Which Green Bay Packer Benefits Most from Jennings’ Absence?
Green Bay Packers’ head coach Mike McCarthy announced Monday that wide receiver Greg Jennings has a knee sprain and will miss a couple of weeks. Suffering the knee injury against the Oakland Raiders, Jennings has a great chance to make it back for the playoffs. In his absence, the Packers will rely on Jermichael Finley and other playmakers to fill the void.
No stranger to injuries, the Packers will need to overcome the loss of Jennings in order to close out the regular season with continued momentum. With three weeks remaining in the regular season, the Packers just need to win one game or have the 49ers lose once to clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
With Jennings’ absence, plenty of different Packers will get increased opportunities over the next three weeks. The Packers use more formations than most teams in the league, and you can bet that will continue to be the case going forward.
Benefitting most from the success that Jennings has had this season, Jordy Nelson has had his finest year as a pro. Nelson leads the team in yardage with 957 yards on 51 catches. Nelson also has a team-high 10 touchdowns.
With Jennings out of action, Nelson will assuredly become the focus of opposing defenses. It may be more challenging for Nelson to find the same success while likely facing safety help on many plays.
Donald Driver should see an increase in snaps over the next few weeks. The old man receiver is dying to prove he still has something left in the tank. Driver has played exceptionally well over the last two weeks with a total of eight catches for 109 yards and two touchdowns. The Packers will need Driver to not only maintain his level of production, but increase it.
James Jones and Randall Cobb will also see their snaps increase on offense. Jones, who has been the forgotten man at times, has put up solid numbers with 479 yards and five touchdowns. The dynamic rookie Cobb, has also shown he has potential to be quite the receiver if given the opportunity.
While the snaps will increase for all the wide receivers, the player that will benefit most from Jennings’ absence is Jermichael Finley. Before Finley was injured early last season, the Packers offense was built around the match-up nightmare tight end. When Finley went down, Jennings stepped up and became the focus. The reverse will take place over the next three weeks.
Through Week 14, Finley has been targeted 69 times second behind only Jennings (101) and Nelson (70). This season with Jennings as the primary focus of the Packers passing attack, Finley is averaging 5.3 targets per game.
In the four complete games that Finley played last season, he was targeted 26 times for an average of 6.5 targets per game. During the stretch as the primary weapon, Finley caught 21 passes for 301 yards and a touchdown. Over the same stretch, Jennings caught 12 passes for just 161 yards, but did find the end zone three times.
While it is clear that Finley is more than capable of producing at any extremely high level, he has struggled to live up to expectations this season. He has had issues holding onto the ball and has been criticized for speaking his mind regarding a lack of chemistry with Aaron Rodgers.
Finley wants to be paid like a top tight end in the NFL and will have one last chance to showcase why he is deserving of a big payday. With every drop and poorly run route, Finley is hurting his value in future negotiations with the team.
As his targets increase, Finley is fully capable of helping the Packers offense not miss a beat while Jennings rehabs his knee. If he can get his act together over the next three weeks, Finley will benefit in a big way from Jennings’ absence.
Editor’s note: Michael Dulka will be appearing on these pages as a guest writer for the next few months. Please join me in welcoming him along for what we hope is another magical ride to the Super Bowl… - Jersey Al
Michael is a sports writer currently attending Seattle University. You can follow Michael on Twitter .