GREEN BAY, Wis. — Greg Jennings may not be the only Packers wide receiver unavailable for Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Jordy Nelson, who leads the team in receptions and yards this season, missed Thursday’s practice and has already been ruled out from participating Friday due to a hamstring injury.
In order for Nelson to be cleared before Green Bay’s upcoming game, he’ll have to pass tests from the team’s medical staff either Saturday or Sunday.
“We’re having some injuries (and) that’s where we are right now,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “The opportunity is for our other players to step up. I’m confident that will happen. I think the practices the last two days have had a lot of energy. You can see the guys that are going to have more opportunities are excited about it.”
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Nelson is coming off his two best games of the season, which were the Packers’ two most explosive offensive performances so far this year. He had nine catches for 121 yards and three touchdowns in a road win over the Texans and followed it up with eight catches for 122 yards and one touchdown in a victory in St. Louis.
Even if quarterback Aaron Rodgers doesn’t have his two top receivers on the field this weekend, Green Bay’s tremendous depth behind Nelson and Jennings should still give the Packers a good chance at putting up a lot of points against the Jaguars’ last-ranked passing defense.
If Nelson is ruled out, James Jones and Randall Cobb will take over as the every-down receivers. That pair is better than most team’s best options even with a healthy roster, including Jacksonville’s starters. Jones recently had two touchdown catches in three consecutive games, tying an all-time franchise record. Cobb has emerged as a breakout star, recording his first career 100-yard receiving game followed by his first game with two touchdown catches.
“They’ve done an outstanding job,” Jennings said. “There was no doubt in my mind, and I don’t think there was any doubt in anyone in this locker room’s mind, that the team wouldn’t thrive and continue to have success. There’s a lot of guys in here that can make a lot of plays, a lot of impact players.”
Another player who will see increased snaps if Nelson is out is Packers all-time leading receiver Donald Driver. After signing a restructured deal to return to Green Bay for a 14th season, Driver has become almost an afterthought as the team’s No. 5 wideout. He has just four receptions for 45 yards and one touchdown and has dropped two of his seven targets.
A day before Jennings announced that he is opting to have surgery on his abdominal tear, Driver talked about his role with the Packers this season.
“I’m going to handle it the same way I’ve handled it all season long,” Driver said of his diminished playing time. “If you look at the last couple years, my snaps have been reduced, and they’ve been really reduced this year. It’s not a bad thing. The thing is, there’s a lot of guys playing well, and those guys are playing to the best of their ability. When the opportunity presents itself, I’ve got to be ready to play. I’ll be ready when that day comes.”
Driver had six consecutive 1,000-plus yard receiving seasons from 2004 to 2009, but he barely surpassed 1,000 total yards during the 2010 and 2011 seasons combined. This year, Driver has only been on the field for 73 of Green Bay’s 498 offensive plays.
“I hope they haven’t just completely took me out of the playbook,” Driver said. “I think there’s an opportunity for me. I don’t think you can complain. The most I’ve complained is when I was a child. That’s when I struggled more than anything else. This is just a setback. You have to respect it and understand that it’s a business decision.”
The injuries to Nelson and Jennings could also give undrafted rookie Jarrett Boykin an opportunity to catch his first career NFL pass.
“He’ll play, and he’ll go right in there and he’ll do just the same things that are asked of the other guys,” McCarthy said of Boykin. “That’s the way we play. Boykin can play all four positions. That’s a tribute to him as a young player. I think he’s exceptional the way he’s picked it up. We have three guys that have played a ton of football, and this will be a great opportunity for Boykin.”