Why James Jones' bold prediction for Packers isn't enough
Packers wide receiver James Jones. Image by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
GREEN BAY - Boldness is a quality many wide receivers possess, and Packers wideout James Jones is using it to prognosticate some big statistics for his receiving corps.
However, it's a statistic - the 1,000 yards-for-a-season mark - that needs to spread to other parts of the offense as well, and could to a record-breaking extent for this Packers team.
It's believed that no team in NFL history has ever had five players gain 1,000 or more yards from scrimmage in a season. If the Packers get their recently-struggling running game going, they have at least an outside chance to accomplish that feat.
As the Associated Press reported Wednesday,
James Jones is sticking to his prediction.
He says the Green Bay Packers could have three 1,000-yard receivers in the same season for the first time, even without Greg Jennings and Donald Driver.
Jones led the NFL with a career-high 14 touchdown receptions, while also setting personal bests for catches (64) and receiving yards (784). Randall Cobb had 80 catches for 954 yards, both team highs, and eight touchdowns.
And Jordy Nelson had 745 receiving yards and seven TD catches despite missing four games with a hamstring injury.
The "Big Three" have their sights on setting themselves apart as the most productive group of receivers in team history.
I completely understand Jones' prediction, with the incredible performance Aaron Rodgers has put up since the start of the 2010 season and the balance the Packers receiving corps has with Cobb, Jones, Nelson and Jermichael Finley (1,000 receiving yards is not out of the question for him, either).
However, 1,000 yards by three receivers could also become the reflection of a lack of offensive balance if they fail to run the football well - a problem in the past few years in the Mike McCarthy era.
That's something the Packers have already tried to address with the NFL Draft with the pickups of Eddie Lacy and Jonathan Franklin.
Alex Green, DuJuan Harris and James Starks are also competing for carries this year, with Starks making a few waves in camp so far.
Will two backs be able to step out of the competition and share the playing time enough to gain 1,000 yards from scrimmage (running and receiving)?
If McCarthy uses two backs enough for that to happen, most of it probably will come out of the running game - which means the Packers are getting at least four yards per carry and are running the ball close to 500 times, more than 30 times per game.
They haven't run the ball 500 times, or run it for 2,000-yards plus, since Ahman Green's spectacular 2003 campaign.
If they're successful in doing that, imagine the deeper passing possibilities Aaron Rodgers will have by only having to throw a little more than 30 times per game against drawn-in defenses.
Rodgers could fight for the chance to become the fifth passer in NFL history to average 10 yards per pass attempt. Three of the previous four quarterbacks to do that played for an NFL championship.
The big play yardage could abound for the receiving corps, with just as many yards this season or more through the air for Cobb, Finley, Jones and Nelson to share, but in fewer attempts.
Of course, the offensive line has to do its job, too, and make sure Aaron Rodgers stays upright and the runners get holes through which to run.
But there is a bit of a caveat to the big yardage goal.
The record (we believe) for most players with 1,000 combined yards from scrimmage on one team is believed to be four players. The 2004 Colts and 2011 Saints each accomplished that feat.
Notice how neither team won a Super Bowl. Teams with excellence AND balance tend to win those.
That's the challenge the Packers face in 2013, and with a big bump in the running game's productivity, they could have six possible candidates to reach that level.
If they do produce five players with 1,000-yard seasons (with a bit better defense than the '04 Colts and '11 Saints had), it probably provides a bit better odds that Green Bay has the production and balance to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in February.