Leading Way, Jennings Goes From Good To Great

Greg Jennings is on the best five-game roll of his career, which is just what a struggling offense needed. With the coaches moving him around and Aaron Rodgers looking his way, Jennings has been nothing short of brilliant for the surging Packers.

Greg Jennings is going from very good to a true star right before our eyes.

Already one of the NFL's better receivers – and premier big-play threats – Jennings has become the savior to a Green Bay Packers offense that was staggering from season-ending injuries to Ryan Grant and Jermichael Finley.

Jennings is on the best five-game roll of his career, with six catches apiece against Miami, Minnesota and the Jets, and seven catches in his last two games against Dallas and Minnesota. Against the Vikings on Sunday, Jennings dominated in every sense of the word. His 152 receiving yards were his most since a career-high 167-yard day against Detroit in Week 2 of the 2008 season. His three touchdowns were a career high and his first multi-touchdown game since scoring twice against Tampa Bay in Week 4 of 2008.

It's just what the doctor ordered for an offense that had been, at best, inconsistent and, at worse, dysfunctional after Finley went down on the first possession of the Week 5 game at Washington.

"He's had a number of opportunities in the last few weeks and certainly has made the most of them," receivers coach Jimmy Robinson said on Monday. "Greg just has a great knack of catching it and being able to do something with it after making the catch. He's on a little bit of a hot streak."

That's an understatement. Some of it is coaching, with Jennings spending more time in the slot as part of a larger, group-wide effort to move the receivers around to be less predictable. Perhaps more of it, however, is Aaron Rodgers simply realizing that Jennings is the top player on a depleted offense.

"Greg is one of the best receivers in the league – we're very fortunate and blessed to have him on our team," Rodgers said after the game. "(I) just have to find ways to get him the ball. I think he did a great job for us. When you throw just a comeback to him and he turns it into a big-time touchdown, that makes you look like a lot better quarterback. So, that's much appreciated. When Jermichael went down, we made a conscious effort in our mind, myself pulling the trigger and the coaching staff, to find more ways to get Greg the ball."

That's evident in the numbers. In the first five games, Jennings caught 14 passes for 183 yards (13.1-yard average) and three touchdowns. After catching five balls for 82 yards and a score in the opener against Philadelphia, Jennings had three receptions in the next game and just two grabs in each of the next three. By contrast, in the last five games, he's caught 32 passes for 520 yards (16.3-yard average) and seven touchdowns.

"Just really nothing out of the norm," coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday when asked about Jennings' increased production. He pointed to moving Jennings inside and outside but, "We are not designing new plays for Greg or anything like that."

Still, here's what's impressive: Any receiver can catch a bunch of passes if the quarterback is going to force the issue. Instead, Rodgers hasn't thrown an interception in his last 14 quarters, so Jennings' production is coming in the rhythm of the offense. And without Finley – who had emerged as the Packers' go-to receiver – and with veteran Donald Driver hobbled for a month, opposing defenses obviously have to know that Jennings is the clear No. 1 target.

Nonetheless, McCarthy and the offensive coaches insist they're not working overtime to find ways to keep Jennings out of the defense's bulls-eye.

"Sometimes, I think a little bit too much gets made of the X and O aspect of our game," McCarthy said.

With nine touchdown catches, Jennings has blown away last year's disappointing total of four, equaled his 2008 total and is closing in on his career-high 12, set in 2007. Sunday's game was vintage Jennings. The first touchdown came when Rodgers extended the play and Jennings kept working in the end zone. The second came when Jennings caught a comeback route about 15 yards downfield, juked cornerback Asher Allen out of his shorts, got safety Madieu Williams spinning in a circle and went the distance. The third came when he beat Allen at the line of scrimmage and caught a deep ball down the sideline.

"It may seem that way from the outside perspective," Robinson said of trying to get Jennings more involved. "We move Greg around. He gets some opportunities on the outside, gets some on the inside. Interestingly, all of the touchdowns came on the outside. That's probably more of just a coincidence. When you're singled like he was on a couple of those plays and it's just the corner, it's a case of catching it and getting away from the corner, like he did on that one big play. He just made such a great move back to the middle to threaten the safety. It was just a great job of running after the catch.

"I don't think, if you went through our game plans, that you'd say, ‘Well, it looks like we're going to try to throw the ball to Greg a lot this week.' Honestly, we really don't operate that way. We have our concepts, try to run a lot of the same things from different looks and different personnel groups, because that's the way that you're most effective. We put the plan in, we try to be creative with it to a certain extent, but we really don't try to feed a certain guy. It may just seem that way because he's on a little run now."


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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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