Janesville17.1°

Jennings' injury creates opportunity for Jones

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Associated Press
December 15, 2011
— With star wide receiver Greg Jennings out for a few weeks with a sprained left knee, now might be the time for the Green Bay Packers to rediscover James Jones.

As part of what might be the deepest and most talented group of wide receivers in the NFL, Jones has been tough to spot at times this season. His overall numbers are OK—26 catches for 479 yards with five touchdowns—but perhaps not quite what he expected when he re-signed with Green Bay in the offseason.


Jones acknowledged that he sometimes finds himself fighting off frustration. But he knows the minute he starts sulking, it will hurt his chances of making the most of any offensive opportunities that do come his way.


"I've tried to stay positive," Jones said. "The 10-catch game as a receiver in our offense is very rare. You have to make the most of it. If you get three or four in a game, you have to make the most of them. I have the same mindset with Greg being down: If the ball comes my way, make the most of my chances."


Jones has eight games with two catches or fewer this season—including five games with a single catch, and two games where he was shut out completely.


And while Jones is trying to keep his head up, he doesn't necessarily expect anything to change dramatically with Jennings on the sideline.


"Everybody thinks stuff changes around here because somebody gets hurt," Jones said. "They don't change. I'm going to still be James. If the ball comes my way a little more, it does. Shoot, we've still got four wideouts plus J-Mike (tight end Jermichael Finley). We've got to run it. So Greg being out, you don't have to try to be Superman. Just keep doing what you've been doing—if the ball comes your way, make a play. And that's what I've been doing this year."


But Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers pointed to Jones and rookie wide receiver Randall Cobb as players he expects to help make up for Jennings' absence.


"We'll miss Greg," Rodgers said. "Greg is a great player. This team last year taught us anything, the next man up has got to step in and produce. We're expecting (to see) James getting more opportunities and Randall to step in and play well."


Rodgers said the Packers can rely on their experience from last season, when they went on a Super Bowl run despite a rash of injuries to key players.


"It's difficult when you lose a Pro Bowl receiver like Greg and a guy who's got to be mentioned among the top at his position," Rodgers said. "Last year, we had a number of guys go down and we needed the next guy to step up and play well. It helps when you have a guy like Jordy Nelson and the kind of season he's had, Donald (Driver) with his experience, James Jones, with him making the most of his opportunities, (and) Randall Cobb, with the way that he approaches the game."


And Rodgers hopes to keep feeding Finley.


"You still have one of the top tight ends in the league, who I know is probably desperate for some more balls going his way," Rodgers said. "I'm not worried too much, but it hurts to lose a guy like that on the field and in the locker room."


Finley said he expects to split out wide more frequently in the wake of Jennings' injury. And while Finley is happy that Jennings will be back for the playoffs, he's looking to make the most of increased opportunities in the meantime.


"At the same time, I'm excited about the chance to step up and be the playmaker," Finley said. "We've got to step up."


Jennings is expected to miss two or three weeks, making it likely that he'll be back for the playoffs. Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Rodgers will be expected to keep running the offense the way he has been.


"I don't think it's going to change the way Aaron plays," McCarthy said. "We're very fortunate we have a number of perimeter players that can be productive. We're going to run our offense, we're not going to change anything. The other side of it, Greg is a very valuable member to our football team. But as far as Aaron's approach, it won't change."



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