Jordy Nelson was recently asked how he has been able to take such a gigantic leap in production the last few years.
The seventh-year wideout thought for a moment and said, “It’s so hard for me to pick one thing. Because when I came in the league, I only played receiver for three years. So I was still developing a lot.”
But then he was able to narrow it down.
“A lot of it probably is confidence. And knowing that I’m able to make plays at this level.”
It’s amazing how a simple thing like confidence can separate a simple second rounder from Kansas State into one of the top targets in the NFL.
But nationally, Nelson isn’t seen in the same class of elite receivers such as Calvin Johnson or A.J. Green. The credit is given to Aaron Rodgers for the shipping but nothing is given to Nelson for the receiving.
Nelson’s mastery of the sideline makes him one of the best boundary receivers in the game. He has proven that he can stretch the field and be a possession receiver. But most importantly, he has done it all while remaining humble. You’ll never see Nelson outside his house doing crunches or doing a pre-choreographed touchdown routine.
“Having confidence in myself and Aaron having confidence in me that I’ll be able to make the plays and when he wants me to make them,” said Nelson.
Nelson greatly benefits from Rodgers manning the controls. But an offense without Nelson is an offense that doesn’t pirouette the sideline to convert a third-and-7. An offense without Nelson is an offense that stalls when a key block is needed to keep Eddie Lacy chugging. And an offense without Nelson is an offense that just doesn’t have rhythm. We got to see the real Greg Jennings when he left the Packers. Nelson is more detailed in his preparation and can bust through bump-and-run coverage very quickly.
Nelson may not be the biggest or fastest guy on the field, but he knows that excellent route running can mask those things. And it also helps that he has a pair of vice grips for hands that rarely drop the ball.
The thing that really stands out to me isn’t that Nelson is third in the NFL in receiving yards (998) and tied for third in touchdowns (9) while being No. 3 in yards per game (99.8) with the eighth-most targets (94).
He will bust his tail and block for his teammates when he doesn’t get the ball or when it’s a running play. Most top wideouts are divas. Guys like Michael Irvin, Owens, Randy Moss, Chad Ochocinco and Keyshawn Johnson would rather complain about not getting the ball or doing extra theatrics than helping out a teammate.
But Nelson is comfortable is in his own farmer’s skin. The 29-year-old still has not been invited to the Pro Bowl but that hasn’t stopped the divaless and tireless worker. Last year was his most impressive season. He racked up 1,314 yards and eight scores while getting adjusted to three other quarterbacks and seeing fellow starting wide receiver Randall Cobb go down with injury.
“I think my game has just continued to grow over the years,” said Nelson. “If it’s in the route running, working on releases, understanding what Aaron wants in our offense and making the most of the those opportunities.”
So if you want your wide receiver to pull out a cell phone from a field goal post or eat an entire box of popcorn, Nelson’s not your guy. He doesn’t do any of those things but he still produces to the tune of five 100-yard games and one 200-yard game this year.
It’s time to start paying attention to Nelson, because if you don’t he’s not going to beg for it.
Cory Jennerjohn is from Wisconsin and has been in sports media for over 10 years. To contact Cory e-mail him at jeobs -at- yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn