Room For Improvement Part 4: Dropped Passes

We continue our series on the areas the Packers' coaching staff is emphasizing this offseason. If you thought the Packers' offense was unstoppable last year, imagine how many points they might score if they could limit the outlandish number of dropped passes.

What can the Green Bay Packers' offense do for an encore after a record-setting 2011, and how can new offensive coordinator Tom Clements put his stamp on that prolific unit?

"We're going to try to be as good as we can be, and whatever that puts us (statistically), that's where it'll put us. Our goal, we don't have many statistical goals as an offense, but our goal as a team is to win the championship. To do that, we're going to have to be efficient on offense and be productive, be explosive, take care of the ball."

When asked by Packer Report to name a few areas of improvement, Clements pinpointed four areas. We bring them to you in the final part of this four-part series. Statistics are from Pro Football Focus and the NFL.


If you missed Part 1 on limiting sacks CLICK HERE, if you missed Part 2 on limiting giveaways CLICK HERE and if you missed Part 3 on the running game CLICK HERE.


"Catch the ball consistently"

Even with nothing more than a token running game, the Packers finished second in NFL history with 560 points. Aaron Rodgers compiled the greatest quarterbacking season in NFL history in terms of passer rating. Even while sitting out the regular-season finale, Rodgers threw for 4,643 yards with 45 touchdowns with six interceptions. His pass-catching weapons played a major role in those prolific numbers, but imagine how explosive the Packers' attack would have been if not for another season of outlandish drop totals.

Quarterbacks Rodgers (40) and Matt Flynn (six) were victimized by 46 dropped passes, according to Pro Football Focus. Only St. Louis (49) flubbed away more well-thrown passes, and Green Bay's total was matched by Detroit for second-most in the NFL. If Rodgers' dropped passes (and throwaways, clock-killing spikes, batted balls, hit-while-throwing attempts) are taken out of the equation, he would have completed a league-best 80.6 percent of his passes.

Of the 95 receivers who were targeted at least 44 times, Donald Driver ranked 87th in drop percentage at 17.78 and James Jones 79th at 13.64. Of the 29 tight ends who were targeted at least 44 times, Jermichael Finley ranked 27th with a drop percentage of 17.91.

"We're going to try to continue to improve and work on ball skills, making sure were fundamentally sound in that area, catching the football, protecting the football," receivers coach Edgar Bennett said during organized team activities. "That's something we always work on and we'll continue to do that."

Reason for hope: This is a talented group and there were some gains made last season, Bennett's first as position coach. Notably, Nelson went from 11 drops in 89 targets in 2010 to three in 100 targets in 2011. Jones cut his drops from eight to six. Finley, a year removed from a season-ending knee injury and with his contract behind him, should be in a better frame of mind, as well.

"All I've got to do is focus a little bit more," Finley said. "I know I can catch the ball. I know I'm going to catch the ball this year — for sure I'm going to catch it. It's focus."

Reason for pessimism: Drops have been an ongoing issue which came to the fore last year after some improvement the year before. In 2010, the Packers were guilty of 33 drops, which was tied for 15th-most in the NFL. In 2009, the total was a league-high 46. In 2008, their 43 drops ranked fifth. There's room for improvement, but recent history shows the Packers will continue to be plagued by dropped passes. Maybe it's a byproduct of a deep corps of pass catchers, which means not enough opportunities to get into a groove. Maybe it's a byproduct of a bunch of receivers who are hungry to gain additional yards after the catch. Whatever the reason, drops seem to be a constant nit worth picking and one area of a record-setting offense where there's considerable room for growth.


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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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