Jones, Cobb filling in nicely for injured Jennings
GREEN BAY Packers wide receivers know from the minute they arrive in Green Bay they're not going to have as many catches as they might somewhere else, or match the dizzying numbers some of their rivals put up.
They also know Aaron Rodgers will make sure their chance eventually comes. When it does, they better make the most of it.
"Any given Sunday, it could be your day," James Jones said. "You've just got to make sure you stay ready mentally, knowing Aaron's going to throw it to the open guys. When you get a chance, make the most of your chances."
Jones and Randall Cobb have been doing just that. With Greg Jennings slowed much of the season by a groin injury — he's been inactive the past two games and had only one catch the week before that — Jones and Cobb have stepped up to help fill the void.
Jones caught two touchdowns last week in Houston, joining Don Hutson as the only Packers players to have two TD receptions in three straight games. He leads the NFL with seven touchdowns, already matching his total from all of last season.
Cobb, in his second year, had his first 100-yard receiving game against the Texans, and has had seven catches in two of the past three games.
"I think all of us, as a group, we know what Greg brings to the table. With him being out, we all know that we have to go in and do what we have to do," Cobb said. "We have to take care of our job and, when the opportunity is there, we have to make the plays for our quarterback and for this team."
It's a mentality the Packers demand, from the veterans on down.
The Packers don't have a traditional No. 1 receiver, a guy such as Reggie Wayne or Larry Fitzgerald who gets the majority of catches game in and game out.
Yes, Jennings and Jordy Nelson are both 1,000-yard receivers, and Donald Driver was before them. But the strength of Green Bay's offense — besides Rodgers, of course — is its versatility and depth.
Rodgers throws to his receivers, tight ends and running backs. He may go to Jennings and Nelson most often these days, but not to the exclusion of the rest of his receivers.
Against Houston, for example, when Rodgers tied a franchise record with six touchdown passes, he threw to six different players. Three had three catches or more.
"We're just trying to take what's there," Jones said. "I feel like we've got playmakers who can turn a 5-yard catch into a 50-yard gain. Every play, there's the potential for a big play."
That would also seem to create potential for trouble.
Jennings, Jones, Cobb, Nelson — they were all second- or third-round draft picks, and they didn't get this far without being competitive.
It would be understandable if they grumbled or pouted a bit when they glanced at the stats, knowing their numbers don't compare to some of the other top receivers in the league. But they don't, because they all know — and accept — how the system works.
"It's passed down," Nelson said. "We know there's talent. We know everyone wants the ball and everyone wants to get on the field. We know there's going to be limited opportunities so when you get the opportunity, you've got to do it. You've got to make the most of it and make sure you're ready when your time comes.
"We just hold each other accountable," Nelson added. "If you're out there and not making the play, then we're going to be on each other. 'I'm sitting here and you're doing that?' So we're hard on each other and, again, it's all about making the most of your opportunities."
And when they do, no one takes greater delight than Rodgers.
Jones took a lot of grief the first few years of his career for his drops. According to Pro Football Focus, Jones had a drop rate of 14.39 percent from 2009 to 2011, second-worst behind Roy Williams among players with at least 125 catchable balls.
But when Jones was a free agent in the spring of 2011, Rodgers was one of his biggest supporters, urging the Packers to bring him back.
Jones wound up signing a three-year deal.
"I'm just going to say that I hope we can hold onto him for a while," Rodgers said, grinning, when asked if Jones is playing like a No. 1 receiver this year. "He's playing really well, making the most of his opportunities, making me look good in the process. So you've got to appreciate James, the way he's playing right now."
His praise for Cobb is equally high.
Cobb spent most of his rookie season on special teams — he was a Pro Bowl alternate as a kick returner — though he got a little time on offense.
A quarterback himself in college, Cobb made it a priority to work with Rodgers during the offseason, picking the MVP's brain about routes and coverages, and his progress is drawing raves.
"It's not going to be his last 100-yard game, I can tell you that much. He's a big-time player," Rodgers said. "We love having him here. He adds a lot to our offense. We're just going to continue giving him more opportunities."