Jordy Nelson tore his ACL, and he’s out for the year. Before that, the Green Bay Packers were one of the top picks to win the Super Bowl, considered by most to be the favorites. With the loss of Nelson, they also lose that status.
You simply can’t be the favorites when you lose one of the top-10 wideouts in the NFL from a year ago, a guy who put up 1,519 yards and scored 13 times. Those are huge numbers, and the Packers’ passing attack—driven in part by the chemistry between Nelson and Aaron Rodgers—was the main reason they were often picked to win it all.
But don’t count the Packers out yet. They can still work hard and earn the spot back. It’s going to be a harder road, but they could still get to and win the Super Bowl.
This offseason, the team managed to keep Randall Cobb, despite lengthy contract negotiations. It looked for a while like they might let him go, deciding to go with Nelson and Davante Adams, who was nothing short of impressive as a rookie last year. Even without being the starter, Adams put up 446 yards on 38 catches, and he had three touchdowns.
Now, choosing to spend the money on Cobb looks like the saving grace here. He’s talented enough to play as the No. 1 in this offense. After all, he had 1,287 yards in 2014, along with 12 scores—numbers that would have led a lot of teams.
Adams can then slide up into the second wideout spot and try to build on his rookie year. With as many chances as he’ll get, if he keeps playing at a high level, it’s not impossible that he’ll double his numbers.
Will the Packers be as good as they’d be with Nelson? Of course not. But those two wideouts could still be dynamic. Cobb appears a lock to break 1,000 yards, and Adams could get there if his trajectory holds true.
It’s Rodgers who drivers this offense, and he, like Tom Brady and others, always seems to make his wideouts better. As long as he’s healthy, the Packers can still run their offense the way they want.
They can also turn to Eddy Lacy a bit more than they would have before. He’s turned into one of the better backs in the league, and he helps to keep the Packers from becoming a one-dimensional passing attack.
On top of that, this opens the door for Ty Montgomery, the Packers’ third-round pick from this year’s draft. He’s a versatile player from Stanford, a guy who was thought to be a depth pick who could now see some time in three and four wideout sets. He only has two catches for 28 yards in the preseason so far, but that could start moving up rapidly.
On the other side, Jeff Janis has five catches, 56 yards and a score. He looks locked into that third wideout role, and he’s playing like he can handle it and perhaps even thrive.
The road is harder for the Packers, but it’s not closed. They can still win the NFC North and make the playoffs as one of the top seeds.
That’s when life will really get tough. Competition will be stiff. The way that young players like Adams, Janis and Montgomery react to it will determine how far the Packers will go. But this is a team that has some nice—though untested—depth, and the way Aaron Rodgers gets the best out of his wideouts could lead to a very dangerous passing assault, even without its top target.