Catches eluding Jennings

Greg Jennings has seen as many passes as Donald Driver and Jermichael Finley but has nine fewer catches than the Packers' leading receivers. Jennings' lack of production took offensive coordinator Joe Philbin by surprise.

In 2008, Greg Jennings emerged as one of the NFL's young-gun wide receivers with 80 catches.

Last year, he slipped to 68 catches.

And this year, he's on pace to make just 48 catches.

It's not for lack of opportunities, though.

Jennings, Donald Driver and Jermichael Finley have been Aaron Rodgers' favorite target through four games, with each having 26 passes thrown their way. While Driver and Finley have 21 receptions apiece, Jennings has just 12 receptions. Driver and Finley have caught 80.8 percent of their passes compared to 46.2 percent for Jennings. Jennings' rate stands in stark contrast to Aaron Rodgers' fourth-ranked 68.9 percent accuracy.

Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin had no explanations. Probably because he wasn't aware that the offense had come up empty more often than not when targeting Jennings.

"I wasn't tuned into that fact," Philbin said. "I don't know if I have any reaction, to be honest with you. The one that sticks out in your mind is the one we threw downfield the other day (against Detroit). I'm surprised that it's (that low). He doesn't have that many drops."

Jennings, who said he wasn't talking to reporters this week, has one drop and the Packers have just three as a team. He started the season catching 5-of-10 passes against Philadelphia, followed by 3-of-5 against Buffalo, 2-of-6 against Chicago and 2-of-5 last week against Detroit.

The games against Chicago and Detroit stuck out to Philbin. Against the Bears, Jennings caught two passes — including one for a touchdown — even though Rodgers had a career-high 34 completions.


Greg Jennings was shut out after the first drive at Chicago.
Scott Boehm/Getty Images
"He had two (catches) on the first drive," Philbin said. "He runs that 15-yard out as good as anybody and he had that, and he ran that beautiful route in the red zone. Am I surprised with the start that he had in that game that he only had two catches? Sure, it's surprising. Sometimes it's the way the game unfolds. I think we've done more moving guys around this year than we probably ever have in our first four games. I think it will come around. I think there'll be other games when he gets his hands on the ball more."

Against the Lions, there was the beautiful long ball to Jennings that 5-foot-9 Alphonso Smith wrestled away from him for an interception.

Jennings accepted blame for that interception after the game, saying, "I've got to make that play." Jennings, whose 21 receptions of 40-plus yards since 2007 lead the NFL, almost never loses a one-on-one battle for a deep ball.

"It was one of those things where he didn't have quite as good a hold on it as it may have appeared," receivers coach Jimmy Robinson said. "The kid went up with him and they both kind of went up together. When Greg flipped over, his momentum carried him down the field as he somersaulted, which really helped the other guy to pull the ball out. Not making excuses for Greg. He knows that we've got to make that play. It's just one of those things. They made a better play that we did that particular time. I would say the majority of the time, we're going to win that battle."

Robinson wasn't concerned about the early-season numbers and said defenses weren't doing anything special against Jennings.

"Greg's doing fine," Robinson said. "He's playing well. He's had a winning performance every week. Greg has control over what balls get thrown to him. He just goes and catches the ones that do. We spread the ball around. Donald and Jermichael are tied for the lead in receptions. Everyone would like to have more opportunities. Sometimes, it works out that one day you get a bunch, the next day you don't. I'm not concerned about Greg."

While Driver and Finley have caught 21-of-26 passes (80.8 percent), James Jones has caught 11-of-16 passes (68.9 percent) and Jordy Nelson 6-of-9 passes (66.7 percent). Jennings has the only drop among the wide receivers.

Jennings does have a couple positive stats in his favor. He's taken 10 of his 12 receptions for first downs, with that 83.3 percent success rate leading the NFC.

"Greg's got three touchdowns in four games, as does Donald," Robinson said. "If they were to do that throughout the season that would be, my count, 12 each. We're 3-1. The only thing that would be better is if we were 4-0. Other than that, I don't worry too much about things like stats."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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