WRs' Bad Hands Become Best Buy

After a strong start to the season, the Packers have gotten a bit sloppy in the passing game. ''It's safe to say when you have 10 drops in two weeks, that's a concern,'' Joe Philbin said. ''So, we have to get back to catching the football better.''

Dropped passes can prove costly to any NFL team. For James Jones and the Green Bay Packers, those drops hit where it hurts the most — in the wallet.

Jones said Packers wide receivers have established an informal system of punishment when a catchable ball gets away: The offending wideout has to buy a $100 electronics store gift card for each of his fellow receivers.

''If it hits your hands, you should catch it,'' Jones said, referring to a recent drop. ''It hit my hands, so I bought Best Buy cards.''

Jones said the added incentive is a sign of Packers receivers' high standards.

''We pride ourselves on not dropping the football and being playmakers,'' Jones said. ''So we just said that if we drop a ball that we should catch, we have to have consequences. So this is what we came up with.''

And while the Packers are 6-0 going into Sunday's game at Minnesota, the past couple of weeks have gotten expensive.

Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin walked away from Sunday's 24-3 victory over St. Louis with a handful of lingering concerns about the offense, and dropped passes were at the top of his mind.

''It's safe to say when you have 10 drops in two weeks, that's a concern,'' Philbin said. ''So, we have to get back to catching the football better.''

According to STATS LLC, the Packers have dropped only nine passes all season, placing them squarely in the middle of the NFL and nowhere near the Cleveland Browns' league-high 17.

But drops are a subjective statistic, and Philbin apparently is a pretty tough grader.

Philbin said he had the Packers' wide receivers, tight ends and running backs down for ''about five or six'' drops in the first four games of the season. Then things got much worse.

''The story is we have 10 drops in two weeks,'' Philbin said. ''Now, the first four games this season, we had been much improved. That's a trend that we honestly as coaches ... we sat there together as a unit, we addressed a couple places where we have to get better at.''

Philbin wondered if his receivers were too focused on getting yards after the catch, a cornerstone of the Packers' offense.

''I think a couple of them early, it was clear that their intentions were good and they wanted to maybe advance the football and make a guy miss and move the chains forward, and I think they maybe just didn't take care of first things first,'' Philbin said. ''That's what it looked like on tape to us.''

Packers coach Mike McCarthy said he saw the same thing.

''We had a couple of those, yes,'' McCarthy said. ''We did a good job prior to that, we had two games where we had zero drops, and then we respond with 10 drops in the last two games. It's been addressed, it's something that was emphasized in practice today with an extra ball drill. So, we need to do a better job of catching the football. Especially indoors, we have no excuse. We're playing in a dome this week. We had a challenge last week in the wind, we can learn from that experience.''

Aaron Rodgers typically isn't shy about expressing frustration when teammates make mistakes that can be traced back to a lack of preparation. But Rodgers called dropped passes physical mistakes, as opposed to mental mistakes, and didn't seem overly concerned.

''It's just something that happens from time to time,'' Rodgers said. ''You play a really windy game (Sunday), the ball's jumping all over the place, that stuff's going to happen. So, we'll correct it, we'll get it better and I'm not too worried about it.''

Wide receiver Jordy Nelson acknowledged he dropped a pass on Sunday against St. Louis because he was too eager to turn and get upfield. But he doesn't expect it to continue, from himself or his teammates.

''It's not a concern,'' Nelson said. ''Obviously, we don't want to drop a ball, but we're not in any sort of panic mode whatsoever. We know what we can do. It takes sometimes, a game like that to sharpen the focus a little bit more. It's a good thing that we were still able to win the game like we did, but sometimes we've just got to refocus and get back at it. We'll be fine.''

Follow Associated Press writer Chris Jenkins on Twitter at twitter.com/ByChrisJenkins.

Packer Report Top Stories