Bennett Has Challenge With Jekyll-Hyde WRs

When the Packers' receivers are good, they're great, and when they're not good, they're tremendously disappointing. Our statistical breakdown details the job that lies ahead for new receivers coach Edgar Bennett.

Jordy Nelson's performance in the Super Bowl pretty much summed up the total of the Green Bay Packers' receiving corps.

The group of Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones and Nelson can be exceptional — except when they're not.

With quarterback Aaron Rodgers not one to play favorites, Jennings (76 receptions), Driver (51), Jones (50) and Nelson (45) joined running back Brandon Jackson (43) in giving the Packers five players with 40 catches for the first time since 1980. With Driver dogged by injuries, Jennings had the best 11-game stretch in terms of yards in the entire NFL and Jones and Nelson set career highs for catches and yards.

Simply put, it's an explosive group.

Based on STATS' official yards-after-the-catch numbers, Jones led the Packers' receiver corps with 6.1 yards of YAC per reception, with Nelson checking in at 5.9 and Jennings at 5.7.

The Web site ColdHardFootballFacts.com went one step further, compiling YAC averages for all receivers who finished with at least 40 catches. According to that data, Jones finished seventh in the NFL, Nelson eighth and Jennings 13th.

That's big time.

For perspective, only one team had two receivers finish in the top 13 in YAC per catch — San Francisco, with third-ranked Josh Morgan and 11th-ranked Michael Crabtree. Beyond that, only one other team even had two receivers among the top 25: New England, with Wes Welker and Deion Branch ranking 23rd and 25th, respectively.

It's a testament to Rodgers' ability to put the ball in the right spot so the receivers don't have to break stride to gather the pass. It's also a hallmark of the West Coast Offense.

The receivers deserve their due, though, even with Driver showing signs of age by averaging just 3.7 yards after the catch last season. Jennings' ability to get deep — he has more 40-yard catches than any player in the game over the last four seasons — and exquisite route-running often give him plenty of room to maneuver on underneath routes. Jones runs with power, and Nelson has power and breakaway speed once he gets a full head of steam.

So, what's the downside?

For a group of players with such obvious talent, they've dropped far too many passes. While a drop is a rather subjective term, the Packers ranked 14th in the league with 28 drops among all players during the regular season, according to the NFL's official numbers compiled by STATS. Driver had a team-high seven — tied for 16th-most in the league. Jones followed with six, and Jennings and Nelson had four each.

Pro Football Focus was harder on the receivers. Its researchers pointed the fingers at Nelson for seven drops (plus four in the postseason, all in the Super Bowl), Jennings for seven drops (plus one in the postseason), Jones with six (and two in the playoffs) and Driver with six (and one in the playoffs). That's 34 drops by the receivers in 20 games.

Therein lies the challenge for new receivers coach Edgar Bennett.

Bennett was a stickler for fundamentals while coaching the running backs. In 440 carries by his players last season (including playoffs), they fumbled just three times and didn't lose any.

Can Bennett cure the receivers' case of the dropsies while not restricting their ability to make things happen after the catch? If so, one of the most dynamic offenses in the league might become practically unstoppable.


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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.


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