play key roles in Packers’ coach Mike McCarthy’s offense.
They aren’t an either-or proposition.
While much of the offseason focus – and rightly so – has been on revamping the defense, it seems imperative the Packers’ offense remains strong in two areas: pass protection and pass reception.
So long as Aaron Rodgers is upright and he has an ample arsenal the Packers are Super Bowl contenders. Both Jones and Driver are keys.
Headline: McCarthy says he might keep six WRs
Bottom line: I would hope so.
The Packers have the talent at the receiver position to warrant it. They also rely too heavily on the passing attack to cut it too thin there. Whether it is Tori Gurley, Diondre Borel or someone else who stays as the sixth man, it will be a necessary offensive insurance policy.
The Packers’ problem on defense last year wasn’t a lack of depth. It was a lack of quality. The defense doesn’t need more players. It needs better players, a situation that was addressed early and often in the draft.
Keeping six receivers isn’t being gluttonous. It is being prepared.
Also, for those that believe tight end Jermichael Finley should be considered a receiver, and therefore McCarthy would be keeping seven receivers, look at the numbers.
Finley caught 55 passes for eight touchdowns and 44 first downs in 2011. That is significant production already. Even if Finley puts up crazy numbers this season, he can’t make up for Jones’ loss in addition to duplicating his 2011 statistics.
Look for six receivers on the final roster.
Headline: Hawk looking to up production
Bottom line: Glad to hear it. Of all the defensive numbers guaranteed to make you cringe, how about the Packers’ shocking lack of production at linebacker in 2011?
Hawk was part of the problem, and as such, he told a local paper that he has dropped his weight (from a reported 247) to 238 pounds in order to be more effective. Last season, Hawk had 1 ½ sacks, two tackles for a loss and three passes defended. He had zero forced fumbles and no fumble recoveries. He also had way too many tackles beyond the line of scrimmage.
Headline: Packers’ running game a concern
Bottom line: So what’s new?
The Packers rushed for 12 touchdowns last season, a low number until you consider that opponents rushed for 10. Opponents only out-rushed the Packers by 14 yards per game. Packers’ running backs accounted for 89 first downs, compared to 96 for opposing backs, a negligible amount.
The fact is McCarthy is going to go with James Starks as his starter and Alex Green as his third down back with a bit of Brandon Saine and John Kuhn sprinkled into the mix. Cobb may line up more often in the backfield, but remember he had just two carries all of last season.
Starks, Green and Saine – in my opinion – are enough to make it work. The Packers just can’t afford to have any injuries at this position.
Headline: Hargrove still looking at 8-game suspension
Bottom line: It’s time to move on and deal with it. The sooner the Packers are totally committed to surviving the first eight weeks without defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove’s services, the better.
The defensive line was too much the liability last season to leave anything to chance. To wait for Hargrove’s return to be the difference is to be unrealistic. Anything the Packers’ defensive front gets from Hargrove should be considered a bonus.
That way, if he provides fresh legs and renewed energy at the midseason point, it could be a tremendous infusion at a key position. Teams seldom find defensive line help that late in a season, so at least from that optimist’s viewpoint Hargrove’s return is worth anticipating. It’s just that it would be foolish to be counting on it.
Chris Havel is a Packers News expert and national best-selling author. His latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com). Havel also hosts Event USA’ Player Autograph Parties the evening before home games.