32 Questions in 32 Days: Green Bay Packers

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Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers

Dec 2, 2012; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) looks to throw a pass to wide receiver Randall Cobb (18) during the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field. The Packers defeated the Vikings 23-14. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

As we count down to the NFL season, XN Sports will be bringing you 32 questions in 32 days. Each day, we’ll feature one of the most important questions for a different NFL team heading into the opening weekend of the league.

Today’s feature team and question?

The Green Bay Packers – Will the team miss Greg Jennings?

Playing his entire career in Green Bay after being drafted in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft, Greg Jennings had become a fixture with the Packers and a fan favorite. He immediately produced with 45 catches and 632 receiving yards in his first season with Brett Favre (yeah, that Brett Favre) at the helm. Jennings also quickly became a favorite receiver of the quarterback as he was targeted 104 times his rookie season - a pretty insane number considering his relatively modest 45 grabs.

Jennings hung on through all of the Favre retirement drama and his numbers only got better with the transition to current quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Jennings had arguably the best season of his career with Rodgers under center in 2008, recording 80 catches and 1,292 receiving yards. Both marks still stand as career-bests for the wideout.

Jennings has had some hard luck with injuries over the past two seasons. In 2011, he missed three games with an MCL injury and last year, sat out half of the season with a groin injury. His numbers, as expected took a hit. Jennings hasn’t recorded 1,000 receiving yards in a season since 2010 and with 366 yards in eight games last year, he would have been on pace for the worst 16-game season in his entire career even if he remained healthy. For whatever reason, he simply wasn’t as productive.

That was enough for the Packers who decided to move on this season and rely on some younger receivers, allowing Jennings to sign with the rival Minnesota Vikings. However, will it be a move that comes back to haunt the franchise? Not likely.

The Packers have a solid wide receiving corps even without the former star. Last year, the trio of Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, and James Jones contributed greatly in Jennings’ absence and there’s no reason to think they can’t do it again. The trio combined for nearly 2,500 yards and the star of the group was the emerging Randall Cobb. The second-year receiver led the team with 80 catches and 954 yards. All three receivers, under the age of 30, are back this season and can form an extremely dangerous group.

In addition, with Jermichael Finley, Green Bay has one of the better tight ends in the league. Finley has 116 catches and more than 1,400 receiving yards over the past two seasons to go along with ten touchdowns. He’s yet another reason that the passing game will still be productive in 2013.

One other thing to consider were the recent comments Jennings made about his ex-team. He implied that Rodgers thought he was perhaps better than he actually was and even after being scolded by his new team, still lobbed another cheap shot at the team, talking about a brainwashed mentality in Green Bay. Even if they got along as teammates, it’s clear that Jennings wasn’t a fan of Rodgers and the fact that he’s not back with the Packers has probably led to some sour grapes on his end. Plus, the longer he stuck around with the team, the better the chance that it came to light and caused a distraction.

At only 29, there’s no doubt that Jennings still has plenty in the tank. If healthy, he could easily play for another five or six seasons. His move to a division rival is also far from ideal as the Packers will have to contend with him twice a year. However, with other young receivers, allowing him to walk wasn’t the worst thing in the world and the Packers will be fine.

Anson Whaley is a freelance writer with more than 16 years of experience. He is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and a current member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA). Mr. Whaley has also been a credentialed member of the media for various events.
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