By Mike Vandermause, Green Bay Press-Gazette
~GREEN BAY – Former Green Bay Packers receiver Greg Jennings never will admit it publicly, but he made a big career mistake when he signed a free agent contract with the Minnesota Vikings.
His team is buried in last place in the NFC North with a (1-6) record. The quarterback situation in Minnesota is a jumbled mess with no apparent relief in sight. The Vikings are ranked a lowly No. 25 in total offense (316 yards per game), and Jennings is averaging a pedestrian four catches and 54.5 yards per game.
Meanwhile, Jennings’ former employer again sits atop the division standings with a (5-2) record, has an MVP-caliber quarterback in Aaron Rodgers directing an offense that is ranked No. 2 in the NFL (435 yards per game).
Not even the contract Jennings signed with the Vikings, which pays slightly more than $9 million per year, can make him feel better about his plight. That’s because the Packers offered Jennings a new contract early last season for more money — around $10 million per year.
So Jennings is bringing in less cash than he could have had, playing for an inferior team and seeing the ball less often in his new surroundings.
There’s not much to like about his situation, but he had no choice but to put on a happy face when he spoke with Wisconsin reporters this week in advance of Sunday’s Packers-Vikings game at the Metrodome.
When asked if he missed catching passes from Rodgers, Jennings replied: “No man, God has blessed me to move on from that. I’ve embraced my situation and my role here and my teammates here.”
As career moves go, Jennings’ decision is akin to giving up a cushy job at Facebook for a position at MySpace.
“It’s been a challenge, but life throws you a lot of challenges, a lot of adversity, a lot of curveballs, and it’s been no different,” Jennings said. “It’s something that has been a humbling experience.”
The worst part for Jennings is that he had a choice in the matter. The Packers made him a respectable, if not exorbitant, offer last year, but he hedged his bets thinking he could command a lot more money on the open market.
As it turned out, Jennings overvalued his talents and is stuck playing for a dog of a team.
Maybe the Vikings can turn their disastrous season around and become a contender again. Maybe they will one day find a credible NFL quarterback. Maybe Vikings coach Leslie Frazier will reclaim some job security with a few more wins.
But at this point those are pipe dreams in Minnesota, while in Green Bay success is an everyday reality.
Jennings has to be kicking himself — privately, of course — for giving up so much in deciding to leave the Packers. He apparently didn’t realize how good he had it.
Jennings was a perfect fit in the Packers’ offense, played a key role on their Super Bowl championship team three years ago and would have enjoyed success for years to come with Rodgers slinging passes his way.
The problem for Jennings was that he wanted a bigger slice of the receiving pie and knew he wasn’t going to get it in Green Bay.
It’s human nature to want more, so Jennings shouldn’t be labeled a villain. But by seeking a brighter spotlight individually, he finds himself on a sinking ship.
Jennings’ derogatory comments about Rodgers during the offseason produced big headlines, but something he said in March after signing with the Vikings about the Packers’ quality and depth at the receiver position was very telling and slipped under the radar.
“We all can’t be as successful as we want to be individually with so many guys around,” said Jennings on radio’s “The Jim Rome Show.”
“I believe this with all my heart: not one guy over there can really maximize their potential because of the depth we had.”
Jennings sounded like he was starving for attention. It wasn’t enough that he was one of the pieces to the Packers’ high-powered offense. He desired a higher profile.
Last year, receivers Randall Cobb (80 catches) and James Jones (14 touchdowns) played starring roles, and the year before Jordy Nelson led the team in catches, yards and touchdowns. Plus, tight end Jermichael Finley was always around to gobble up receptions.
It’s almost as if Jennings felt like just another guy amidst all that talent. He definitely held his own and made major contributions to the offense, but with so many other receiving options around him, he was forced to share and apparently figured he would never be the go-to receiver.
Jennings made a point during the offseason of saying he was a team-first player. If that was the case, he would still be in Green Bay, catching passes and winning games.
As it is, he finds himself in Minnesota, where the offense sputters and losing has become a way of life.
Original story here
By Rob Demovsky, ESPN.com
~GREEN BAY, Wis. — When the Green Bay Packers lost receivers Randall Cobb and James Jones to injuries in Week 6 against the Baltimore Ravens, they had the No. 1 offense in the NFC and were second in the NFL behind only the Denver Broncos in yards per game.
A week later, when they lost tight end Jermichael Finley to a neck injury, they still had the No. 1 offense in the NFC and were second in the NFL behind only the Broncos in yards per game.
Not one of those key playmakers has returned, yet here the Packers are still with the top offense in the NFC and the second-best offense in the NFL behind Denver.
“We’re getting better as a football team, particularly on offense,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday. “The way we’re playing, we’re utilizing our personnel. That’s the responsibility of our coaching staff. We have an outstanding coaching staff, and what they’ve done to this point has been very impressive. But our biggest challenge is ahead.”
Though Sunday’s games, the Packers ranked fifth in the NFL in passing yards per game. That’s nothing new; they have fielded a top-10 passing game in each of the last nine seasons.
But they’ve never had a running game like this — at least not in McCarthy’s eight season as head coach — and that’s why they’re second overall in the league and tops in the NFC in total offense (438.9 yards per game).
By matching their season high with 182 yards rushing in Sunday’s 44-31 win at the Minnesota Vikings, the Packers maintained their spot as the fourth-best rushing offense in the NFL at 141.4 yards per game. They have hit their average in four of their last five games.
The Packers have not finished in the top 10 in both passing and rushing since 2004.
Remember back in June, when McCarthy vowed his team would run the ball better and told reporters to put that in “big letters?”
Maybe he should have said big, bold letters.
“We haven’t run the football this well since I’ve been here,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “It really takes a lot of pressure off of the passing game when we can open up those kind of holes.”
Still, McCarthy does not appear ready to put anything in permanent ink even though it appears his offseason desire to run the ball better has come to fruition.
“But has it come to fruition?” McCarthy said. “We’re not even halfway through the season. We’re getting better.”
Better might be an understatement, considering this team averaged just 106.4 yards rushing per game to rank 20th last season and didn’t have a single running back with more than 464 yards in all of 2012. Rookie Eddie Lacy needs just 18 more yards to match Alex Green’s team-leading total from last season, and Lacy has played in merely 5½ games.
“I just think it’s cool to be able to add another dimension,” said Lacy, who has run for 395 yards in his last four games. “We’re still going to pass the ball here. [Rodgers] is a great quarterback, and I’m happy to be alongside of him.”
With James Starks back from a knee injury that kept him out for three weeks, the Packers have a pair of running backs capable of big performances. Starks rushed for 132 yards in Week 2 after Lacy was knocked out against the Washington Redskins because of a concussion. He came back from his knee injury as good as — if not better than — than he was before.
“They’re statistics,” McCarthy said. “There’s one statistic that counts, and we’re working our way towards it, and we’re a long way from that. Running the ball’s part of it.”
When will McCarthy become convinced?
“When we’re talking about it February, right?” he said. “Isn’t that what this is all about?”
Meanwhile, he and offensive coordinator Tom Clements will have to continue to find the right mix of Lacy, Starks and the passing game. McCarthy said he wanted to get Starks more than the seven carries (for 57 yards and a touchdown) he had on Sunday against the Vikings.
Lacy carried a season-high 29 times for 94 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown.
“You can sit here and draw the stuff up on a napkin, and you’d probably want to balance it out a little more,” McCarthy said.
Rodgers’ role in the running game shouldn’t be overlooked, either. Several times already this season he has checked out of a passing play at the line of scrimmage and handed the ball off, leading to big plays, including Lacy’s 13-yard run on third-and-5 last week against the Cleveland Browns.
“This year, especially, we probably have a little bit more, put a little bit more on him in the run game, and that’s been since the spring,” Clements said. “A lot of the great runs we get, obviously we’re getting great running and great blocking, but he’s making some adjustments on his own or talking with the line on the sideline to get us in the proper play.”
Original story HERE
By Brian E Murphy. PackersInsider.com senior editor
~The Packers soft special teams started the game letting Vikings rookie Cordarrelle Patterson return the opening kickoff back 109 yards for an NFL record and a quick 7-0 deficit.
After that, Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson took over.
Despite playing with just one regular starter among Rodgers’ weapons, he carved the Vikings up.
Rodgers finished the night with an efficient 24/29, 285 yard, TD performance and a 130.6 passer rating.
Nelson was only thrown to eight times, but he caught seven of them for 123 yards, and two touchdowns. He scored the Packers first touchdown to even the score at 7-7, despite having one arm grabbed all the way across the end zone and getting no flag thrown.
His second touchdown came with just under four minutes to go in the first half, on a slant in he caught at his own 35 yard line, and he broke a Chad Greenway tackle and outraced the defense for a 76-yard score. It made the score 17-0.
A stop later, Micah Hyde took the punt and raced 93 yards for a Packers kick return touchdown and a 24-10 lead.
Eddie Lacy and James Starks each scored a rushing touchdown in the second half, as the two combined for 151 yards on 36 carries.
Second year defensive tackle Mike Daniels, out of Iowa, had two sacks on Ponder.
Jarrett Boykin and Myles White each had five receptions, with Boykin gaining 89 yards.
The Packers defense held Adrian Peterson to 60 yards rushing on just 13 carries.
Once again, however, Dom Capers’ defense was unable to produce any turnovers.
Next up is Chicago. Jay Cutler is usually very generous with the ball for Packer DB’s, but Cutler is out for a few more weeks, so the Packer defense is going to have to earn their interceptions still.
By Brian E Murphy, PackersInsider.com senior editor
~Another win, another one of Aaron Rodgers weapons taken away.
Rodgers passed for 260 yards and three touchdowns, Eddie Lacy ran for another score, and the Packers grinded out a 31-13 win Sunday over the Cleveland Browns.
Lacy finished with 82 yards rushing, while tight end Jermichael Finley had a 10-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter before leaving with a frightening neck injury.
Green Bay (4-2) won its third straight and took over first place in the NFC North as both the Lions and Bears lost close games Sunday.
Rodgers finished 25 for 36 despite being without two of his top targets in injured receivers James Jones and Randall Cobb..
Then Finley left strapped to a stretcher with about 10 minutes to go with a neck injury after a dirty late hit by Brown safety Tashaun Gipson on a 10-yard gain. He was carted off the field, but fortunately, the team later said Finley had movement and feeling in his extremities.
The defense took care of the rest against a struggling Weeden, who finished 17 for 42 for 149 yards. The Browns’ Jordan Cameron caught a 2-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 11 with 6:09 left.
Cleveland thought it caught a huge break after recovering an onside kick when Packer wide receiver Myles White simply couldn’t catch the kick that was right to him, only for the play to be erased by an offside penalty.
The Packers got the ball back, and Rodgers found Jarrett Boykin for a 20-yard touchdown and a 31-13. Boykin, making his first start at receiver with Jones and Cobb out, finished with eight catches for 103 yards.
The Browns did have two nice fourth-quarter kickoff returns that helped set up drives into Green Bay territory, including an 80-yarder by Travis Benjamin that led to Cameron’s score. The Packers special teams units, both coverage and return, are simply atrocious under Shawn Slocum.
Green Bay penalties kept the Browns in the game well into the second half. Tramon Williams’ sack of Weeden on a corner blitz was negated by 15-yard face mask penalty on A.J. Hawk. But Cleveland settled for a 44-yard field goal from Billy Cundiff to make it 17-6.
Rodgers connected with Finley for a 7-0 lead after the athletic, 6-foot-5 tight end spun around one defender, then caromed off two others like a pinball into the end zone.
A Lambeau leap was next, of course.
Lacy followed on the next drive with a 1-yard score to give Green Bay a two-touchdown lead.
It looked as if the Packers were pulling away for an easy victory, especially with Cleveland receivers dropping passes in the first half on a dreary evening.
The Browns couldn’t muster anything on the ground, either, against the Packers’ tough run defense. Willis McGahee had 11 carries for 39 yards.
The Packers defense has done s marvelous job against running backs this season. Last week, Ray Rice of the Ravens was completely shut down. Reggie Bush and Frank Gore were also held to way below their season averages.
Next up, however, will be Adrian Peterson. Last year, you’ll remember, Peterson carved the Packers up in both regular season games. Minnesota finishes week seven up tomorrow night at the winless Giants.
By Brian E Murphy, PackersInsider.com senior editor
~While Bud Selig will go down as the Commissioner who oversaw the juicing era in Major League Baseball, the Asterick Era if you will, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is going to go down as the guy who forced defenders to take out runners and receivers ACL’s.
Faced by lawsuits from former players over concussions and their affects, the NFL has cracked down on shots to the head area, as all fans are well aware of by now. Some say the rules go overboard, but I am almost always in favor of rules that might help keep players on the field and out of the hospital or surgery rooms.
But partly because of these rules, not all though, we now are seeing routine cheap shots down low into receivers and runners knees. The ACL is the most common injured part that ends seasons. Some pop on their own, like has happened to Packers like Robert Brooks, Aaron Kampman, Al Harris, and others.
But many can be prevented.
This is where the NFL, and NCAA, need to come in.
I can think of many players who have had their knees blown up from cheap shots to them, like today to Randall Cobb.
There is plenty of space on the body of a 6 foot tall player below their head. The hit zone does not have to be at the knee.
Less than a decade ago, it was fine to hit the quarterback in the knee. We’ve seen starting QBs like Matt Hasselbeck, Carson Palmer, and Tom Brady suffer ACL injuries from cheap hits to the knees. As a result of the golden boy Brady’s, the NFL put in a rule outlawing hits low to the QB. That’s good, albeit a little late for Palmer and the Bengals back then.
The hits to the head had been glamourized by the NFL and the media.
But faced with multimillion dollar lawsuits over the concussion protcols, the NFL has instilled some serious new teeth the past few years regarding hits to receivers head areas.
The league hadn’t minded the injuries before, but when the players were after the NFL pocketbook, then the league became concerned with their safety apparently, and enacted these protective rules.
It’s time, beyond time, for the league to protect the runners and pass-catchers knees.
Dustin Keller’s season was ended in the preseason from a cheap low shot to the knee when he was just catching and turning around. His career may be in jeopardy.
Jordan Shipley and Ovie Mughelli had their seasons, and careers essentially, end from cheap shots just like that one. Adrian Peterson’s 2011 season was ended from a cheap dive into the front/side of his knee.
I pray that Randall Cobb doesn’t miss a season from the cheap shot from Jason Elam of the Ravens. I’ve seen much worse, as mentioned above, but this was bad.
James Jones knee was injured on a fluke play where he was blocking on an Eddie Lacy run. It’s more bad luck for the Packers.
It’s not known yet if Cobb or Jones will be out for the season, or less, but both looked bad enough that they will miss some games at least.
The bottom line is that the one to Cobb was preventable, and all Goodell and the NFLPA needed to do were to put some serious teeth into the rules before this season and forced the defensive backs to stay on their feet, heads up, when making hits on defenseless receivers and runners.
I guess common sense doesn’t do it though. It will take lawsuits from ex-players like Earl Campbell who have to walk with canes or in wheelchairs.
By Brian E Murphy, PackersInsider.com senior editor
~BALTIMORE — Aaron Rodgers came up with the big plays at just the right time, and Green Bay’s depleted defense shoved around the defending Super Bowl champions.
It all added up to the Packers’ first road win of the season, a gritty 19-17 decision over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.
The win was the Packers first win in Baltimore since 1974, when they beat the Baltimore Colts.
Rodgers threw a 64-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson, Eddie Lacy ran for 120 yards and Mason Crosby kicked four field goals for the Packers (3-2), who had previously lost to San Francisco and Cincinnati on the road.
Green Bay took a 16-3 lead into the fourth quarter and was up 19-10 with 4 minutes left, but the Ravens (3-3) kept coming back.
Baltimore closed to 19-17 on an 18-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Dallas Clark with 2:04 remaining, just one play after Packers safety Jerron McMillian tripped over his own feet and let Jacoby Jones get behind him for a 4th and 20 conversion to keep the game alive. Had he played like a pro there and not fallen, the game would have been over and it would have been a simple 19-0 victory, at worst.
Clark scored on a one-handed grab as he got behind McMillian in the end zone.
Rodgers seemingly clinched the victory with a 52-yard completion to Jermichael Finley on a third-and-3. But Finley failed to stay in bounds, unwisely, which gave the Ravens time to get the ball back.
However, Eddie Lacy converted a key first down a few plays later, and smartly fell down in bounds. Hopefully the veteran Finley learned a lesson there from the rookie from Bama.
Rodgers salvaged a pitiful game with the bomb to Nelson and the big pass to Finley late.
He finished 17 for 32 for 315 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He played most of the game without two of his top three receivers — James Jones appeared to hurt his left knee on a first-quarter play, and Randall Cobb left for good after being struck on his right knee on a dirty, cheap tackle by Matt Elam. Hits like these (ask Dustin Keller), are becoming all too common these days.
The NFL and NFLPA are partly to blame as the NFL has been sued over the concussions, so they have put some serious teeth in the rules on hits to the head.
It’s a shame, and criminal in my opinion, that the NFL reacts like this after the fact, to protect it’s pocketbook, but it doesn’t do anything about protecting the players knees. The Players Union needs to step up too.
Despite playing without injured linebackers Clay Matthews and Brad Jones, the Packers held Baltimore to 47 yards rushing and registered five sacks, including three by inside linebacker A.J. Hawk.
The Ravens had won 13 straight at home against NFC opponents.
Green Bay went up 9-0 in the third quarter when Crosby kicked a 50-yard field goal to cap a drive that featured a 43-yard pass play from Rodgers to Jarrett Boykin.
Baltimore answered with its first score, a 23-yard field goal by Justin Tucker following a 59-yard completion from Flacco to rookie Marlon Brown.
Harassed and hurried for much of the afternoon, Rodgers finally came up with a signature moment. He started to his left, then rolled right before lofting a perfect spiral to Nelson, who had gotten behind Lardarius Webb.
Down 16-3, the Ravens began playing with a sense of urgency and got the desired results. Flacco directed a 10-play, 80-yard drive that ended with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones with 11:52 remaining.
Jones, who missed the previous four weeks with a knee injury, finished with two catches for 42 yards and had a 35-yard kickoff return.
Looking to enhance Green Bay’s 16-10 lead, Rodgers and the Packers held onto the ball for just over 7 1/2 minutes before Crosby kicked a 31-yard field goal with 4:17 remaining.
It turned out to be the game-winning points.
Green Bay got field goals from Crosby on its opening drive and on the final play of the second quarter for a 6-0 lead at halftime.
Baltimore accumulated only 36 yards of offense during the first quarter, zero on the ground.
In the second quarter, a peculiar sequence of events began when Green Bay’s Ryan Taylor blocked a punt. The ball bounced beyond the line of scrimmage, was touched by John Kuhn of the Packers and recovered by Baltimore at its own 41-yard line. That play was clearly the BONEHEAD PLAY OF THE GAME, and probably will be the BONEHEAD PLAY OF THE SEASON as it’s hard to beat that. It had been years, perhaps decades, since the Packers blocked a punt. And Kuhn went ahead and ruined that.
The Ravens subsequently got a first-and-goal at the Green Bay 4, but four straight runs failed to get the ball into the end zone. It was a classic goal line stand by the Packers improved defense and deep defensive line.
Late in the half, Flacco was sacked and lost the ball. Green Bay’s Datone Jones recovered and Crosby connected on a 31-yard field goal as time expired.
The ugly, but painful win puts the Packers at 3-2, just a half-game behind the Lions and Bears, who are each 4-2. Greg Jennings is 1-4 now in Minnesota. I wonder how he (and his sister) likes the view down there in the basement.
By David Ginsburg, AP
~OWINGS MILLS, Md. — There’s more to Terrell Suggs‘ game than simply overpowering an offensive lineman and throwing the quarterback to the ground.Suggs is the Baltimore Ravens’ career leader with 91 1/2 sacks and ranks fourth in the NFL this season with seven. With another one Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, the man known to his teammates as “Sizzle” will set a franchise record with at least one sack in six straight games.
Versatility, however, is why Suggs is among the most feared linebackers in the game. He’s tough against the run, tackles hard enough to jar the ball loose and is adept at dropping into pass coverage.
“He’s one of the premier guys in the league at his position, and he proves it every year,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said Wednesday. “He’s a guy you’ve got to account for in the run game, you’ve got to account for in the passing game. You’ve got to make sure you don’t let him get off, but that’s obviously easier said than done. He’s had a great start to the season.”
Two weeks ago, Suggs had a career-high 17 tackles against Buffalo. In last Sunday’s 26-23 win at Miami, Suggs registered five tackles and helped limit the Dolphins to 22 yards rushing.
“He’s a beast in the run game,” Ravens lineman Marcus Spears said. “I told him last week, ‘Man, you play the run like you’re 300 pounds.’
With four tackles against the Packers (2-2), Suggs — now in his 11th season — will become the second-leading tackler in Ravens history with 722. Only Ray Lewis has more.
“I don’t want to just be known as a pass rusher. I want to be known as a defender that can do more than just one thing,” Suggs said. “I definitely take pride in that. I don’t want to just have a lot of sacks. I like to fill up the stat sheet.”
Suggs, who turns 31 on Friday, is a five-time Pro Bowl star who has spent his entire career in Baltimore. He is known most for his sack-happy ways, but he’s also picked off seven passes and owns the franchise record for forced fumbles (29).
“A lot of people just see the sacks and don’t see the rest of it,” Ravens defensive lineman Arthur Jones said. “He’s a playmaker all over the field, and one of the best to ever do it.”
Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees said, “We could drop him more if we wanted to, but we don’t want to. Still, he is a complete outside backer and I think absolutely, he can do it all. He’s got all the necessary skills and he’s playing at a very high level.”
Suggs missed the first six games of the 2012 season while recovering from a torn Achilles tendon and finished with only two sacks. He’s more than tripled that total already this season and is on pace to break Peter Boulware’s single-season team record of 15.
Suggs acknowledged Wednesday that there was a point last year when he wondered if he would ever regain the burst that put the fear in opposing quarterbacks’ hearts.
“Definitely. But you’ve got to stay the course and continue to work at it,” he said.
Now Suggs is arguably as good as he’s ever been.
“Yes, without a doubt,” Pees said. “He looks like he’s fully recovered and playing at a high level and really just doing a great job both on and off the field.”
Not only does Suggs rank second on the team in tackles, he’s also taken on a leadership role in the locker room and on the field.
“He’s an extraordinary pro,” said Spears, who played eight years in Dallas before joining Baltimore (3-2) this season. “Being close to him, you realize how smart he is. That’s something you wouldn’t know playing against him. It’s a smart football player, and it’s not a coincidence that he’s been playing well for a long time, because his brain matches up with his body. He’s a lethal guy out there.”
Mostly to quarterbacks, but there aren’t too many running backs who relish a collision with the 6-foot-3, 260-pound Suggs.
“He’s a complete player. He always has been,” coach John Harbaugh said. “That’s the great thing about Terrell Suggs. He’s not just a one-dimensional guy, in terms of pass rush. He’s a great pass rusher but he’s all the other things, too. That’s what makes him a premier player.”
Full story here
By Jude Wilbers, Fox11online
~GREEN BAY – It might seem elementary, the longer the quarterback, in the Packers case, Aaron Rodgers holds the football the more chances the defense has to get to him.
You don’t need a stopwatch to know Aaron Rodgers has a quick trigger. According to Pro Football Focus, in the Packers 2 wins, Aaron Rodgers has gotten rid of the ball 2.5 seconds or less on 51 of 76 attempts or basically 2/3 of the time. So why is 2.5 the magic number?
Packers’ offensive coordinator Tom Clements explained, “Because in about 2.6 the line gets there. It’s difficult when you try to hold the ball to stay in manageable downs and distance situations. We like to get the ball out quick but we’ll also take our shots down field.”
Getting rid of the ball quickly is nothing new as Rodgers pointed out it’s even a point of emphasis. “If you’ve seen our practice Mike has put the siren out there at 2.5 seconds they start to go off a little bit so you have 2.5 seconds to get the ball of before those sirens start to go off. It’s like you’ve got lasers in your eyes,” Rodgers joked.
Coach Mike McCarthy said that the opposing defense has a lot to say with when the team uses quick hitters but it also requires feel from play caller and quarterback.
“It’s important to be in tune with that time clock and be able to extend plays, when to extend plays, the reaction to the perimeter and the offensive line when the play is extended,” McCarthy said.
Randall Cobb said amongst the receivers it’s a matter of personal preference whether quick hitters or the deep ball are better. “Some guys like going deep some guys like catching the ball quickly and makings something happen with it. Me personally, the faster I get the ball in my hands the more I feel like I can do with it,” Cobb said.
The skill position players aren’t the only ones affected by the philosophy. The Packers saw their sack totals climb each of the past three seasons, topping out with 51 in 2012. Through four games the Packers have given up 11 sacks, even with two inexperienced tackles.
The linemen say they don’t worry about how quick the ball’s coming out. They’re more concerned with dominating whoever’s in front of them.
“We’re not just hoping and praying that he gets the ball out before our guy beats us,” center Evan Dietrich-Smith said. “We’re making sure we do our job in the protection game so if he has to scramble or make something happen with his feet he’s not so under duress that he can’t get out of the pocket. It’s just a nice thing that he’s had favorable reads and is able to get the ball out of his hand.”
Rookie left tackle David Bakhtiari added, “I don’t really think about, alright it’s been 2.3 the ball better be out right now. I’m going to block my guy as long as I can. Sometimes it’s 4 seconds sometimes it’s 1.5 seconds. I’m just hoping the times it’s 1.5 seconds is when Aaron’s got his quick ball out.”
Full story here
By Pete Dougherty, PackersNews.com
~GREEN BAY – Coach Mike McCarthy said he expects former first-round draft pick Derek Sherrod to play this season.
Sherrod has been out since December of 2011 after breaking both bones in his lower leg in a game his rookie season at Kansas City. The third-year tackle is eligible to come off the physically unable to perform list next week, and then the Packers will have an eight-week window thereafter to activate him, put him on injured reserve or release him.
But McCarthy said it became clear early this season that Sherrod will be on their 53-man roster this year.
“I’d say probably Week 1 or 2,” McCarthy said. “I really felt at the end of training camp his workouts went to a different level. He’s in excellent shape, he’s obviously a lot stronger than he was this time last year.
“As I’ve stated and it’s obvious, that was a very, very serious injury. He needed the extra time. He looks good, he’s champing at the bit. But let’s be honest, the biggest hurdle he’ll have to get over next is pads. He needs to get in pads and he needs to get in there. Once he gets over that hurdle I think he’ll be ready to go.”
Sherrod had emergency surgery on his leg the day he sustained the injury in ’December 11, then missed all of last season. He’s been on PUP since the start of training camp.
Sherrod can begin practicing any time in the next five weeks, and once he starts practice he has three weeks until the Packers have to take him off PUP.
Original story here
By Weston Hodkiewicz, Green Bay Press-Gazette
~GREEN BAY – Davon House and the rest of the Green Bay Packers’ defensive backs have come to expect these kind of catches from Jordy Nelson.
Back turned at the point of release, the 6-foot-3 receiver whips around at the exact moment Aaron Rodgers drives another long-distance football into his neighborhood along the sideline.
Ball positioned perfectly, the opposing defensive back in coverage can only hope Nelson either drops the ball or his toes don’t find the grass before gliding out of bounds to secure possession.
Rarely when a back-shoulder throw comes Nelson’s way does either scenario play out. One month into his sixth NFL season, Nelson’s hands have been a mousetrap on passes along the sidelines. His self-awareness is nothing short of special.
“Every time they throw it up, it’s going to be a catch,” House said. “It’s really the quarterbacks that make that throw, but Jordy is big enough and long enough that makes it even easier because he can outstretch the defender.”
In most cases, the average NFL quarterback probably doesn’t get the ball to where Nelson is breaking on those routes. Even if he succeeds, there’s no guarantee the average receiver catches it.
That’s one reason the Packers’ secondary sees the back-shoulder pass so infrequently. By House’s estimation, there’s only a select few — Rodgers, Tom Brady and even Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco — who can put the ball where it needs to be consistently in that situation.
In Green Bay, however, Rodgers and his receivers have found symmetry in performing the surreal. On three plays during Sunday’s 22-9 win over the Detroit Lions, Nelson, Randall Cobb and James Jones each took their turn in the spotlight.
Cobb started with a leaping one-handed catch for 22 yards on a third-and-6 pass in the first quarter. After halftime, Jones beat his man in single coverage for an 83-yard touchdown off a go route to extend the lead to 16-3.
Finally, Nelson continued his high-wire act on a 31-yard pass from Rodgers along the sideline in the fourth quarter. How he managed to tip-toe the chalk as his body angled toward the ground, Nelson can’t explain it.
The Packers can. This is the same multifaceted receiver the organization saw on film when they drafted Nelson in the second round of the 2008 NFL draft, and the ability to harness that potential is what has separated him since signing a three-year extension in 2011.
“Obviously we can practice it to an extent, but every ball, we’re never going to get the same pass two times in a row,” Cobb said. “It may be a sideline catch where it’s high or one where it’s low. You never know exactly where it’s going to be, so it goes more with instinct and knowing where you are on the field and he does a great job at it.”
Nelson’s reaction to most catches oozes indifference. If you didn’t witness his 31-yarder against the Lions firsthand, his body language afterward would’ve suggested the play being nothing more than a business-as-usual quick hitch for a few yards.
That’s just Nelson’s unassuming style. He remained low-key during his breakthrough 2011 season when he had 68 catches for 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns and kept the same approach during an injury-riddled 2012 campaign.
The sideline antics were prevalent in both. He gained national attention for a 21-yard catch along the sideline against the New York Giants in 2011 and did it again during last month’s regular-season opener against San Francisco.
In both instances, the opposing cornerbacks — New York’s Will Blackmon and San Francisco’s Tarell Brown — tried unsuccessfully to signal an incompletion to the sideline referee, but both of Nelson’s feet were clearly inbounds.
“He’s probably had more of those types of catches this year, for whatever reason, but he’s made them in the past,” Packers offensive coordinator Tom Clements said. “I can remember a couple years ago against the Giants right at the end of regulation, he caught one on the sideline that was a great catch. … It’s shown up more this year, for whatever reason, but he’s always had the ability.”
Packers receivers coach Edgar Bennett said the receivers routinely practice toe-tapping drills to cultivate sideline awareness, but there’s also an instinctive element that you can’t coach — both on the quarterback and receiver’s behalf.
Bennett often speaks about his players “making the most of their opportunities.” Four games in, there’s not much to argue with. Nelson (projected to 1,484 yards), Jones (1,356) and Cobb (1,300) are all well on their way to living up to Jones’ preseason prediction of having three 1,000-yard receivers.
The sample size requires more data, but Rodgers is also on pace for the first 5,000-passing-yard season in Packers history with Nelson’s trapeze act on the sideline serving as an entree for the NFL’s fourth-ranked passing offense (312.2 yards per game).
“You have to give credit to Jordy Nelson on those particular plays, but the other part of it is the guy throwing the ball,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “Aaron has great trust that Jordy’s going to go get those throws. Obviously when you’re throwing them, at times it could be an extended play, and Aaron’s throwing from a different body position. Jordy just has great body control and has very good hands to know exactly where he is.”
The Packers still have holes to fix, including a red-zone offense that needs refinement, but the contrasting skill sets of their three receivers and tight end Jermichael Finley have been a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.
For Nelson, the key to making his toe-tapping catch happen is catching the ball. After dropping eight of 57 catchable balls in 2012 (14 percent), he’s dropped only one of his 30 targets for a drop rate of 4.17 percent, according to Pro Football Focus.
The sideline heroics? Nelson doesn’t read a lot into them. Regardless of where he is on the field or how the ball is delivered, the goal is always to catch what’s being thrown his way.
So far, that hasn’t been a problem.
“You don’t want to be on the sideline, you want to be away from the sideline. But just try to make the most of your opportunities I guess,” Nelson said. “I think it’s a little awkward that so many of them came up, but just trying to catch the ball, make sure you get your feet in.
“They just happen, I guess.”
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