James Jones delivers in return to Packers
James Jones is a handy fellow to have around.
Though Jones never will be considered among the greatest receivers in Packers history, he has accomplished enough this season and in previous years to have carved out a productive career in Green Bay.
Sunday, Jones hauled in six passes for 82 yards and a touchdown as the Packers out-slogged the Raiders 30-20 in the rain at Oakland. It was the fifth time this season that he has led the team in receiving yards.
Jones has caught 41 passes for 742 yards and eight touchdowns this season. He is that rare pass catcher who left Green Bay (for Oakland in his case) only to return for a second go-round.
It is in his return that Jones has set a new standard.
Few receivers make their way back to Green Bay after playing a year or more with another team. Fewer still contribute in any meaningful way upon their return.
Antonio Freeman was a high-profile talent that got away. He amassed 417 receptions with the Packers in seven seasons before leaving for the Eagles in 2002.
Freeman came back a year later. He had 14 receptions for 141 yards and no touchdowns in 2003.
While Freeman may be the most recognizable name among the handful of pass catchers who returned, he was not the most productive. For 80 years that honor belonged to a running back: Johnny Blood.
Blood played five seasons in Green Bay before joining the Pittsburgh Pirates, for whom he played five games in 1934. In 1935, the Vagabond Halfback led the Packers with 25 receptions — seven more than a rookie named Don Huston.
Jones is not another Hutson or Blood. But he, like Blood, has made a difference, and the Packers have been fortunate to have him.
Jones again demonstrated his value by showing up big against his former team. After a quiet first half, he caught five balls for 75 yards over an eight-minute span in the third and fourth quarters.
All five receptions brought first downs. All five occurred on scoring drives.
Jones helped Green Bay regain the lead the one time it fell behind. He made a diving catch for eight yards, then breezed into the end zone with a 30-yarder to push the Packers out front for good, 24-20.
But No. 89 wasn’t done. He grabbed three passes for 37 yards on Green Bay’s next possession, a mammoth 19-play advance that ended with Mason Crosby’s 21-yard field goal and a 27-20 lead.
Jones could have had a fourth reception on the drive, but was flagged for offensive pass interference. Later, he had a touchdown wiped out for the same reason.
In starting 13 of 14 games, Jones has helped to fill the void created by the loss of Jordy Nelson. He has the team’s longest reception at 65 yards. He has been on the receiving end of six of the team’s 10 longest pass plays.
The 31-year-old has a team-high eight catches of 30 or more yards. No one else has more than two.
Jones has the best average per reception (18.1) on the team. He’s the first thirty-something Packer to be above 18 since Carroll Dale in the early 1970s.
Yet for all he has done, Jones has been invisible at times. He was shut out in losses to Detroit and Chicago. He had one catch for 2 yards in the debacle in Denver.
His career has been up and down, as well. In 2012, he led the NFL with 14 receiving touchdowns. A year later, he had three.
Jones has had 11 100-yard receiving games as a Packer, but he never has strung together two in a row. Eight times he has followed a 100-yard outing with an output of less than 50 yards.
The 78th player selected in the 2007 draft also never has had a 1,000-yard season. Sunday he became the fourth player in team history to surpass 5,000 receiving yards without the benefit of a 1,000-yard season.
Jones has caught 351 passes for 5,047 yards in his Packers career. He is ninth on the team’s all-time receiving list.
Aaron Rodgers broke Randall Cunningham’s NFL record for most consecutive pass attempts without a pick-6 on his 28th pass attempt against the Raiders. Jones was on the receiving end of the 9-yard gain, which was ruled an incompletion on the field but overturned after review. Rodgers has thrown 3,125 passes in a row without a pick-6. Cunningham had held the record at 3,113.
Eric Goska is a Packers historian. Email him at email@example.com.
Good, not grand
Packers who amassed the most career receiving yards without the benefit of a 1,000-yard season.