It wasn’t that he only got one ball thrown his way in the season opener against New Orleans last Thursday that irked James Jones.
No, it was that the Green Bay Packers’ fifth-year receiver played 19 snaps, which was less than a third of the team’s total offensive plays.
“And I want to say half of them were jumbo (three tight ends package) run plays,” Jones said.
Last season, Jones and Jordy Nelson split time as the Packers’ No. 3 receiver behind Greg Jennings and Donald Driver. Against the Saints, Nelson got most of the snaps in the three-receiver set, which has been one of coach Mike McCarthy’s favorite personnel groups, and Nelson matched Jennings with eight targets, catching six of them for 77 yards and a touchdown. Jones’ sole catch was a 1-yard reception on a third-and-17 dump-off in the fourth quarter.
“You’ve seen the film, you know who’s No. 3,” said Jones, who last season was third on the team with 50 catches and 679 yards. “Me and (rookie Randall) Cobb, we’re slash four and five.”
It’s been a week since the opener, and Jones remained miffed about his role.
“I don’t care about the ball at all, but I truly, truly want to be in the game plan,” Jones said in his first comments to reporters since the game. “Everybody plays this game because they want to play. I’m not selfish. I understand we’ve got a lot of weapons, so I’m not saying I want the ball every play. But I think I deserve to be on the field more than I was.”
With all the offensive weapons the Packers have at their disposal, it was inevitable that one or more of their receivers or tight ends would have a game or two without seeing the ball thrown his way very much. But when Jones signed a three-year, $9.4 million contract to return as an unrestricted free agent this offseason, he didn’t expect his role to be so minimal.
Last year in the regular-season opener, linebacker A.J. Hawk didn’t play a single snap from scrimmage, prompting his agent to suggest that Hawk would be open to a trade if it meant more playing time. Jones said he wasn’t ready to ask for a trade. Still, this wasn’t what he envisioned when he re-signed with the Packers.
“Would that be your vision if you were a receiver?” Jones said.
Jones didn’t see his lack of involvement in the game plan coming in the days leading up to the game. During practice last week, he said the receivers rotated like usual, and he wasn’t even in the “jumbo” run package.
“Sometimes during a game, the ball’s going to be coming your way, and sometimes during a game it’s not,” Jones said. “Sometimes they have the right coverage for your route, sometimes they don’t. But if you’re not in the game, you can’t get open. You can’t get open from the sidelines unless you’re real good.”
On several occasions in the preseason, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was asked how challenging it will be for him to keep all of his receivers and tight ends happy, but Jones put none of the responsibility for what happened with him against the Saints on his quarterback, who noticed the crowd of reporters around Jones’ locker.
“I just hope that you all, as media personalities, don’t run to whoever is the low man on the catch totem pole every week because that’s going to get a little bit ridiculous,” Rodgers said. “It is Week 1. It’s a long season, and I’m going to throw it to the open guy. So I just hope you guys don’t do that. You probably will, but that’s a single plea from me.”
— rdemovsk@greenbay|pressgazette.com and follow him on Twitter @RobDemovsky.