Deep passes still in Packers' offense even without Jordy Nelson

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It’s a misnomer to say the Green Bay Packers have not taken as many shots down the field this season without their home-run receiver, Jordy Nelson.

In fact, quarterback Aaron Rodgers has thrown deep more often through the first four games this season than he did last year. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Rodgers has attempted nine passes that traveled more than 30 yards in the air and has completed five of them, including a 38-yarder to James Jones in Sunday’s 17-3 win at San Francisco.

Rodgers narrowly missed another deep shot on the first play of the game, but rookie Ty Montgomery couldn’t haul in what might have been an 80-yard touchdown.

“We really haven’t changed much at all,” Packers associate head coach Tom Clements said. “We were fortunate to get James Jones in here. He’s done a great job. But we’re playing the same style of ball, so we didn’t really make too many changes at all.”

So far, Rodgers has 153 yards and two touchdowns on passes of 30 or more yards in the air. Through four games last season, Rodgers was 3-for-6 for 156 yards and a touchdown on such throws.

Sometimes, big-play numbers can be skewed by run-after-the-catch plays, which is why air yardage is a better measure of the big-play passing game. Also, Rodgers’ yards per attempt (8.09) is higher than his first four games from last season (7.68), although Rodgers finished last season at 8.43.

Last year, the Packers had two receivers -- Nelson and Randall Cobb -- who averaged more than 14 yards per catch (Nelson at 15.5 and Cobb at 14.1). So far this season, Jones is averaging 18.7 yards per catch, but no one else is higher than 11.6.

“We feel like we still have that [deep-threat] guy,” Packers offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett said. “Obviously it’s very difficult replacing a Jordy Nelson, a dynamic playmaker, but we feel like we still have guys that can get the job done. We don’t really control what the defense is trying to do to us, other than our tempo, our play style, our speed. They line up and choose to play a certain way and we have to execute against it.”

Here’s a look at the rest of the offensive breakdown from Sunday’s win over the 49ers (the defensive post can be found here):

Total offensive plays: 73


Notes: After ProFootballFocus.com ripped Rodgers’ five-touchdown performance against the Chiefs with a negative grade (which, by the way, it eventually revised slightly), PFF gave him a plus-4.9 mark this week even though he threw only one touchdown because it said he completed “more difficult throws than last week.”


  • Ty Montgomery: 72

  • James Jones: 62

  • Randall Cobb: 61

  • Jeff Janis: 15

Notes: Both Cobb and Montgomery took turns playing out of the backfield, but only Montgomery carried the ball (twice for 10 yards). He took on an expanded role with Davante Adams (ankle) inactive. Jared Abbrederis, who was promoted from the practice squad on Saturday, was active but did not play on offense or special teams.

Running backs

Notes: Lacy led the Packers’ most productive rushing game (162 yards) of the season with 90 yards on 18 carries a week after he was limited because of a sprained right ankle. The Packers now rank third in the league in rushing yards per game (136.3).

Tight ends

Notes: Richard Rodgers caught the only touchdown pass, a 9-yarder on the game’s opening drive during a wild scramble by Aaron Rodgers. He finished with five catches for 45 yards but could’ve had another big play down the field in the second quarter if he and the quarterback hadn’t gotten crossed up on the route.

Offensive line

Notes: In his third straight start, fill-in right tackle Barclay struggled in pass protection, allowing all three sacks. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said injured starter Bryan Bulaga could begin drills Wednesday, three weeks after he underwent knee surgery.