Packers can overcome Jordy Nelson injury

The season-ending injury to the NFL's No. 7-ranked WR hurts, but Green Bay still has a lot of talent on offense.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/Brian Blanco, File)

(AP Photo/Brian Blanco, File)

Packers can overcome Jordy Nelson injury

Early in the Packers-Steelers preseason game Sunday, Jordy Nelson sustained a knee injury that is now being reported as a season-ending torn ACL.

If Nelson misses the entire season, that is obviously a huge blow to the Packers’ offense. With a PFF rating of 87, Nelson ranked as the seventh-best wide receiver in the league heading into the season. The news isn’t as devastating to the Packers as it would be to another team, however, because of how many high-quality players they have on offense.

Green Bay still has slot receiver Randall Cobb, who actually ranked higher than Nelson with a PFF rating of 88.5 (fourth-highest among wide receivers). With Nelson out, Cobb should easily lead the team in targets, and given how efficient he is as a route-runner, pass-catcher and runner after the catch, that should lead to big raw numbers.

The player who will have the most pressure on him is second-year player Davante Adams, who will become the Packers’ top outside wide receiver. Over the last three games of the 2014 season he was seeing 90 percent of snaps, so it will mainly be his targets that will see an increase in Nelson’s absence, rather than his time on the field.

In the regular season last year, Adams was unimpressive on a per-play basis. This was largely because he was only targeted on 13.3 percent of his routes, which was second-lowest in the NFL among 90 qualifying receivers. Aaron Rodgers had an NFL passer rating of 92.5 when throwing to Adams. This is right around league average, and much lower than the 128.2 passer rating Rodgers had when throwing to Nelson.

When Nelson went down versus Pittsburgh, Jeff Janis took over the other outside receiver spot. The second-year receiver only saw 15 regular-season snaps as a rookie. He could very well match that total by the end of the first quarter of the Packers’ Week 1 game. Third-round rookie Ty Montgomery might also see an increase in playing time compared to what was expected. He is a big-time threat after the catch, having forced 17 missed tackles on his catches in college, which was tied for fourth-best among draft eligible Power 5 wide receivers.

Outside of these receivers, Green Bay still has one of the best running backs in the league in Eddie Lacy, one of the best offensive lines, and the best QB in the league in Rodgers. The Packers are still a Super Bowl contender, and will still be able to function at a high level on offense — just not at as high of a level as they could before Nelson’s injury.

| Director of Analytics

Nathan has been with Pro Football Focus since 2010. He is the Director of Analytics, an NFL analyst, and a fantasy writer.

  • Sam Doohan

    It’s really sad to see a guy as talented as Nelson go down before the regular season. I agree the Packers can go on to have a successful season; Rodgers is the best in the league and he’ll stay that good no matter who he’s throwing to but that doesn’t mean missing Nelson won’t be a blow. I don’t think this hurts their playoff chances but I’d say it hurts their superbowl chances. I wouldn’t want to be playing the Hawks in January missing Nelson.

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  • A Roger Pedaghter Avon

    Total Bummer. What a pro – this blows if it’s true.

    This article is spot on. We’ll see if Adams is the play in play out threat Rodgers says he can be. And we’ll see if Jeff Janis is the second coming of Nelson or the second coming of Bill Schroeder.

    Bummer about Abbredaris. I doubt he’d play outside, but it seems like he’s never going to get healthy.

    I expect a breakout season from Richard Rodgers to the tune of 60 catches 12 TD’s book it. He’s got superb talent. As does Adams. I’ll predict 80-1050-8 for Adams if Nelson is out with some key drops Janis 30-600-4 Montgomery 30-500-2

    The Pack will miss Jordy dearly unless Adams is better than advertised – grade him number seven, I’d take him 4. Dude is a gamer who maximized every ounce of ability he could with calm reserve. Best body language of any football player I’ve seen – he struts like a caged panther

  • Rudy

    Packers are done without Nelson.

    • PackMan27

      They still have the best QB in the league, a top 5 RB, a top 5 WR, and a top 5 O line (according to PFF). Stay positive!

    • SeattleSteve

      That team won a Superbowl with half their roster on IR.
      Took the fight to the Niners in back to back years in spite of being ravaged with injuries…

      They’ll do alright.

  • Gregg Rice

    From a lions fan, that shit sucks. We are dealing with a string of injuries amongst our stars too, they really need to shorten preseason down. 4 games is too much. Hope he’s OK, u guys got Adams though, and the best wr development program in the NFL. U could throw NE and Pitts in there, but u guys been doing this since the nineties. And no insult to injury, but I believe Jordy is a good wr in an elite system with an elite qb. Adams is an elite athlete with the potential to be an elite wr in yout elite system with an elite qb. Still a bug loss, but the packers got some damn good prospects at wr

  • EndZoneBlog
  • LightsOut85

    Unless he’s made a mind-boggling leap, not a lot of reasons to be optimistic about Adams…

    • Phillip

      He was a rookie, a lot of rookies struggle and then in year 2 look like a completely different player. Adams has the best QB in the league throwing to him and helping him develop, there are plenty of reasons to believe he will take a huge leap in year #2.

      • SeattleSteve

        Jordy Nelson for example was nowhere to be seen til late 2010.

      • LightsOut85

        I’m not saying he WON’T get better – but the study I linked to (well, that was a part, the rest of the data is scattered throughout different tweets. Some WRs had their own pages on his site, but I don’t think Adams did) is when he got open on routes, so that’s independent of QB.

        WR’s generally don’t come on strong right out of college, so there’s nothing wrong. But I don’t really see any OBJECTIVE reasons he’ll make a “huge leap”. (Could he make SOME improvement & be “okay” – sure. That sounds a lot more reasonable).

  • crosseyedlemon

    Even if Nelson had not been injured the Packers Super Bowl hopes could only be realized with improvement by their defense which was 17th in scoring efficiency last season.

  • 5 w/ 50

    I agree with this article and with most of the posters here, but you’ve all left out one thing. The defense. All indications so far is that it has improved a lot, so that should mean more 3 and outs, TOs, and increased time of possession. Which means more offense.

    The Packers have proven in the past that they can overcome injuries. This year will be no different!