James Jones: Packers' WR Will Remain Relevant Even After Greg Jennings Returns

Rick WeinerFeatured ColumnistOctober 4, 2012

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 30:  James Jones #89 of the Green Bay Packers leaps into the stands after catching a touchdown pass against the New Orleans Saints at Lambeau Field on September 30, 2012 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Saints 28-27. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

With No. 1 receiver Greg Jennings on the shelf with a groin injury, someone needed to step up for the Packers and give QB Aaron Rodgers a reliable option after WR Jordy Nelson.

Enter the oft-maligned James Jones.

It was only two years ago that Jones was being criticized for consistently dropping the ball when he was wide open, something that he's worked hard to improve upon since.

Amid the criticism, Rodgers was a vocal supporter of his receiver, telling ESPN Milwaukee following the season that re-signing Jones was of the utmost importance:

James is extremely talented and he's a guy that I think we have to bring back without a doubt. He should be priority No. 1. And I mean that with all my heart. He really should be priority No. 1. We don't win the Super Bowl without him. And we need him.

The Packers did just that, and thus far in 2012, Jones has proven that Rodgers was right, as he's second on the team with 16 receptions for 191 yards and three touchdowns, well on his way to having a career season.

Over the past two weeks, Jones has caught 10-of-the-12 passes thrown his way, picking up 116 yards and two scores. His 23 targets on the season, third-most on the team, only prove what a vital cog Jones has become in the machine that is the Packers offense.

He's clearly taking advantage of the fact that the Packers are without one of their biggest weapons on offense, and that it happens to come as the 28-year-old receiver enters the prime of his career is a win-win situation for all parties involved.

Except Greg Jennings.

While Jennings remains the team's best receiver, his return won't eliminate Jones from the equation. If anything, Jennings, who will return to drawing the opposing team's top corner, will open the field up even more for Jones. 

Instead of going up against a team's second corner, Jones will go back to facing off against the opposition's nickelback or a safety. He's at the point in his career when he can beat the majority of those players all day long.

Rodgers knows that, and while Jones might not be targeted quite as often initially, the fact that he's constantly getting open will lead to an increase in his production as he begins to take looks away from both Jennings and Nelson.

Greg Jennings' return won't spell the end of James Jones' relevance in the Packers offense.

It will only make him more relevant than he's ever been before.