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Mike Spofford

Mike Spofford has worked as a sportswriter in Wisconsin since 1995 and has been a packers.com staff writer since 2006. He has covered the Packers' last two Super Bowl appearances, XXXII and XLV.

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Jennings, Nelson could make Packers history

Posted Nov 17, 2011

With all the franchise records the Packers offense is on pace to break this season, don’t let this potential piece of history go unnoticed: Wide receivers Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson each have seven touchdown receptions through nine games, putting them both on track for double digits by season’s end.

Should they both get there, they’d become the first pair of Green Bay teammates with double-digit touchdown catches in the same season.

That’s right, it’s never happened before. In the franchise’s previous 92 seasons, no two Packers have ever caught at least 10 TD passes in the same year.

It’s not that rare a feat leaguewide these days. Over the last four seasons, three teams have done it. Indianapolis’ Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark pulled it off in both 2007 and 2009. In between, Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin did it in 2008.

The closest a Green Bay pair came was in 2004, when Javon Walker had 12 touchdown catches and Donald Driver had nine. Jennings and Nelson aren’t there yet, of course, but needing three touchdowns each with seven games to go, the odds look good.

“If that happens, that would be great for more than one reason,” Nelson said. “It means as a team we’re getting in the end zone. But we’ll worry about that at the end. We just want to continue to do what we’re doing.”

That would be getting open in the red zone for quarterback Aaron Rodgers. For all the deserved credit Rodgers gets for using multiple receivers on any given drive – he completed passes to 12 different players in one game this year – he spreads it around just as much at the goal line.

Seven different players have caught touchdown passes this season. In addition to Jennings and Nelson having seven apiece, tight end Jermichael Finley has five and James Jones has four.

It would take some work, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility for three Packers to hit double digits in TD catches this season. The last team to do that was the Colts in 2004 with Wayne, Marvin Harrison and Brandon Stokley.

That was the year Peyton Manning set a then-NFL record with 49 TD passes. Contrast that with 2007, when New England’s Tom Brady set a new mark with 50. Randy Moss caught 23 of them, but no other Patriot had more than eight.

Rodgers is on that type of pace with an approach more like Manning’s, not locking onto a particular target when in scoring range. There isn’t one specific receiver who’s his automatic first read in the red zone.

“He’s just going to allow the coverage to dictate that,” receivers coach Edgar Bennett said. “He’s going to go through his reads, his progressions and continue to do what he’s always done, which is make excellent decisions and make the throws to go along with it.”

Jennings is no stranger to double-digit TD seasons. He had 12 TD catches in 2007 and also last year. Called the “smoothest” receiver he’s ever worked with by Rodgers, Jennings consistently produces despite constant attention from opposing defenses.

“It starts with taking the things you do well and trying to just sharpen those,” Jennings said. “I think a lot of times guys focus on the things they don’t do so well, and try to make those a point of emphasis. You definitely have to enhance those areas, but if you’re great at one thing, continue to sharpen that. Don’t lose that edge.”

Nelson is the newcomer to this level of production, having already surpassed his previous career highs in yards (582) and touchdowns (two) with his 633 yards and seven scores this year.

He showed signs of this breakout with a pair of 100-yard games during the Packers’ six-game run to the title last year, including a career-best nine catches for 140 yards in the Super Bowl. Nelson has emerged as a big-play threat with catches of 83, 94, 50 and 64 yards this season, three of those going for scores.

“He’s having a heck of a year,” Jennings said. “I told him when I was in his position, all the focus was on the guy next to me, Driver, and I took full advantage of it. Now he’s in a position where he’s taking full advantage of it.”

And the receiving corps is in position to make history right along with Rodgers.

“I do know this: We have without a doubt the best guy in the business throwing the football,” Bennett said. “I’m biased, but that’s my humble opinion. I’ve been around this cat for a while. He’s a special player, a unique individual, and I think everyone buys into our system, our scheme, what we’re doing.”

Injury update: Running back Ryan Grant returned to practice on Thursday after he sat out Wednesday due to a cut on his knee that required stitches. He was a full participant.

Also, linebacker Desmond Bishop and guard T.J. Lang both returned to practice after missing Wednesday’s workout for personal reasons. Both have been removed from the injury report.

Additional coverage - Nov. 17

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