Green Bay Packers wide receiver James Jones grabs a pass Wednesday during training camp practice at Ray Nitschke Field. / H. Marc Larson/Press-Gazette Media
Green Bay Packers wide receiver James Jones during training camp practice Thursday at Ray Nitschke Field. / H. Marc Larson/Press-Gazette Media
James Jones is coming off the best season of his career, but the Green Bay Packers wide receiver won’t be trapped into making predictions about whether he can top it this season.
“I’m just out there trying to make the most of my chances,” said Jones, who is entering the final year of a three-year, $9.6 million contract he signed in 2011. “Trying to top 14 touchdowns and all that stuff is not even in my mind right now. I’m just going out there and when the ball comes my way, make a play.
“If it works out that way, it does. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”
Jones’ 14 touchdowns led all NFL receivers and was second to Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson’s 17. It not only was a career high for Jones, but it doubled his output of seven in 2011.
Jones, 29, also had career highs in receptions (64), yards (784) and targets (98), and he started 15 games after making 17 combined starts his first five seasons.
That wasn’t even the best part for the seventh-year pro. Perhaps more encouraging was that Jones increased the frequency in which he caught the ball.
He dropped just three of 67 catchable balls last year for a drop rate of 4.48 percent.
Entering 2012, he was the second-worst receiver in drop percentage over the previous three years, mishandling 14.39 percent of the 139 catchable passes thrown his way. Only Roy Williams was worse during that span.
“James just continues to get better,” Packers wide receivers coach Edgar Bennett said. “Now, it’s just really more about that leadership role. He’s kind of grabbed hold of that type of responsibility. I think his peers respect him and he kind of leads by example. When it’s time to say something, he certainly doesn’t shy away from that. He’ll vocally communicate but also the way he goes about his business every day, he’s a true pro.”
Jones is being counted on even more because of free agent departures and injuries.
The Packers lost one of their top wideouts in March when Greg Jennings signed a five-year contract with the Minnesota Vikings, then lost Jordy Nelson early in camp after he had surgery on a knee that will keep him out until at least the season opener against the San Francisco 49ers on Sept. 8.
Randall Cobb, meanwhile, missed the first preseason game last week because of an injured biceps and still looked to be in pain while practicing Tuesday.
Jones said earlier in the year that he thinks Nelson, Cobb and himself all can top 1,000 receiving yards this season, but right now he’s the only healthy one on a team with little experience behind the trio.
Of the 10 other wideouts on the roster — including Sederrik Cunningham, who was placed on injured reserve — none have more than two seasons of experience and seven are rookies.
“We’re a little nicked up,” Jones said. “You can’t run from that, but we’ll be fine.
“We’ll get Jordy back for Week 1. He will be fine. It is good to get whatever he had done and over with, and now he can rehab and get strong and get ready for the opener. Cobby will be fine. He’s a little tough dude. I think he’s acting like a sissy right now, but he will be all right.”
Jones got off to a good start in limited playing time against the Arizona Cardinals on Friday, hauling in a 50-yard pass from quarterback Aaron Rodgers on a third-and-2 play that put the Packers at the Arizona 6.
Rodgers then threw an incompletion to Jones in the end zone two plays later.
“It’s all about making the most of your opportunities,” Bennett said. “We prepare each and every week. Our mindset is putting the team in a position to win football games.
“It’s about the big prize at the end, and that’s winning another world championship.”
— Weston Hodkiewicz contributed to this story.