Out of all the positional groups on the Green Bay roster, I find the receiving corps the most difficult to grade. On paper, you have one of the most talented groups of receivers of the past decade. The question is: did they live up to all the hype? With Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Jermichael Finley and Donald Driver all in the same offense, the expectations were high.
In 2011, it was no longer Greg Jennings and Donald Driver that defensive coordinators lost sleep over. Rather, it was Jennings and new versatile threat Jordy Nelson that gave defensive backs problems. Nelson became a master of the wide receiver screen and routinely made cheating safeties pay downfield. Nelson’s breakout season was the all-around best of any Packers receiver in 2011.
Elite Packer Wide Receivers
The two household names of the bunch, Jennings and Driver, experienced very different seasons as Driver was more or less phased out of the offense. Jennings, on the other hand, had his usual elite year, recording just a couple noticeable drops. Driver’s alleged heir, Randall Cobb, was forced to split snaps with Double-D, but made the most of them. There is no doubt in my mind that Cobb will see the field on a regular basis next season.
James Jones received about as much playing time as fans expected, but was, in all honesty, quite impressive in those snaps. Jones had a monster Week 5 performance in Atlanta and wasn’t the same liability in clutch situations as he was in 2010. Most of the heat that Jones took in 2010 shifted onto other individuals in the receiving corps, namely Jermichael Finley.
If Finley caught anything in 2011, it was a bad case of the drops. In his contract year, Finley proved to be a highly unreliable target for Aaron Rodgers. Finley still showed upside, though, as he torched the Bears in Week 3 and improved as a blocker. For such a large group, the tight ends behind Finley made relatively little noise in 2011, though Andrew Quarless developed as a blocker before getting hurt.
The major criticisms of the receiving corps in 2011 revolved around an uncharacteristically high number of dropped passes, failure to rally without Jennings in December and the inability to get separation from defensive backs on several different occasions. In the Packers’ two losses this season, opposing secondaries simply blanketed Packers receivers. While the group remains the most talented in the NFL, it’s clear that they have some work to do to wear that crown with pride.