By all indications, Aaron Rodgers will be under center when the Green Bay Packers face the 49ers tonight in San Francisco. It’s the third preseason game of the 2016 season, a contest where NFL starters typically see the most game action.  While Rodgers will make his first appearance, his favorite target will remain on the sideline.
 
For Jordy Nelson, it’s been one very long year since he suffered the season-ending knee injury against the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
 
For Packers fans everywhere, it was devastating to see Nelson crumple to the crowd after making a routine reception—with no contact from a defender.  In an instant, in a meaningless preseason game, Green Bay’s offense lost the one receiver that strikes fear in the hearts of defense coordinators.
 
Nelson’s speed, experience, and ability to make the clutch catch could not be replaced and defensive schemes employed press coverage to condense the field:  a significant contributor to the Packers’ offensive issues in a 10-6 season and Rodgers’ subpar statistical performance compared to his lofty standards.
 
“There’s no question Jordy Nelson is a big part of that offense and that he and Aaron have a special chemistry and connection,” said Mike Ditka, former analyst and Chicago Bears head coach.  “He was missed last season.  But that’s history.
 
“This is a new year—the Packers have a lot of weapons with Rodgers and Nelson and Cobb and Lacy, but you have to earn your yards.  The games are not played on paper.” 
 
Nelson thrilled a Lambeau Field crowd last Thursday night by warming up with the team in full uniform before Green Bay’s victory over the Cleveland Browns.
 
The veteran receiver participated in practice this week on a very limited basis, running routes against air, not defenders, and taking part in some position group drills.  He’ll slowly scrap off the rust as he reconnects with Rodgers and his offensive teammates.
 
“Obviously, it’s something we need to get used to and be back together,” Nelson said earlier this week.  “He (Rodgers) throws the ball different and a lot harder and faster than a lot of guys.  Get back used to that and start building that chemistry toward Week 1.”
 
The year-long goal is for Nelson to be in the starting lineup when the Packers face the Jaguars in Jacksonville on Sunday, Sept. 11, in a contest televised exclusively in Western Wisconsin by FOX 25/48.
 
San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has nursed a sore shoulder most of training camp, is also expected to make his first start of the preseason against the 2-0 Packers at Levi’s Stadium.  The 49ers are 1-1 in preseason play.
 
Both teams are expected to play their starters for at least a quarter and possibly into and through the second quarter based on performance.  Most starters across the league will sit out the final exhibition game as coaching staffs evaluate rookies, free agents, and fringe players in game action before the final cut-down to their 53-man rosters.