GREEN BAY – Aaron Rodgers has been visited by a less-than-thrilled wide receiver before. But after James Jones didn’t record a single reception against the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday, the Green Bay Packers quarterback knew Jones wouldn’t come to him to complain about his lack of opportunities.
Instead, Rodgers had to go to him.
“I actually checked on him Monday and Tuesday, made sure he was doing OK knowing that it’s a long season,” Rodgers explained after Jones set career highs in receptions (11, on 12 targets) and receiving yards (178) during the Packers’ 38-20 victory over the Washington Redskins at Lambeau Field Sunday. “There were times over the last couple years where he didn’t get the ball in some games.
“I was talking to him at the end of the game, saying, ‘Hey, just practice this week like you did last week,’ because he really had a great focus last week and I think it says a lot about the kind of person he is. We talked about being unselfish in our meeting on Saturday, and it’s impressive to see these guys blocking for each other, running the routes to win all the time and it’s fun having that many weapons.”
Rodgers said he didn’t make a concerted effort to get the ball to Jones more. Instead, Rodgers said Jones got more involved because of the Packers’ success running the ball (James Starks rushed for 132 yards) and the way the Redskins played defensively. Rather than keeping both safeties back the way San Francisco did, the Redskins played one safety high, freeing up Jones for opportunities outside.
“A lot of times, based on the scheme we’re playing, that will dictate who gets more opportunities,” Rodgers said. “When you’re playing a team that plays a lot of one-high (safety looks), regardless of the leverage, the guys outside are going to get some more opportunities. (With) two-high (safeties), as we saw last week, (it’s) more guys (the) on the inside – (tight end Jermichael (Finley) and (slot receiver) Randall Cobb – (who) had more opportunities last week.
“So, the outside guys got some chances (today). James had some good matchups and got him the ball in space, got him the ball over the top and made some really nice plays.”
That he did, although despite accounting for nearly a third of the team’s 580 offensive yards, Jones was still hung up on one of the few negatives from Sunday’s win.
On the Packers’ final play from scrimmage in the first half, when they were leading 24-0, Jones caught a 9-yard pass from Rodgers on second-and-5 from the 10-yard line. As he reached for the pylon trying to score what would’ve been his lone touchdown on the day, Jones lost control of the ball before he got to the pylon and fumbled it out of bounds in the end zone, giving the Redskins the ball and a touchback.
“It was frustrating. Not only was it frustrating, but it was a turnover and I gave the ball back to them,” Jones said. “That’s the worst part about it. I turned the ball over, which equals a minus on my grade. And you don’t want that.”
Even with a career high in yards, Jones, who led the NFL with 14 touchdown receptions last season, was not ready to call Sunday one of his best days due in part because of the turnover, but also because of the zero in a different stat category.
“I don’t want to say one of my best because I didn’t score (any) touchdowns, but it was good to get involved,” Jones said. “As many targets as I had and as many catches as I had – it’s good getting involved and helping my team win.”
Jones was only targeted for two passes against the 49ers, and coach Mike McCarthy said it was a point of emphasis for Jones to put that performance behind him entering Week 2.
“I think he’s proven over time what he’s capable of doing. One game doesn’t make an opinion of anybody in this league,” McCarthy said. “It just runs for six days. You have to get over it.”
Clearly, Jones took those words to heart.
“It’s a long season, man. One game, zero catches means nothing,” Jones said. “Our quarterback is trying to get everybody involved. He’s trying to win, we’re trying to win.”
Jones wasn’t the only of Rodgers’ weapons who was used effectively on Sunday. Tight end Jermichael Finley caught six passes for 65 yards and a touchdown. Randall Cobb had nine receptions for a career-high 128 yards. Jordy Nelson caught just three passes for 66 yards, but two of his catches went for touchdowns.
“We talk about it in our room all the time; make the most of your opportunity. (Jones) didn’t have very many opportunities last week, but he had them today and he made the most of them, and it’s great to see a guy out there getting that,” Nelson said. “It’s fun to watch, it’s fun to be a part of. That’s when we’re at our best, when everyone’s out there making plays.”