INDIANAPOLIS – Jordy Nelson is already looking like the Jordy of old, and the rest of his receiving mates may look like a different group if they’re totally healthy in 2016.
That was the rundown on the Packers’ wide receivers at the NFL Scouting Combine on Thursday. They were a big topic of discussion as Head Coach Mike McCarthy and General Manager Ted Thompson met with the media.
The news on Nelson couldn’t have been more positive for Packers fans.
“Jordy looks great,” McCarthy said, adding that his reconstructive knee surgery was a success. “I’m not really worried about him getting back to where he was. He’s way ahead of schedule.”
Nelson injured his knee in the preseason last August. McCarthy said he would probably do some work in OTAs this spring, and he sees no limitations come the start of training camp in late July.
Thompson said he’s seen Nelson around the Packers’ facility “literally all the time.” His dedication to a full recovery has been obvious.
“He’s a workout rehab freak, just like you would imagine,” Thompson said. “That was a hard thing for him to do, sit out the season, but he looks great.
“Sometimes I wonder if he was really hurt. Just kidding.”
It’s also no joke how banged up many of Nelson’s mates were in 2015. After multiple attempts to get back on the field, Ty Montgomery went on injured reserve with an ankle injury that required surgery. Davante Adams’ fundamentals took a step back due to his ankle injury. Randall Cobb played through more shoulder pain than he was letting on early last year.
McCarthy couldn’t have been more impressed by Montgomery’s endless efforts to return, and he personally told him that, given some players’ desire in his situation to have surgery right away, rather than view it as a last resort.
“That’s the way a pro goes about it,” said McCarthy, who also spoke with reporters in an extended off-site session. “He did everything he could. For a young guy, some people might have shut it down a lot earlier than that.”
A third-round draft pick a year ago, Montgomery had 15 catches for 136 yards and two TDs in the first six games of his rookie season, but never saw the game field again. It was frustrating for Montgomery in particular and the offense in general that was already trying to navigate other health issues.
Montgomery may not be ready to return until training camp, but there’s plenty for him to go after in his second year.
“He’s a very bright young man. Football comes very natural to him,” McCarthy said. “His ability to move in and out of multiple positions at such a young age is very impressive. It’s important for him to get back and master the receiver position.”
The same goes for Adams, whose own ankle injury threw his second season off kilter. Thrust into a primary role perhaps too soon following Nelson’s injury, Adams was hurt in September, missed nearly four full games and finished with just 50 catches for 483 yards and one score in the regular season.
How long the injury affected him can’t be quantified, but McCarthy did say Adams needed to “play through” the injury better. It was a learning experience for a young player.
“Whether it was physical, confidence, he wasn’t the same there,” McCarthy said. “You could see it in his route running, his steps were shorter. That’s the stuff that doesn’t show up in stats.”
Cobb’s preseason shoulder injury was no treat, either. McCarthy even referenced “multiple shoulder injuries,” and it wasn’t until late in the year that he felt comfortable putting Cobb in the backfield regularly and using him in the multi-faceted way he did in his breakout 2014 campaign. Cobb didn’t have more than one carry in a game until mid-December, eventually rushing 14 times for 56 yards in a five-game stretch through the first playoff contest.
In his “old-school” way, Cobb never missed a game and rarely spoke about his injury as he finished with 79 catches for 829 yards and six scores, a far cry from his prior year receiving numbers (91-1,287-12).
“I don’t want to discredit anybody but he fought through a lot of injuries,” McCarthy said. “To play in some of the games that he played in was very impressive.”
Late in the year, Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis filled in admirably when called upon, setting them up to fight for more playing time in 2016 as well. There’s always a chance another draft pick gets added to the mix, too.
The attention on this position group won’t wane anytime soon.
“As far as the competition as we sit today, it’s wide open,” McCarthy said. “All those guys have done some good things. They’ve done things they can learn from. They’re all comfortable in the offense.”