This year's offense hasn't come near to approaching last season's record-shattering group, which averaged 35.0 points per game thanks largely to the peerless play of MVP QB Aaron Rodgers and a talented group of wide receivers. The current unit hasn't been nearly as dynamic, averaging 24.6 points (13th in the NFL) and struggling to make big plays against cover-2 defensive schemes.
But one player is putting up better numbers than ever. Jones, the third banana behind Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson the past couple of years, has become the top dog of the receiver corps. With Jennings and Nelson missing numerous games due to injuries, Jones -- as well as second-year WR Randall Cobb -- has had a career year. He's caught 51 passes, with only two drops, for 622 yards and a league-high 12 touchdowns.
|James Jones, celebrating a TD here vs. the Bears, has become the Packers' top WR. (US Presswire)|
Last week against the Bears, Jones caught all three of Rodgers' touchdown passes on a variety of routes and moves. He's made multiple breathtaking circus catches that have impressed his coach, quarterback and fellow receivers.
While coach Mike McCarthy praised Jones' consistency and complete game, saying he's doing “all the little things,” including run-blocking and playing in the slot, Rodgers showered the receiver with compliments.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” Rodgers said. “It's pretty impressive. He's really improved a lot. The greatest compliment for him is he probably is not going to mind too much being overlooked. He cares about his teammates, he cares about being a great player and he understands that this is a team-first organization. Hopefully, he gets the consideration he deserves for Pro Bowl because he's had that type of year.
Jones has had a ton of success in the red zone this year, catching an array of fades, jump-balls, back-shoulder throws and slants where he just muscles in.
“For whatever reason this year in the red zone, he's been the guy that's been open more," Rodgers said. "There haven't been a ton of long touchdowns to James. I would say the majority have been in the red zone, the low red zone. If you look back at some of the catches, I mean he's had a couple where he basically just took the ball away from the defender. He had a couple really nice ones against the Texans. That last one was incredible. Those 50-50 jump balls, he's brought down almost every single one of them.”
After struggling with drops -- most notably on a couple of long, seemingly sure-TD passes -- Jones was re-signed before the 2011 season. Many give partial credit to Rogers for Jones' three-year deal. Rogers publicly went to bat for Jones, asking the team to bring him back.
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“I've always had confidence in James,” Rodgers said. “I've been vocal about it and believed in him. I thought that, given the opportunity, he could have this type of season. He just needed some more looks his way. And I think his best football is still in front of him, too. I think he can have an even bigger year, given more opportunities. Not sure what the dynamic of the team is going to look like next year, but I'm excited about the prospect of him and I playing together for a while.
“To be honest -- and I don't know personally -- but after he and his wife had their first child, I've just noticed a guy who's been more focused at work and a little more dialed in.”
After Jones' three-TD masterpiece in the division-clinching win at Chicago, McCarthy was short and sweet in describing the receiver.
“He just catches touchdowns. James is having an excellent year.”