Ego check: Are Packers overloaded at WR?
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It's difficult to imagine that an NFL offense could have too many weapons, but that could be the problem facing Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers heading into this season.
With a group of receivers that is deep, talented and arguably the best in the NFL, Rodgers has to complete passes while also trying to keep everyone happy.
But that difficult task went unfulfilled -- at least at certain moments -- during the Packers' 2011 season.
"At times, I ain't going to lie to you, it does get frustrating – for all of us," wide receiver James Jones said during the team's offseason programs. "And I'm sure it gets frustrating for our quarterback. He's got five, six good receivers to throw to, a tight end to throw to, so I'm sure it gets tough."
Rodgers, who was named the league's 2011 Most Valuable Player for his record-setting season that included the best QB rating ever, completed 343 passes to 15 different receivers. Jordy Nelson led the way with 68 receptions and was closely followed by Greg Jennings with 67 and tight end Jermichael Finley with 55.
Jones finished the season with 38 catches, the fourth-most on the team.
"Every ball that comes my way, I try to make a big play because you really don't know when you're going to get another one with all the weapons we have," Jones said.
Jones, 28, re-signed with the Packers following the lockout last offseason. But his numbers dropped in 2011 after setting career-bests in the Packers' Super Bowl-winning season a year earlier.
"I still don't get no respect around here, though," Jones said. "That's why, in all my interviews, I'm just going to start saying ‘Respect.' Get me some shirts made."
However, Rodgers just wants to be an equal-opportunity pass distributor. In addition to the aforementioned targets, he also has three-time Pro Bowl selection Donald Driver and standout 2011 rookie Randall Cobb to keep involved. Plus, there are two receivers on the practice squad who have been offered full-time spots on other teams.
"I throw it to the open guy," Rodgers said. "If there's any issues, they know where my locker is at. I think we do a good job of keeping things in-house for the most part and not worrying about the ‘I' as much as the ‘we,' and hopefully that continues."
Given the depth that Green Bay has at receiver, though, Jones has been a hot name in trade talk in recent weeks, especially after the Packers decided to bring back Driver on a restructured contract.
"I don't know how good my trade value is," Jones said. "I haven't heard anything about trades or anything like that. I'm just here to play football. Whatever happens, happens. I don't worry about all that stuff up top.
"If they came to me at my locker and said, ‘James, you're going to the Cincinnati Bengals,' I'd cry a little bit and then move on. You've got to do what you've got to do. It's a business."
But Jones isn't the only one of Rodgers' targets to openly discuss the challenges of staying positive despite a statistical decrease in production.
Once Driver, 37, returned to Green Bay -- new contract in hand -- following his victory on "Dancing with the Stars," the franchise's all-time leading receiver wanted to explain why he was no longer the 1,000-yards-per-season type of playmaker he once was.
"People talk about, ‘Well, I didn't have 1,000 yards (and) I didn't have 80 catches,' but I don't control who throws the ball," Driver said. "You can't count how many balls you're going to get. If that's the case, I think we all would have been around here complaining. You can't complain about that.
"Balls getting thrown to me, I can't control that. Back in the days, I used to be the guy. I had three guys on me, the ball was getting thrown to me anyway. It's not like that anymore. And at first, yeah, it was tough. It was tough for everybody. Guys wanted the ball, guys want this, because these are younger players that want it."
One of those younger players is Finley, who, despite his status as a tight end, is primarily a receiver in the Packers' offense. Finley recently mentioned how he "couldn't get the chemistry with the QB" last season, but he still signed a new two-year contract to remain in Green Bay through his 26th birthday.
"The scheme they've got set for us, it's pretty deadly," Finley said. "Only we can stop ourselves."
Coming off a 15-1 regular season, though it ended with a disastrous home playoff loss to the New York Giants, the Packers should be every bit as good in 2012 as they were a year ago. Every one of Green Bay's star players is back, which should be a good thing. But, in order to prevent the team from stopping itself, the receivers need to be happy with the passes that Rodgers gives them.
"When you've got a lot of weapons, you need an unselfish group," Jones said. "I think we've done that and been unselfish because we all know the ultimate goal is to win a Super Bowl. At the end of the day, we win a Super Bowl, everybody will be happy. That's what we're here for."
Follow Paul Imig on Twitter.