When the Lions played the Packers back on Nov. 18 at Ford Field -- a 24-20 loss -- Green Bay was without probably it’s best playmaker on offense in receiver Greg Jennings. Jennings was still recovering from abdominal surgery.
He missed the previous eight games for the Packers before making his return to the lineup last week with four catches for 46 yards in a win over the Vikings.
Probably their most accomplished route runner, Jennings is a Pro Bowl-caliber weapon just added to the Packers’ explosive offense, lead by MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
"They use a lot of four wide receiver sets - even four wide receivers and a tight end - no running back in the game, so it gives them another guy on offense," Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said. "(Jennings is) obviously an experienced guy and an explosive playmaker."
While the Packers have certainly missed Jennings, his absence has allowed second-year receiver Randall Cobb to come into his own. Cobb has six touchdown receptions over his last six games and is the only player in the NFL with 800-plus kick return yards (851), 600-plus receiving yards (675), 200-plus punt return yards (242) and 100-plus rushing yards (132).
"I think when (Jennings) went out you saw the emergence of Randall Cobb on offense," Schwartz said. "He always played a key role on special teams, but he went from sort of a gadget player on offense to being an integral part of their offense in the slot. Never really noticed that Greg Jennings was missing but now that he’s back, it’s another playmaker for them on offense."
Cobb had nine catches for 74 yards and a touchdown in the first matchup between the two teams.
"Oh it’s been huge for Randall to get more experience, more playing time, more touches just to get a better feel," Jennings said
. "He’s much more comfortable out there now. It’s almost like he’s not even thinking, he’s just reacting and that’s how you want to play the game.
"As far as being injured, you never want to go down or have something happen to anybody but you know it’s a part of the game so when it does happen you want those guys to be able to step up and make plays. Randall, I call him kind of like my little brother on the team. He’s a very smart kid. He’s very instinctive, very savvy. And he knows how to make plays when the ball is in his hands."
The Packers aren't likely to have receiver Jordy Nelson (hamstring), but Jennings and Cobb will form a potent 1-2 punch.
"It means a lot to have Greg Jennings back to our offense," Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said in a conference call Wednesday
. "Greg is a Pro Bowl receiver; he has an outstanding relationship with the quarterback. You look at his skill set and his ability to run routes and separate. He’s always been an excellent productive weapon for us and he’s a great human being. So it’s good to have him back on the field."