2015 Most Important Packers No. 4: Jordy Nelson, WR

WR coming off offseason hip surgery

Jordy Nelson wouldn’t say much about his offseason hip surgery – in fact, he might not have ever actually said the surgery was on his hip.

But the Green Bay Packers Pro Bowl wide receiver did say this much:

“We’ll be ready to go by training camp,” Nelson said during the team’s June minicamp.

That’s exactly what the Packers want and need, since the only time in the past four years he hasn’t been ultra-productive was when he was injured.

That was in 2012, when a hamstring injury cost him four games and parts of two others. He ended up catching 49 passes for 745 yards and seven touchdowns that season.

In his other three years, he eclipsed the 1,000-yard barrier, each season better than the previous one: 68 receptions for 1,263 yards and 15 TDs in 2011; 85 receptions for 1,314 yards and eight TDs in 2013; and 98 receptions for 1,519 yards and 13 TDs last year. Last year’s receptions and yardage were not only career-highs, but Nelson set the franchise record for receiving yards in a season.

Why he’s important:  The Packers may not need him to carry that great of a load in the passing game this season, but given the relationship he has with quarterback Aaron Rodgers – the two car-pool to Austin Straubel International Airport for each charter flight to road games – and the faith Rodgers has in him, Nelson is not only one of the top receivers in the NFL, he’s also the security blanket for the NFL MVP. Even though Randall Cobb has shown an aptitude for making what Rodgers calls “second-reaction” plays, Nelson and Rodgers seemingly are on an entirely different wavelength.

While the expected emergence of second-year receiver Davante Adams may cut into Nelson’s targets – Nelson was targeted 151 times last season and 127 times in 2013 – it may also free Nelson of some of the constant attention he has received from opposing defenses. A few years ago, Nelson was that player for Greg Jennings. Now, it’s Nelson who’d welcome the assistance.

If he delivers:  The Packers’ receiving corps may be the deepest in the league if two other second-year pass catchers (Jeff Janis, Jared Abbrederis) contribute and rookie third-round pick Ty Montgomery can impress the coaches on the field as much as he impressed them with how he picked up the playbook. Nonetheless, if Nelson has another big year, it will mean that Rodgers and the offense have been as productive as expected. It also means Nelson will have stayed healthy, which seemingly is the only way he won’t put up 1,000 yards.

If he disappoints:  Whether it was Nelson’s hip this offseason or his knee that required cleanup two summers ago, most of Nelson’s injury issues have been minor and have yet to cost him anything more than practice time. And having just turned 30 in May, he’s in the heart of his prime. That 2012 season was frustrating for Nelson, though, as every time he thought he was past the hamstring being an issue, it cropped up again. His explanation for the after-the-season surgery on his hip was that it was a simple procedure. Given his value, the Packers had better hope so.

“If it didn’t bother me, I probably wouldn’t have had the surgery, but nothing major,” Nelson said. “I had an opportunity to get some things cleaned up. We did it. I think it was a good move and feel good about where we’re at and going forward.”

Quote, unquote:  “I like the responsibility. I think it’s something [that happened] a couple years ago when we had a big changeover with everyone leaving and everything, and kind of being thrown into the forefront of being a leader in our room. I take a lot of pride in that. We’ve all been taught by older guys that it’s our responsibility to teach younger guys. I said it last year with Davante that we have to teach him because eventually he’s going to play a big role for us. Everybody saw it down the end of the season, down the stretch run what he meant. We have to get these guys caught up to speed and give them an opportunity to earn a spot on this team come August. That’s our responsibility.” – Nelson, on his leadership role.