The Uncertain Future of James “Rocksteady” Jones in Green Bay

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If you’re a 20-something fan like me (and I should apologize to the readers who may have no idea what I’m talking about in the following lines), the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were likely one of your favorite cartoons growing up. If that’s the case, you’ll also likely remember “Rocksteady,” one of the evil henchmen that the four turtles routinely fought against.

Naturally, I’m sure you’re thinking: What in the world does this have to do with Green Bay Packers receiver James Jones?

To be honest, there’s very little comparison between the two in either appearance or personality. Jones is neither a bi-pedal rhino or a crime-loving henchman from my own observations.

But the nickname? It’s perfect for Jones.

He’s proven to have “Rock” hands in some of the worst situations over his short career, dropping a handful of big passes in 2010 that nearly cost the Packers several games. Drops against the Jets, Eagles and Steelers are the first to come to my mind, but there has been several others.

And I think most fans will admit that they’ve grown tired of passes that have no business being dropped hitting the turf because of Jones. Honestly, who didn’t post something on Twitter in the moments after Jones’s drop against the Eagles in the Wild Card round about his long-term future in Green Bay?

In fact, I’m sure there will be commenters on this very post that say they want nothing to do with Jones because of those drops—and that’s understandable.

But to be fair to Jones, you also have to say he’s been “steady” too.

As the Packers’ third, and sometimes fourth, receiving option over the past four years, Jones has caught 149 passes for over 2,000 yards and 13 touchdowns. During his two best seasons (2007 and ’10), Jones caught over 45 passes for nearly 700 yards in both years. What more could you expect or want out of a guy in his role?

To that point, I think there is very few who would say Jones isn’t a talented receiver. Even if the Packers’ offense gives him favorable opportunities, you have to be able to take advantage of those mismatches—and Jones, for the most part, has done that.

Obviously, the similarities between James Jones and Rocksteady are striking.

So as a soon-to-be free agent, where does that leave the future of James “Rocksteady” Jones?

It’ll likely come down to two things: The green backs—and we’re not talking about a species of turtles—and starting potential.

If a receiver-needy team, such as the Bears or Redskins, offers him the right price, could you really blame Jones for leaving Green Bay?

He said at the team’s unveiling of the Super Bowl DVD that he wants an opportunity to start in the NFL, and I think he has the talent to be a good No. 2 for a team.

Here’s what he told ESPN Milwaukee’s Jason Wilde after the unveiling on March 7th:

“My main thing going through all this is, do I want to be a starter in the National Football League? No question. Do I feel like I’m a starter? No question. I know we’ve got something great here. I mean, this team could win some championships for the next couple years. But at the same time, I do want to be a starter.”

But he’s not going to find those things with the Packers. Management has bigger monetary priorities over the next few seasons (Jermichael Finley, Josh Sitton, Clay Matthews) to give Jones the kind of money he might find in another city. And even with Donald Driver getting older, Jones would still have to fight Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and Finley for looks from Aaron Rodgers over the next few years.

But we also can’t forget Randall Cobb, whom the Packers spent a second round pick on in April’s draft. While I’m not sure I see Cobb making a big splash on offense in year one, the Packers have more than enough offensive weapons to compensate for losing Jones without Cobb completely replacing his production.

Think about it for a second—Green Bay’s passing offense has Jennings, Driver, Nelson, Cobb, Finley, Andrew Quarless and D.J. Williams as legitimate pass-catchers for next season. Some combination of those guys will surely be able to make up the 50 catches and 679 yards that Jones brought to the table in 2010.

In reality, it could be harder for Jones to approach even those numbers in 2011 with all the talent the Packers have on offense.

So while having him back in 2011 is still appealing—especially if there are injuries to any of the receivers—it may already be a foregone conclusion that Rocksteady will be elsewhere next season.

And if Jones stays true to form, that city will certainly be happy with the “steady” that he brings. I’d say there is no reason why Jones couldn’t catch 70 passes or break 1,000 yards as the No. 2 receiver for a team that has a good quarterback.

But us Packers fans can all have a little chuckle amongst ourselves when the “Rock” that we all know and love strikes again—especially if he’s playing Chicago. An evil henchman Jones may actually be next season.

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Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.

You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.

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  • http://cheeseheadtv.com/lounge John Rehor

    I have no hesitation in saying that I have always been a Jones supporter. His talent is unquestioned. However, his inconsistency will be his undoing in Green Bay. Drops at key times in games have been somewhat compensated by some incredible catches, but at the end of the day, Jones should have been able to cement himself as the #2/#3 receiver on the depth chart (depending where you want to put Driver at this stage of his career). He did not, and allowed Nelson to stay even with him most of the season. Nelson’s good Super Bowl, not without his own drops, probably showed the staff that he is ready to go to the next step, and with Jones’ contract up and his wanting to start, he will probably be allowed to walk.

    It’s a shame in some respects-some team will probably overpay for Jones, and I kind of hope he does not show the Packers made a mistake by not resigning him. Of course as long as the %&*! lockout continues, he cant go anywhere.

    And lets not forget this from Pat Mayo back in March:

    @patmayo According to James Jones, he was in fact tendered

    So who really knows what the deal is with Jones

    • Zach Kruse

      I think that’s the biggest thing for me…he had that golden opportunity to take the No.2 spot and he couldn’t do it. He disappeared way too often. I just wonder what kind of player he’ll be if he’s paid to be a starter for another team. The days of him on a dime back would be over; will he still produce?

  • Chad Toporski

    Great article, Zach. I think you nailed down the situation with Jones.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      My sentiments exactly…

    • Zach Kruse

      Thanks a lot Chad!

  • FireMMNow

    Good article Zach.

    If jones did not have those key drops I can remember 4 (for approximately 200+ yards and 4 TDs) he would have had about 1000+ yards on 65 catches and 11 TDs including the playoffs. Packer fans would be clamoring for him to be resigned and he would be thought of as the lock to replace DD. Unfortunately for him he did drop them, and he has shown other concentration lapes throughout his career (fumbles).

    What sets the packers offense apart from other teams is their 3rd, 4th and 5th options in the passing game. Losing Jones will hurt, but I trust that TT can find people to replace him. He has been pretty much perfect in drafting WRs. If Jones was a LG, i might have a different opinion. Jones will leave, I just hope he does not go to the Bears.

    The Packers cannot afford to pay a marginal starter, starter type money when they have all of the stars that Zach eluded to coming up for contracts.

    Let him walk and take the 4th round compensatory pick. Sit back on watch TT work his magic.

    • Zach Kruse

      You’re absolutely right. Make those few big plays and he has a monster season. It’s a game of inches…

  • Ron LC

    Every point you made is right on target, Zach. As much as I like Jones, I can’t get those all important drops out of my mind. As bad as the Bear game #1 fumble was, I remember the, all too often, drops on critical possession plays that could have/would have made the difference in those 3 and 4 point losses.

    If he costs too much, they’ve got to let him go. GB is not Dallas and has to maximize their payroll effectiveness.

    • Zach Kruse

      The money will be what drives Green Bay out of the running. They can’t afford to pay an inconsistent player the money he’ll want. Thompson has been good at rewarding players he’s drafted that earn their stripes…but I’m sure even Thompson can see that Jones hasn’t reached his potential in 4 seasons

  • FireMMNow

    and oh yeah, you melted my brain with the Rocksteady reference. wow, great stuff.

    • Zach Kruse

      I’m glad that connected with someone…because I didn’t have a clue how that would go over. Thanks!!

  • Adam Kuhn

    Good article. Jones has been frustrating with his drops over the years, but he does get out and beat his guy a lot (which is why the drops are so frustrating) and with slightly stickier hands he could be a pro bowl receiver. Now, I would be ok if can earn a roster spot here, but have to agree that of all the positions we can let a potentially big money guy go, right now it’s pass catcher. Add in the fact that we should have a truly threatening run game this year and we will be ok with or without him. There’s my two cents.

    • Zach Kruse

      I agree with your two pennies Adam. No need to overspend at a loaded position

  • darryl

    Crucial drops and fumbles have marred his career. He also had a big drop as a rookie against the Giants in the 2007 NFC Championsip game. That game was so close that it could have made a difference. Of course, he wasn’t the only goat of that game.

    • Zach Kruse

      Too many big mistakes. Fumbles against the Bears in ’07 and ’10 always come to mind. He just never seems to rise to the moment

  • Bart

    Good analysis for sure. One thing I will say in his defense is that, by all indications, he appears to be a really good guy. He will, indeed, be gone, but I wish him well.

    • FireMMNow

      The thing that is the most frustrating is that besides Finley he may actually have the best hands on the team. He can make the incredible catch (see atlanta game), but it is just purely concentration lapses. It would be much easier to let him go if you knew he just was not a natural hands catcher.

  • Mojo

    I remember during his rookie year training camp how impressed everyone was with his hands. Strange how things change. It’s also strange how he seems to get open so often without blazing speed.

    It would be nice to have him at a reasonable price since I can see where DD and Jordy lose playing time to injury. But even if we did get him back, would he be content at being the 3rd or 4th option? Probably not, and since I suspect we might see grumbling from either Finley or Jennings about ball distribution, we might be better off without another potential whiner.

  • PackersRS

    The problem with letting Jones go is that everyone can see the talent is there.

    What if he gets his act together and becomes the receiver he can be? That would be hard to watch, specially for TT. A player you drafted and waited 4 years for him to develop, enduring his boneheaded mistakes year after year, only to see him blossom as an elite receiver elsewhere, possibly with a divisional rival…

    • Chad Toporski

      Cost vs. Benefit…

      I get where you’re coming from, and it definitely is a hard decision to make. But on the flip side, what if you keep/pay him and he *doesn’t* blossom?

  • BigBayBlues

    What do you want to bet that the Vikings try to pick him up? Good article with very prescient observations. Great to be talking Packer news again. Cheering for the Boston Bruins during the Stanley Cup Playoffs was great, but it’s not quite the same as following our beloved Pack.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      +1 for use of the word prescient.

  • Tarynfor 12

    I’ve been on record here since last training camp that Jones isn’t what many think he is or should be.He was in competition with Jordy for the #3 spot and was given more than enough opportunities to grab and hold it but as in many of the games,he dropped crucial passes and his chance to be a solid #3 and/or the #2 now especially with the impending/expected drop off of Drivers play.

    Some are convinced Jones has great hands but lacks the concentration needed to be great.Well I wouldn’t wait too long as he should already have completed that binding which makes a player…great.

    IMO,Jones is what he is and will remain such where ever he plays,a #3 WR who will make you want to make him more than that but,will make you immediately regret thinking/doing so shortly if not after the first pass in crucial play.

    For those who feel Jones has more upside than Jordy, please remove the blindfolds,as Jordy has his drops but,he was never thought to be a human stick-um,but he has abilities, which he has performed many times that make the job of the other WR’s easier and that in this situation,makes Jones very expendable.

    All WR’s no matter the level of talent of each make their highlight catches but for what Jones is seeking through a false confidence,doesn’t have nor will he aquire enough of those catches to justify his askings/wants.

  • Pete

    Jones is gone……Can you say Randall Cobb? No need for him, not enough balls with Finley coming back, Nelson stepping up and Qualres also getting better. Not to mention Starks and Green can also both catch. Jones is a former Packer, as is Jackson

  • iccyfan

    From his comments and actions (having to be coaxed to podium at Lambeau celebration), I think JJ is already gone in his mind. Even so, I think we’re all a little premature in celebrating his departure. First, I think he’s a pretty solid downfield blocker, which shouldn’t be underestimated. Second, the guys people are citing to replace his catches / yardage aren’t exactly the model of health (Nelson, Driver, Finley, Starks), while Jones is generally available. I may be in the minority, but I’m hoping he returns for 2011…

  • o dragao da maldade contra o santo guerreiro

    I remember the ninja turtles!