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James Jones Should Be The One Saying "Shhhhhh..."

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James Jones Should Be The One Saying "Shhhhhh..."

Last Sunday, following a game best described as a "conquest" by the Green Bay Packers over the Houston Texans, Aaron Rodgers was asked what message he had sent to his critics.  His response: "Shhhhhh...."

And Packer Nation rejoiced. We celebrated this bold response to what was nearly two weeks of people questioning whether or not he had lost something from his MVP season last year. And, there's nothing wrong with rallying around your quarterback. Heck, most of us are still conditioned to rally around Rodgers dating back to the Favregate scandal.

But, if you're really going talk about who should be taking some pride in silencing his critics, look no further than the guys on the other side of those passes that Rodgers was suddenly connecting on like an boss again. And, none of those wide receivers have taken more criticism over the past few seasons than James Jones.

In fact, most of us, and I certainly include myself in that group, were ready to run James Jones out of town on a rail last season following the lockout. It wasn't that Jones was bad...he just wasn't playing as well as some of the guys around him. It didn't help his case that, at the time, he was the fourth (or fifth) man on the depth chart, behind superstars Greg Jennings and Donald Driver, as well as up-and-coming Jordy Nelson and a highly-touted rookie in Randall Cobb.

The Packers were spoiled at wide receiver, and with holes starting to appear at other position groups following the usual scavenger hunt that affects every Super Bowl-winning team, some of us had tired of Jones' inconsistent play. Why would we spend millions of dollars on a guy who was slowly letting his opportunities slip away, when we knew we had far bigger fish to fry in the Contract Extensions Department on the horizon?

Jones had been starkly similar to another pass receiver presently on the Packers' roster: making acrobatic circus catches perhaps once a game...highlight-reel material...but being utterly reliable on the routine catches that should be the bread-and-butter of any passing offense. Even though the Packers' offense was a big-play passing offense, dropped passes on 3rd-and-6 will doom any drive, and leave your quarterback glaring at the receiver.

And certainly, Jones has taken more than his share of flames from Rodgers over the years.  Heck, Rodgers gave him a tongue-lashing just a few weeks ago during the Bears game when Jones cut off a route that resulted in an interception.  It wasn't the first time that he had received criticism, and if it wasn't from Rodgers on the field, it was from us off of it.

There was a point in his development that also set off a few flags in the minds of many fans, when in November of 2010 he began discussing his development in the third person, following a string of dropped passes.

"James Jones could play better, yes," Jones said. "But James Jones believes to be up, you need opportunities. I can't throw the ball to myself. I can't do that."

Now, as a Packer fan, when players start talking about themselves in the third person, particularly an underachieving wide receiver, who is the first name that comes to mind? Of course, it is Randy "Randy plays when Randy wants to play" Moss, and for many of us, that was a nail in the coffin for Jones. Perhaps even more concerning was his willingness to passively "pass the buck" onto the guy throwing the passes.

So, when the lockout finally ended in the summer of 2011, many of us had written James Jones off already, a free-agent that had not been re-signed by Ted Thompson prior to his contract expired. Given the number of players Thompson strikes a deal with before they hit the open market, most of us figured that the GM was on board with us. Time to let Jones go and give more time to Nelson and this talented rookie.

We don't need five receivers all getting paid starting salaries, right?

But the lockout created a short, hyper-caffeinated free agent season, with players going faster than Antonio Freeman and  Charles Jordan can switch car seats.  Soon, the market dried up, and James Jones, who had been expecting the usual "I'm a backup on a Super Bowl Champion" contract from the Oakland Raiders, was left with no bidders.

Then, like a re-gifted gift being gifted back to you, we were somewhat shocked when he quietly signed a free-agent contract with the Packers.  We thought we had just gotten rid of that Shake Weight, and suddenly, here it is under the Christmas tree. Again.

But two voices of reason placated us in a way that not negotiating a deal ahead of time ever could.  First of all, Ted Thompson does not spend money frivolously, and gave Jones a market-worthy $9.4M contract over three years. Even so, many of us wondered how much of that money might have gone to keep Cullen Jenkins in the fold.

But the words of the man who had "pulled a Cutler" on Jones  on the field was the one who who gave him the public voice of confidence.

"He's an important part of this team," Rodgers said of Jones. "He plays a big role for us. We need to add him back. We need to add John Kuhn back. Those are two guys out there right now who are important to us.

"It's not my decision, but I'm definitely pulling for those guys to bring 'em back."

So, perhaps begrudgingly, we accepted Jones back, and immediately rolled our eyes wen he was targeted only once against the Saints. He did get some playing time, and made a little more with the reduced targets he got, but he finished the season as perhaps the best and highest-paid fourth string WR in the league.

But in my years watching Ted Thompson, I've learned that more times than not, he's usually more right than the fans are. And as 2012 has rolled around, Thompson may just be laughing away at what may be his most criticized free agent signing* paying off.  We saw the decline of Donald Driver last season, and in 2012 it is evident that it is Driver who is taking on the role of the occasional target on the depth chart.

Now, add in the disappearance of our top  receiver with a persistent hamstring injury and you can start making some excuses for why Rodgers had such a slow start to his season.

But James Jones wasn't looking for excuses.  He was looking for opportunity, and now in his sixth season, he's taking it.  As the roles among the receivers have morphed and adjusted to the absence of last year's starters, Jones has found his niche as, of all things, the closer.

Look no further than his two impossible catches already this season, the game-clincher against the Saints where he blindly caught a ball from around the body of the defender, saving a punt and denying New Orleans one final chance to come back in the final seconds.  Being at that game, I can tell you not one person cheered in the stadium when that catch happened, because watching it live, there was no way your brain could possibly conclude he had come up with the ball.  It was a slow realization (and a couple replays on the big screen) that ball was caught, and the game was over.

Or, last week's touchdown catch, where he once again lost sight of the ball with a man blocking him, yet knew instinctively where to put his hands to catch it on the other side of the defender's body.  These are not easy catches, and shouldn't be taken for granted.

But, most importantly, on a team that has been vilified for its repeated drops of Aaron Rodgers' passes this year, James Jones hasn't a single drop this season. Not.One.  He's leading the league in touchdowns, but more importantly, he's becoming the guy that Rodgers is turning to when the going gets tough; a far cry from the sticky end we thought he'd meet.

The best part is that Jones isn't just accomplishing these feats based on his own natural talent.  He's applied his mental game and improved his fundamentals.  Just ask Edgar Bennett.

“Basically, what you put into it, you get out of it," Bennett said. "You see a guy [Jones] that’s working his butt off. You see a guy that’s committed and doing the little things. It matters to him. And it’s great to see him have that success.”

When you combine that with the work ethic and production of Jordy Nelson, and the "coach's dream" knowledge and locker room presence of Randall Cobb, you get the feeling that the Green Bay Packers will be just fine at wide receiver--even if Greg Jennings leaves via free agency and Donald Driver rides off into the sunset of retirement.

The Packers have three very, very good receivers right now, all with room to grow even further. And none have grown up quite like James Jones, who endured a lot more criticism than Aaron Rodgers has gone through recently. Perhaps, like Rodgers, it was the doubters who motivated him to step up his game and prove them wrong. If that's the case, I'm glad we put that chip on his shoulder.

But make no doubt about it right now:  James Jones has proven all of us wrong, and proven Ted Thompson's  faith in him justified.

Shhhhhhhhhhhhh.

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* not exactly a significant event, as he rarely signs free agents anyway

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C.D. Angeli is a longtime Packer fan and feature writer for CheeseheadTV.com. He is also the co-host of the regular live Packer podcast Cheesehead Radio. Follow him on Twitter at @TundraVision.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (28) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Bearmeat's picture

Great write up CD. Absolutely agree. I will chew my crow gladly when it comes to Jones.

Nerdmann's picture

First of all, Jennings has a groin injury, not a hammy.

Second of all, JJ still struggles when the ball comes over his shoulder.

If he can turn and FACE the QB, his catch percentage goes way, way up.

Here's an issue nobody's talking about though: Why is it so MANY of our guys are having issues with drops? If it was just one guy, or maybe two guys, I'd say it's on THEM.

But it's not.

I knew a kid who threw a "change up" really well. Catching for him was a challenge, as was hitting against him.

The ball would look like it was just suddenly ON you, without warning, like it was starting out slow then, BAM! It was blowing right past you.

Is there something odd about the way Aaron throws the ball? Why are so many guys unable to catch his passes consistently? Just seems odd to me that ALL of these guys have that same issue.

tundravision's picture

In my defense, I actually went back to the news article from the Sporting News I found on Google. The text on the Google link said "hamstring", but when I went back to check the actual article, they had corrected it to "groin".

If that's my only mistake in 1,600 words, I'm pretty happy. :)

Jones was a little quieter today, but that's okay. It wasn't like he was dropping any passes, and made some excellent attempts on two poorly thrown balls.

I did write up an article talking a little about what I thought was going on with Rodgers' throwing mechanics a few weeks ago. But then, I was told to "Shhhhhhhhh...". ;)

PackersRS's picture

"Is there something odd about the way Aaron throws the ball? Why are so many guys unable to catch his passes consistently? Just seems odd to me that ALL of these guys have that same issue."

There's plenty of wrong with this line of thought.

First of all, they've been with Rodgers for more than 4 years. It's more than enough to get accustomed with the velocity on his ball.

And the guy that has the least experience with Rodgers is 9th in the league in %passes caught/target with 82.9%, excluding today's game, which was his best.

I went back and looked at 2007's numbers, when Favre was playing great. Jennings' catch rate was 63%. Driver 67%. James Jones 59%.
To broaden the sample size, here are 2006' numbers: Driver 53%, Jennings 43%. But it was an awful year.

2008, with Rodgers: Jennings 57%, Driver 64%, James Jones 67%
2009, Driver 63%, Jennings 57%, Jones 52%
2010, Jennings 61%, Jones 57%, Driver 61%

So, similar numbers, different QBs. Which means it's not Rodgers' balls. It's just the receivers.

tundravision's picture

I never once suspected Rodgers' balls, just to make it clear.

MarkinMadison's picture

I really don't see why you are discussing another man's balls.

Nerdmann's picture

It would be an interesting pictorial.

John's picture

He has not dropped a ball regardless of location. Read and understand

Jamie's picture

Anyone ready to run James Jones out of town, and Jermichael Finley for that matter, is extremely shortsighted.

The opinion of those folks should be taken with a grain of salt, and for their own sake I hope they have someone in their lives to make critical decisions for them when things aren't going their way...as they are not capable.

Bearmeat's picture

^THIS^

MarkinMadison's picture

So, can you make a point about football without getting personal on people?

The Blocked Man's picture

lol.

Jamie's picture

Sorry, just not a fan of serial labelers and panickers.

Some of these same folks called Jennings the next Ferguson, Neal the next Harrell, gave up on Nelson, Jones, Finley...probably half the team over the last five years.

People are entitled to their opinion, but when they voice their opinion publicly, they open themselves up to having their opinion called ridiculous, shortsighted, pointless, ignorant, etc.

I second that's picture

Or Blocked because YOU don't happen to like it? Silliness.

You are a good moderator on the chats and write some very nice articles. However, you regularly take offense very quickly with opinions that you don't happen to agree with. And it hurts your work here at CHTV. That is a fact.

There's a difference between Cow42, Rocky70, Pack66 - and the rest of us Packer fans who really WANT the team to win.

I will continue to call 'em as I see 'em on the live blog and in the comments section. It is a fact that the Packers have looked like absolute trash in around 10 of their 28 quarters so far this year. If you don't like it, feel free to continue blocking away and calling people 'ridiculous, shortsighted, pointless, ignorant, etc.' I can't stop you.

But know that when you can't discuss rationally with people you disagree with, and resort to putting proverbial duct tape over their mouths or slandering them, it states something about you. Not them.

toolkien's picture

People can call it like they see it so long as they see it correctly, or attempt to. The Packers have played like trash? When they have played the hardest slate of teams so far this season? Played the second toughest slate of defenses (and the 5th toughest slate of offenses)? And they SHOULD BE 5-2? And that they have had only three home games so far this year, had to start the year with a short week and then had to play 4 out 5 on the road? And it's all about the "trash". Funny how the team is trash when the talent level it plays is extremely high.

I'd take 5-2 against the hardest slate through 7 weeks, and a funky schedule right out of the gate, any season. Unfortunately, it stands as 4-3 because of idiot refs and idiot NFL. Oh well.

But I suppose it's par for the course, because all I've seen from a large portion of the fan base the last three prior years is complaints even though the Packers were the best team.

So by all means, call it like you see it. But look at it with proper perspective.

Jayme Snowden's picture

I am not Jamie.

I am Jayme.

Jamie is not the moderator.

MarkinMadison's picture

All of which MAY be true, but lower football IQ does not lead to lower ability to function in life. Just keep them separate. Also, we all get football stuff wrong all the time, because other than POC nobody here has ever done this for a living. Heck I think within the last 18 months Nagler was arguing that we did not even need a running game (apologies, because I'm probably over-simplifying his position) and now we all agree that we need to be able to run the ball better. I hold Jones and Finley in a special place because they have been underperforming for several years in a row, and have usually had an excuse. I'm glad Jones has turned it around. I won't say I was wrong because he struggled for three of the last five years. I will say he has really turning it around and if he keeps it up for a whole season I will just shut up about him.

robbie's picture

Yes you could say there is something odd about the way he throws a dart with a perfect spiral and spot on accuracy.....about the baseball thing um how was this catcher suprised by a pitch that he called for? The packers wr s just dont have the most consistant hands and they seem to be pretty streaky

woodson4president's picture

JJs catch that he couldnt quite get his feet down for was nothing short of amazing. If u had never seen him play until this season ud say...damn that 89 can catch!

BrianD's picture

Jones is exactly what he's always been: a slightly above average receiver. Recently, he's been dropping fewer balls.

End of story.

Jamie's picture

^^This...

...is flat out dumb.

Bearmeat's picture

Jones has always had the talent to be a very good NFL WR. He just decided to concentrate more on refining his craft over the past 8 months.

John's picture

Brian, open your mind, see the world around you JJ is playing very well!

tundravision's picture

Okay, first of all...

People are going to be critical of the Packers and of individual Packers players. We can condemn them all we want, but its not going away anytime soon. And at the time, Jones was definately in the crosshairs of a lot of fans, and some of it was justified based on his performance.

Secondly, James Jones has stepped in well to at least the #3 spot, which in the Packer offense is pretty much another starter. If he's nothing more than an above average receiver, he's gone to a different level of "above average" than the one that only got 55 targets last year.

alfredomartinez's picture

james jones has always held himself up to a high personal standard...asides from really neat (googled) stats and numbers, i had the chance (several times) to have a bite and talk w him here in Fresno (he comes at least every summer and practices w the Fresno state receiver crew), very low key dude, his family is freaking lovely...so im glad he is excelling to the opportunities given so far...but as a packer fan, its about damn time lol!

woodson4president's picture

If a player like greg is on the sideline and jj takes his spot and it doesnt bother u.....obviously he isnt too shabby.

toolkien's picture

It's amazing how much heat Jones got for the dropped ball early in the second half of the Super Bowl and yet got little to no love from anybody for that drive sustaining crab-like catch later in the game. It was 3rd down and it was on the drive that got the Packers to 28. Given how they had been sputtering up to that point in the second half it was a much needed play, one that was a very difficult catch to make and he made it. And it's all just "ho-hum". Packer fans can be some of the most spoiled fans when they touted as the most "knowledgeable". Magnify a bad play out of all proportion and not once comment on a good play. Jones dropped a ball in the Phillie game, but he made a few very nice catches in the Atlanta game. And what got all the message board chatter?

Spoiled.

PackersRS's picture

A large fanbase is bound to have all types of fans.

But I agree. Some are flat out spoiled by all the greats and all the success this franchise has had.

They call it "higher standard". The line isn't clear, but some lose sight of the context.

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