Packers receivers not worried about 100-catch mark
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
GREEN BAY--When was the last time the Green Bay Packers had a receiver with 100 receptions in a single season? If ever?
Jordy Nelson took a guess. Sterling Sharpe? Close, but no. Donald Driver? Also close, but no.
“Oh, I have no clue,” said James Jones.
“Robert Brooks,” said Randall Cobb.
Indeed. Brooks had 102 catches in 1995, but since then no Packers receiver has been able to crack the 100 club, not with MVP quarterbacks throwing in their prime, not with the West Coast offense and its evolutions, not with record-setting years on offense.
Since Brooks and the '95 season, receivers around the NFL have caught 100 or more passes 67 times. From Marvin Harrison's whopping 143 receptions in 2002 to Wes Welker's 100-plus catches in five of the last six seasons, receivers have capitalized on the passing game's ebullition.
The Packers receivers wouldn't mind a 100-reception season, but they seem willing to give it up for the greater cause.
“Personally, I'd rather be balanced, all across the board. Everyone is able to catch the ball and everyone is able to run the ball,” said Nelson. “We don't want to be, as an offense, dialed in on one guy.”
Packers fans who can remember the early '90s know what Nelson means.
Sharpe caught 108 passes in 1992 and then 112 in 1993, back when the Packers offense seemed to run exclusively through Nos. 4 and 84. It was a sign of things to come.
Art Monk was the first NFL receiver to go over 100 when he caught 106 in 1984. And then came Jerry Rice and Haywood Jeffires with 100 in 1990 and '91, respectively.
When Brooks had his big season in '95, eight other players also surpassed 100: Herman Moore (123), Cris Carter (122), Rice (122), Isaac Bruce (119), Michael Irvin (111), Brett Perriman (108), Eric Metcalf (104) and Larry Centers (101).
Green Bay had a great year in 1995, too, with an 11-5 finish and trip to the NFC Championship Game, so it's not like Favre and Brooks were the only bright spots. The difference between then and now was that the other top receivers on the team were Edgar Bennett (61), Mark Cmura (54) and Dorsey Levens (48).
“Two of those guys are running backs,” said Jones. He then cast a sideways glance to his neighbors in the locker room—Nelson, Cobb and tight end Jermichael Finley. “When you've got three or four receivers and an explosive tight end, it's tough to get 100 catches.
“Then again it's not tough. Randall could have had 100 catches last year if didn't let go some of the ones he let go,” Jones added, laughing. “And he knows that.”
Cobb hauled in 80 catches last year to lead the Packers in just his second season. He missed the last game with an ankle injury, too. Who knows? Maybe he'll be the next Packer to crack 100. He wants to, right?
Cobb considered this question for a few seconds before answering.
“That's not a priority,” said Cobb. “I'm not going to say it's not something that's not attainable, that it's not a goal—but it's not a priority. If it comes, great. If not, and there's still great success, it doesn't really matter.”
The Packers have had great depth at receiver in recent years and the numbers reflect that. Before Cobb in 2012, Nelson led with 68 catches in 2011; Greg Jennings had 76 in 2010.
But other than Donald Driver's 92 catches in 2006 and Javon Walker's 89 in 2004, no Packer really has come close to the 100 mark in 18 years.
It is an attractive goal, the receiver 100. It's symbolic of status, and with that comes the spotlight, media attention and endorsements. The 100 receivers are some of the most recognizable names in football: Terrell Owens, Hines Ward, Keyshawn Johnson, Randy Moss, Larry Fitzgerald, Tony Gonzalez. Calvin Johnson (122) led the class of six 100-catch receivers last year, joined by Brandon Marshall, Welker, Andre Johnson, Jason Witten and Reggie Wayne.
The Packers receiver knows he belongs in that class. You can bet your Packers stock that Nelson, Cobb and Jones all believe they are every bit as good as their 100-catch receiving peers.
“All of us grew up wanting the ball and to make plays,” said Jones. “But if you're catching 122 balls and losing, that's not what we want. If you get 122 balls and we're winning? Then more power to you. It can be done. But nowadays, teams are coming with so many weapons. The guys who caught 100 balls last year? You probably can't name the No. 2 guy on their team.”
In Green Bay, you can, and you should. It would be disrespectful to talk about the good hands of Jones and not the deep threat of Nelson or the route running of Cobb. Finley has come in to his own. They've all led in some statistical category at some point. Together, they're all going to sacrifice the solo spotlight.
“That's true, but winning is going to take care of that,” said Nelson.
And so, the receivers seek out other challenges and different goals than the 100-plus season.
“I would rather have less catches and average 16, 17 or more yards per catch,” said Nelson. “If you ask guys they'd rather have yards or touchdowns.
“Between us, our bragging rights are over yards and yards after the catch.”
Nelson and Jones gave Cobb a little bit of a hard time last season for catching more balls than them but averaging fewer yards per catch. Of course, they knew with Cobb coming out of the slot so often, his chance to catch a deep pass wasn't as great. But it is still fun to keep the kid challenged.
And of the three, Cobb seemed most interested in the 100 mark.
“I never said I didn't want it, it's just not priority,” said Cobb.
What is his priority then?
“Championships,” he said. “Records can be broken, but you can never take a championship away. I want a ring. Get me rings. Rings last forever.”