GREEN BAY — Green Bay receivers will be looking to high-point opportunity as catches will be up for grabs this season. Aaron Rodgers will be throwing to a new-look receiving corps in 2014, and the exact faces making up that group are still to be determined. What players show during training camp and the preseason could go a long way towards proving to coaches they should be on the field, and to Rodgers they are reliable targets.
Wide receiver James Jones, now an Oakland Raider and tight end Jermichael Finley, currently a free agent caught 59 and 25 passes respectively last season. Their total made up about 23% of 193 completed passes last season.
The difference is even more dramatic if you look back two seasons ago. Now-departed Packers pass catchers Jones, Finley, Greg Jennings, Alex Green, Cedric Benson, Tom Crabtree, Donald Driver, DJ Williams and Ryan Grant combined for 217 catches in 2012. Those players accounted for 57% of catches that season.
Aaron Rodgers has averaged 343 completions per regular season from 2008-2012 (excluding 2013 because of the collarbone injury limiting him to 9 regular season games. Returning Packers players caught 277 passes in 2013, headlined by Jordy Nelson’s career-best 85 grabs.
With the departure of Finley and Jones, however, there will be passes to go around – and time on the field. According to Pro Football Focus, Jones played 87.5% of snaps last season, while Finley played 60.2% of snaps in the games before his season-ending neck injury (playing just 6 of 81 snaps against the Bengals because of a concussion).
The leading candidates to catch those passes include Jarrett Boykin. The third-year receiver our of Virginia Tech enjoyed a breakout season last year with 49 catches for 681 yards and three touchdowns. Boykin started eight games as Jones and Randall Cobb missed time with injuries.
Boykin may be overshadowed slightly by rookie wide receivers Davante Adams and Jared Abbrederis. Adams is used to catching lots of passes, leading the nation with 131 catches in his redshirt sophomore season at Fresno State. Abbrederis has the name recognition after the Wautoma-native made a name for himself as a Wisconsin Badger.
Another possible target for Aaron Rodgers’ passes is Eddie Lacy. The Alabama product had 35 grabs his first year in the NFL. Pro Football Focus only credited him with two drops during the season. Other running backs were less involved in the passing game, with John Kuhn catching 13 passes and James Starks 10. DuJuan Harris caught two passes during the four regular season games he played in 2012 before missing the 2013 season with an injury.
With an MVP under center, Packers fans can rest easy knowing their passing game likely won’t take too much of a dip even with many new faces on offense. Mike McCarthy has always been happy to have his star quarterback throw the ball, meaning there are ample opportunities for 2014 Packers to lay claim to lots of catches in Green Bay’s offense.