The 2009 Packers by position: Wide receivers

WR Donald Driver (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

In Part 6 of our position-by-position look at training camp, we look at an elite group that features Donald Driver and Greg Jennings. The Packers have an impressive quintet but it's not without its flaws.

Packer Report continues its position-by-position training camp preview with a look at the wide receivers. The list after "depth" includes all of the players on the current roster. The list after "final cut" is our prediction on who will make the final roster, with the number of players based on past seasons.

Depth (11): Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, James Jones, Jordy Nelson, Ruvell Martin, Brett Swain, Jake Allen, Kole Heckendorf, Jamarko Simmons, JaRon Harris, Patrick Williams.

Review: If the Packers' receivers aren't the best from top to bottom in the NFL, they're darned close. Greg Jennings had a monster year, posting career highs with 80 receptions and 1,292 yards. His amazing ability to get deep without top-end speed allowed him to catch a league-high eight 40-yard receptions. His average per catch of 16.2 yards ranked seventh among the league's top receivers, and he added nine touchdowns to give him 21 over the last two seasons. Driver posted yet another 1,000-yard season and, defying Father Time, got better as the season went on. Jones had a miserable year with a knee injury that just wouldn't go away and plunged from 47 receptions as a rookie to only 20. Taking his place as the No. 3 receiver for most of the season, sure-handed Jordy Nelson ranked fifth in the NFL among rookie receivers with 33 receptions and dropped only one pass. Martin saw his numbers decline and was mostly a nonfactor in the passing game, though the Packers like his willingness to do some of the dirty work that goes unseen on television. Swain and Allen spent their rookie seasons on the practice squad. The other four are undrafted rookies, with Heckendorf, Simmons and Harris being the best receivers in their schools' history.


Big-play receiver Greg Jennings
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Strength: There's strength in numbers. Defenses focused on Driver to start the season and Jennings made them pay by averaging 109 receiving yards in the first six weeks with four touchdowns. The 5-foot-11 Jennings isn't blessed with Randy Moss' height or speed, but there are few better receivers in the league at getting deep and making the catch. He's fundamentally sound and has incredible timing to grab the ball at its peak. When the focus shifted to Jennings' penchant for big plays, Driver — who turned 34 a month after the season — took advantage. His best four-game segment of the season was the final four weeks, in which he had 20 receptions for 314 yards and his longest gains of the year (59 and 71 yards). At 6-foot-1 and 208 pounds, Jones is blessed with a powerful frame and good-enough speed. Finally healthy late in the season, he produced four catches for 132 yards at Jacksonville, with three gains of at least 34 yards. Other than quarterbacks, receivers have the toughest job adjusting from the college game to the NFL, but that learning curve didn't bother Nelson. He learned all of the receiver spots and was incredibly consistent, catching at least one pass in the final 15 games. Jones vs. Nelson will be one of the hot battles at camp. There will be a hot battle to be the fifth receiver, too. Martin is an attractive target at 6-foot-4, and his blocking and team-first attitude are assets. But Swain, a seventh-round pick last year, made considerable strides during the offseason. If the decision comes down to catches and run after the catch, Swain might be the favorite — and don't rule out Allen, Heckendorf and possibly Simmons making a run at Martin, too. Martin fills a niche, though, and there's more to being a receiver than catching passes. What goes overlooked in this group is its tightness. The good-natured bunch of Driver, Jennings, Jones, Nelson and Martin are seated next to each other in the locker room. While jealousy and pouting are prime characteristics of many big-time receivers, that's not an issue in Green Bay.

Weakness: For all of their talent, it can be argued this group can — and should — be better. For one, they drop too many passes. Jennings dropped nine of them last year, including three in the first quarter of the season finale against Detroit. Jones has perhaps the best hands on the team. Maybe he trusts those hands too much or maybe they cause lapses in concentration, but he dropped four in limited action last year. The Packers weren't nearly as dangerous after the catch as in 2007, when they led the league in yards after catch. About 41 percent of Aaron Rodgers' passing yards came on run after the catch. That ranked in a five-way tie for 32nd among the NFL's top 40 quarterbacks. Nelson, in particular, offered practically nothing after getting the ball. Jennings still hasn't finished a season strong. In 13 games played in November, he has only one 100-yard game: 101 in last year's shellacking at New Orleans. In 13 games played after Dec. 1, Jennings has two 100-yard games: 101 vs. Detroit (0-16) and 100 vs. Oakland (4-12).

Quoteworthy: "Just keep getting better, to keep being a positive example and just being who I am," Jennings said after signing his contract. "I've never been one to let things change who I am, my personality, my character. Not a diva receiver, never have been a diva receiver. If I start to become a diva receiver — that would never happen. That's not in my character. That's not who I am. I've always tried to be within myself, my own personality."

Final cut (5): Jennings, Driver, Jones, Nelson, Martin.

It's tempting to go with Swain, and he could very well beat out Martin to be the fifth receiver. But with Driver, Jennings, Nelson and Jones — not to mention Jermichael Finley and Donald Lee — Rodgers has plenty of weapons. Martin's willingness to do the little things gives him the edge.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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