It appears a Green Bay Packers’ offense currently starved of proven play-makers soon could have wide receiver James Jones in the fold.
Whether or not that’s in time for Sunday’s game in Minnesota remains uncertain, but Packers coach Mike McCarthy said during his Monday news conference following Sunday’s 31-13 win over Cleveland that he’s hopeful Jones will be back sooner than later.
The 29-year-old receiver missed his first game in nearly five years due to a knee sprain he sustained in a 19-17 win over Baltimore two weeks ago.
"Hope so. We'll see Wednesday,” said McCarthy of Jones’ status for this week. “They thought probably two, possibly three weeks, was the timeline that they put on it. So, James is not your normal guy. He's genetically gifted, so we'll see what happens.”
The fact the Packers were able to manage without Jones’ production on the perimeter was due in part to second-year receiver Jarrett Boykin having a career day with eight catches for 103 yards and his first touchdown in the NFL.
The loss of tight end Jermichael Finley to a significant neck injury in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s win throws another wrench into an offense already playing without Randall Cobb (broken fibula) until at least Week 15.
Finley’s athleticism afforded the Packers an extra receiver on the perimeter at times. If both he and Jones can’t go against the Vikings, that would mean another healthy dose of Boykin (69 snaps), rookie Myles White (one catch for 9 yards on 47 snaps), and possibly newly acquired receiver Chris Harper, who took eight snaps on special teams after being claimed off waivers from San Francisco on Friday.
Boykin struggled in relief of Jones against the Ravens with two drops against one reception off a bubble screen, but seemed to settle in after being incorporated early into the offense.
“I just think because it was his first start and he had a few drops last week, it was important for him to come out and do well,” Packers offensive coordinator Tom Clements said. “There are some guys that I’ve been with in my career that if they don’t get the ball early they go into the tank a little bit. But he’s certainly not like that.”
Despite Finley’s current situation, McCarthy seemed optimistic the Packers won’t be as hard-pressed to find healthy bodies as last week when he estimated he had only 44 healthy options on the active roster.
Cornerback Casey Hayward (hamstring) has practiced in each of the past two weeks and veteran Jarrett Bush (hamstring) suited up in case of emergency on Sunday. McCarthy also indicated tight end Ryan Taylor has been making progress from knee surgery.
On Sunday, the rash of injuries meant two rookies, Andy Mulumba and Nate Palmer, starting at outside linebacker and two undrafted players, Boykin and White, playing most of the offensive snaps at receiver.
It's good to have the depth in cases like these, but McCarthy is also hopeful the team will return to relative normalcy sometime soon.
“It’s a challenge that we accept,” McCarthy said. “And it’s a challenge that everyone in this league goes through, and hopefully this challenge will come to an end and we can just get healthy and we can continue to grow as a football team.”