James Jones was in pain. He just wouldn't tell anybody about it. Since Oct. 13, the former Green Bay Packers wide receiver played through his sprained posterior cruciate ligament. Behind team walls, he rarely brought it up. All teammates saw was his smile fade. "There were some days where he was moaning and groaning," Packers receiver Myles White said. "But he never complained about it. Whenever he could suit up, he suited up. He brought it every day." Now, Jones is Oakland-bound and Green Bay is counting on youth to emerge at wide receiver, again. In Jones, they lose experience, toughness, productivity. It's on Jarrett Boykin, White, maybe a draft pick and/or others to step up beyond Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb in 2014. A "standard" was set, White repeats. The Packers offense runs, first, through a full menu of receiving options. General manager Ted Thompson assembled one of the league's deepest receiving corps. Jones will be missed. "He's been there so long," White said. "He's done it 1,000 times. I don't care what anybody says. I think he's got the best hands in the NFL. He's a guy who got hurt and still produced. He's definitely a Pro Bowl-caliber player." Injuries hit the wide receiver position last season. And with Cobb (broken leg) down, the Packers recalibrated. Nelson played inside more and, straight off the bench, Boykin had 49 receptions for 681 yards with three touchdowns. Cleaning out his Packers locker in January, Jones didn't think Boykin's emergence had much to do with his free agency status in Green Bay. He was most likely wrong. Boykin proved to be more than a No. 4. History also suggests that injuries are inevitable. The Packers could use one or two more threats. So this off-season, Green Bay wideouts are texting each other videos of their personal workouts. One player does a drill, sends it along and they all try to one-up each other. That's one way, White says, they're trying to uphold a standard. With Donald Driver...Greg Jennings...and now Jones long gone, the Packers will be counting on someone new. White hopes he's a candidate. The spry speed demon added 10 pounds this off-season — up to 190. "I want to continue that reputation as the best receiving corps in the NFL," said White, who caught nine passes for 66 yards as an undrafted rookie. "I honestly believe that we have that. We have strong leaders such as Jordy and Randall and 'Boyk.' The competition's high. You've got to bring your A-game every day." The key to maturing from scout-team filler to Sunday playmaker is earning the quarterback's trust. That's no easy transformation. Ask White. The week of practice before his first game in the offense, against Cleveland, was an adventure. On one crossing route, he stopped a bit too soon and Aaron Rodgers reamed him out. "He got on me quite a bit," White said. "It just made me know to never make that mistake again when it's game time. There's no warming up to the NFL. There's no 'you're going to learn.' You've got to be ready right now. "He jumped me quite a bit to make sure that I was ready." This passing offense is broken down to the step. It's detailed, high-tech even by today's standards. The receivers who adopt survive, and see more targets from Rodgers. Added White, "That's the culture they're going to produce every year. You've got to pay attention to the little details." White is training at Michael Johnson Performance in Texas with his twin brother who's playing in the CFL, former college roommate (and current San Francisco 49er) Quinton Patton, and Packers cornerback Jumal Rolle. His goal was to add weight without sacrificing speed. So far, so good. With seven picks in the first five rounds, Green Bay could add a receiver in this receiver-rich draft. The Packers also have Kevin Dorsey, Chris Harper, Alex Gillett and Sederrick Cunningham in house. If the Packers do ask White to do more, he says he's "100% confident" he's capable. This is the most he's ever weighed in his life. With that 4.30 speed, the former Louisiana Tech wideout still describes himself as a deep threat first. "I'm excited for the opportunity," he said. "I'm going to take it on headfirst." White did catch up with the newest Oakland Raider briefly. In leaving Green Bay, part of Jones is "hurting," White said. The veteran bid farewell, wished his understudies the best. He certainly does leave behind a gaping leadership void. White, Boykin, all the young receivers won't forget Jones' fight through the bad knee and cracked ribs.
James Jones' departure creates opportunity for young Packers receivers
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel | Mar 29