Packers welcome back James Jones; Roster set

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Green Bay adds veteran to shore up experience at receiver; Defense still something of an unknown going in


The good news is another weapon has been added.
The unknown is what we will see from the D and special teams, as they are works still in progress going into the regular season.
The Packers re-acquired the veteran receiver after Jones was released by the New York Giants during Labor Day weekend. The 31-year-old played his first seven seasons in Green Bay.
Last year, Jones exited in March so he could sign in free agency with the Oakland Raiders, where he led the Raiders with 73 passes from a QB trio that included Derek Carr, Matt McGloin and Matt Schaub. None of them will be confused with Aaron Rodgers, so his production was remarkable and it’s likely that it will continue now that he is back home in Green Bay.
For the Packers, Jones caught amassed 784 yards and an NFL-best 14 touchdown catches in 2012. He followed that with a respectable 59 catches for 817 yards and three touchdowns in 2013 on a talent-laden Packers’ receiver traffic-jam roster. Jones (6-1, 210) should be the Packers’ No. 3 receiver behind Randall Cobb and Davante Adams going into the regular season opener against the Bears noon Sunday at Soldier Field.
It leaves rookie Ty Montgomery and second-year pro Jeff Janis as the Nos. 4 and 5 receivers. The Packers released Myles White to make room for Jones. For his part Jones is glad to be home.
“It feels like I’ve been gone for 10 years and I’ve only been gone for a year,” Jones told reporters Monday. “A lot of hugs I’ve been giving out here … like I rose from the dead a little bit. But I appreciate it. It’s good to see these guys. They were family to me for seven years so it’s good to be (back) home.”
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is pleased to have Jones.
“There will be new concepts (for Jones to learn); there are every year,” he said. “There will be variations of concepts that existed when (Jones) was here. I don’t think he will have any major learning curve or anything like that. He’ll pretty much focus on the (weekly) game plans. We don’t really have the time to go back and go through all the installs and things like that.”
Jones is confident he can contribute immediately and that begins this Sunday at Chicago.
“Ninety-nine percent of (the offense) is the same,” Jones said. “Aaron has switched a couple of the signals and stuff like that, and me and him will get together and go over some signals for some of the things that are going to happen in the game.”
Jones is realistic in terms of skeptical Packers’ fans who believe his better days are behind him.
“I feel like I’ve got a lot to give,” he said. “I feel like I’m still playing at a high level. I had the most catches of my career last year. I don’t necessarily feel like I’m falling off. But I’ve got a lot of people to prove wrong. If there’s any time to do it, it’s right now with the best quarterback in the league.”
With Jones in the fold, the attention turns away from the NFL’s No. 1 offensive attack and toward defense and special teams.
Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Mike Daniels and others played sparingly in the preseason. All are expected to be ready to go in the season-opener at Chicago.
So the Packers’ No. 1 unit hasn’t really lined up together extensively this preseason. The situation to start the season is further muddled by suspensions to Datone Jones (one game) and Letroy Guion (three games). B.J. Raji, Josh Boyd and Daniels are going to be expected to stop the run on early downs with Matthews and Sam Barrington lining up at inside linebacker and Julius Peppers and Perry on the outside.
In the secondary, Casey Hayward takes over for Tramon Williams at corner opposite Sam Shields while Morgan Burnett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix return at safety.
Montgomery, the rookie from Stanford, added a boost the special teams’ return units but is now working through a pulled hamstring. Also, punter Tim Masthay struggled a bit throughout camp and the preseason, but finished strong. Mason Crosby looks solid.
Hoping we’ll get to see how McCarthy’s altered role might help special teams and the defense take steps forward.
Ultimately, Jones fills the void at least in part created by Jordy Nelson’s season-ending injury. That should help keep the offense clicking and things should only improve as the younger guys get more experience game-by-game. This is still a big talent offense, top to bottom.
Let the games begin!
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and 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 ( Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games.