GREEN BAY – While there might not have been an undeniable direct link between the Green Bay Packers juggernaut offense struggling against the Kansas City Chiefs last Dec. 18 and Greg Jennings’ absence from the lineup, it certainly seemed like more than just a coincidence.
Jennings, who suffered a knee injury against the Oakland Raiders the week before, would end up missing the final three games of the regular season. Against the Chiefs, the Packers’ previously unstoppable offense put up a season-low 315 net yards, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers had his lowest passer rating of the regular season, completing 17 of 35 passes for 235 yards with a season-low one touchdown pass (80.1 rating). Donald Driver led the team in receptions in the game (four catches, 75 yards) while Jordy Nelson had three catches for 81 yards.
Now, there were other issues that day. The Packers were also without running back James Starks (knee/ankle), left tackle Chad Clifton (hamstring/back), defensive tackle Ryan Pickett (concussion) and starting inside linebacker Desmond Bishop (calf), then lost right tackle Bryan Bulaga to a left knee injury early in the second quarter and Bulaga’s replacement, Derek Sherrod, to a broken right leg with 10 minutes left in the game. The Chiefs defense likely had something to do with the performance, too, as it was suggested afterward that the Chiefs might’ve provided the blueprint for shutting down the Packers.
“We just didn’t execute very well — didn’t throw it well, didn’t catch it well, didn’t get open enough,” Rodgers said after that game.
Whatever the case, the Packers’ passing game clearly wasn’t as potent without Jennings.
“We missed Greg,” Rodgers confessed.
And that’s why, even though the Packers boast the NFL’s deepest receiving corps, Jennings is vital to the offense’s success.
“It’s always difficult when you lose a guy as talented and gifted as Greg,” wide receivers coach Edgar Bennett said. “He means a lot to our team and is a big part of our success. I think our guys take the approach that the next guy, when he gets an opportunity, has to make the most of those opportunities.”
While that did happen and things improved the following week against the Bears (Rodgers was 21 for 29 for 283 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions in a 35-21 victory) and Matt Flynn lit up the Seattle Seahawks in the season finale (31 of44, 480 yards, six touchdowns), it also was clear that Rodgers and Jennings weren’t in sync during the team’s NFC Divisional Playoff loss to the New York Giants when Jennings returned to the field.
Jennings, who caught 67 passes for 949 yards and nine touchdowns in 13 games last season, had missed only five total games in his previous five seasons. And despite the Packers quality receiving corps, they can ill afford to lose him for an extended period again. He’s also entering the final year of the three-year, $27 million extension he signed before the 2010 season, so the prospect is there that he could hit the open market next March and be gone for good.
Return to: Jason Wilde Blog