Packers need Jordy Nelson but have more options in the interim

5:28 PM ET

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Jordy Nelson may very well be ready for the Green Bay Packers’ regular-season opener at Jacksonville — or perhaps sooner — even though he experienced what he called “a hiccup” with his left knee while rehabbing his torn right ACL.

If the Packers have to play a meaningful game or two without their Pro Bowl receiver, early indications suggest they’ll be better off than they were last year, when Nelson’s absence crippled Aaron Rodgers‘ ability to throw deep.

The reason(s): Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, Jeff Janis, Jared Abbrederis, Trevor Davis, Eddie Lacy and eventually Jared Cook and Ty Montgomery.

Anyone who watched Tuesday’s opening practice of training camp should have come away impressed with the Packers’ offense, even considering it was a non-padded workout.

Nelson sure was.

“I told some of the guys this is the best offensive practice I’ve seen Day 1 in all my years playing football,” Nelson said.

To be sure, the Packers need Nelson to return to his pre-ACL form. In 2014, he set career highs with 98 catches and 1,519 yards along with 13 touchdowns (two shy of his career best).

Given how the depth chart looks behind him right now, perhaps the offense won’t remain in the bottom third of the NFL again even if it takes Nelson some added time to come back.

Consider:

  • Adams looks like he has bounced back nicely from ankle and knee injuries that contributed to his disappointing second season. The former second-round pick might be ready to finally live up to the expectations he created after some flashy performances as a rookie.

  • Cobb’s role could further expand. On Tuesday, we saw him not only catching passes out of the slot like usual but also out of the backfield and running the ball.

  • Janis appears to have matured into a reliable player and has built off his remarkable seven-catch, 145-yard, two-touchdown performance in the playoff loss at Arizona. Rodgers no longer appears apprehensive about throwing his way.

  • The same can be said for Abbrederis, who had what coach Mike McCarthy called an “exceptional” offseason.

  • Davis, the fifth-round pick from Cal, showed off his speed on Tuesday and had one of the most productive first days by a rookie receiver in recent memory. He made an athletic catch along the sideline and ran down two deep balls.

  • Montgomery might be one of the most versatile receivers if he’s recovered from the ankle surgery that has him on the physically unable to perform list to start camp.

  • Cook is expected to be the deep-threat tight end they haven’t had down the seam since Jermichael Finley’s 2013 neck injury. Like Montgomery, he’s on PUP to start.

All of that is why McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson might have to consider keeping seven receivers on the roster this year.

Perhaps the best news for the passing game came in the running game. Lacy looked lighter than he was this spring thanks in part to another round of training with workout guru Tony Horton.

However, even Lacy knows there’s no substitute for having Nelson and Rodgers along with him.

“We’ll be tough to deal with, but we have to stay healthy,” Lacy said. “If us three all get out there and we all get on the same page, it will be tough for defenses to stop all of us.”



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