James Jones Injury: How WR's Absence Impacts Rest of Packers Offense

Chris RolingFeatured ColumnistOctober 14, 2013

Oct 6, 2013; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver James Jones (89) scores a touchdown during the third quarter against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field. The Packers won 22-9. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers have a difficult task in Week 7 against the Cleveland Browns thanks to an injury to James Jones, one of the offense's top targets.

Jones is a critical element in the offense in a regular week, but that is especially the case against Cleveland with reports that fellow receiver Randall Cobb will miss an extended period of time with a broken leg per ESPN:

The loss of Cobb means Jones better hurry back from an injury sustained in the same game that is not as serious as first thought per a report from ESPN's Adam Schefter:

In other words, Jones will be a game-time decision, but Rodgers and Co. better hope the San Jose State product can take the field and play at a high level.

Cleveland is no joke thanks to a stout pass defense led by cornerback Joe Haden, who ranks as the No. 17 overall corner in the NFL per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Haden's defense allows just 214.3 passing yards per game, which comes in as the No. 8 unit in the NFL.

Now imagine a Green Bay offense that lines up against Cleveland without both Jones and Cobb. Rodgers appears as if he can work miracles at times, but replacing 727 yards and four touchdowns is no easy task.

As head coach Mike McCarthy put it on Monday, the injuries simply mean the Packers have an opportunity to get some new guys in there to contribute:

One such youngster who will be asked to contribute is Jarrett Boykin, who put together a miserable performance in Week 6 after both Jones and Cobb went down.

Yes, Boykin had a flashy play with one reception for 43 yards, but that's overshadowed by the fact he caught just one of six targets with two horrific drops on the day after being installed in two-wide receiver sets.

Oct 13, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson (87) looks on prior to a play during the second quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Boykin is clearly a liability, although with a full week of preparation as a starter, that could change, but with Haden shadowing Jordy Nelson all day, Boykin will need to step up in a major way.

Of course, Boykin is far from the only option Rodgers will have to turn to should Jones miss the game. Rookie running back Eddie Lacy has been impressive in his past two starts, receiving 23 carries in each and turning it into a total of 219 yards.

Regardless of Jones' status, Lacy is a huge part of the offense as a back guaranteed to receive 20 or more carries in each game, as well as plenty of looks in the passing game.

Then there is tight end Jermichael Finley, who once again has had issues with drops on his way to 228 yards and two scores on 20 receptions. Defenses will have the resources to give him more attention with at least Cobb out of the picture, so Finley's ability to increase his production is a key component for the Packers' offense. 

In essence, Nelson will need to continue doing what he's been doing all season (484 yards, four scores) with more attention thrown his way, young players in Boykin and Lacy must contribute at a high level, and the ever-frustrating Finley must pull it together.

Oct 13, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) is congratulated by fullback John Kuhn (30) after throwing a 64 yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jordy Nelson (not pictured) in the third quarter against the Baltimore
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The talent is certainly there for the Packers to overcome the loss of two key players, and anything is possible with a quarterback like Rodgers, but all the former MVP can do is deliver the football to his playmakers.

What they do with it is out of Rodgers' hands.

The good news is the forecast for the Packers offense is just fine in the coming weeks after the revelation that Jones' injury is not serious. Rodgers can make do without Jones for one game if necessary—the way McCarthy and Co. have crafted the roster ensure it.


Follow B/R's Chris Roling on Twitter for more news and analysis @Chris_Roling