“I don’t think that’s what’s going on,” Nelson said, via ESPN. “I think guys aren’t making the plays they’re able to make. When you look at the Minnesota game, guys made plays and they put up 30 points against one of the top defenses in the NFC. Then the next game, they don’t make the plays and we struggle.”
Nelson, who caught 98 passes for 1,519 yards and 13 touchdowns last season, tore his ACL during the preseason. Without him, the Packers have dropped to 12th in scoring offense (23.8 points per game) and 23rd in passing offense (228.3 yards per game), while quarterback Aaron Rodgers has a passer rating under 100.0 for the first time since 2008.
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But despite losing Nelson, Green Bay still returned the two-time NFL MVP at quarterback, all five starters along the offensive line, running backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks and receivers Randall Cobb and Davante Adams. Before the season, the Packers brought back veteran James Jones.
That’s more than enough talent to play productive offense. As Nelson said, the plays just haven’t been made.
Rodgers is completing just 60.5 percent of his passes and averaging 6.9 yards per attempt, both well below his career lows since taking over as the Packers starter. Lacy struggled out of the gates, and the trio of Cobb, Adams and Jones has often had problems getting open against man coverage.
Last Thursday, the Packers managed to score just 13 points in a home loss to the Chicago Bears. Lacy rushed for over 100 yards, but Adams—who has struggled in his bigger role—dropped a potential touchdown, caused an interception in the fourth quarter and failed to bring in Rodgers’ fourth down throw into the end zone with the game on the line.
Cobb has dealt with drops all season. Jones, who has seven touchdowns, had a chance at the game-winning score against Chicago but couldn’t bring down the catch in the end zone.
Against the Vikings a week earlier, Jones hauled in six passes for 109 yards and a touchdown, Cobb caught a score before the half and Lacy hit 100 yards rushing. Rodgers threw two touchdowns without a turnover. The consistency just isn’t there.
Losing Nelson has certainly hurt the Packers. There’s no replacing a player of his caliber. Nelson created opportunities for big plays and consistently made them for his quarterback.
The current group of weapons within the Packers offense isn’t doing the same.
Nelson can’t save Green Bay’s broken operation. But the healthy and talented players left standing can get things turned around by making the plays available to them.