From TDs to Drops, Receivers' Numbers Crash

Whether you're watching on television or looking at the numbers, it's clear the Packers' touted wide receiver corps has been mediocre. The banged-up Colts, of all people, dared the Packers to pass the ball, no doubt aware of these unsightly numbers. We break it down every which way with this three-story series.

After a Week 3 loss at Seattle, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy said something unthinkable, given the productivity of his passing game last year.

"We were challenged to throw the ball," McCarthy said.

After Sunday's loss to Indianapolis, McCarthy made another eye-opening statement.

"They were very aggressive with us," McCarthy said of the Colts' cornerbacks against the Packers' receivers. "That's the MO: Jump up and challenge the Packer perimeter. That's going to be the MO until we start gashing people and we didn't do it today."

What happened? How did the Packers' passing game go from being the bully to being bullied?

There are no good answers — at least no good answers made for public consumption. The problems are many but what's inarguable is the Packers' receivers haven't been nearly as effective as they were last season, when they led the NFL in yards (3,667) and touchdowns (38) by wide margins.

"It's up to everyone to try to play better and perform better," offensive coordinator Tom Clements said Monday when asked if the receivers were getting open enough, catching the ball well enough and making enough happen with the ball.

Examining the numbers, the wide receivers' drop-off has been shocking. The receivers are on pace to catch 21 more passes than last season yet gain 816 fewer yards, score nine fewer touchdowns and drop eight more passes.

Sunday's game at Indianapolis was nothing short of a disaster. Even without standout cornerback Vontae Davis and No. 3 corner Justin King, the Packers' receivers combined for 11 receptions for 171 yards. Until the last drive, the receivers caught three passes in seven second-half possessions.

"They didn't do anything differently," Clements said of the second half. "We didn't execute as well as we should and could. If we had executed up to our ability, we would've performed. Give them credit, they played hard and made some plays, but we always have to look at ourselves first and we didn't play as well as we needed to."

Simply, the receivers aren't getting open. After Cedric Benson went down, McCarthy essentially put the running game in mothballs. On Monday, McCarthy cited the Colts' injuries and the matchups on the perimeter as reasons to focus on the passing game. Still, the receivers couldn't get open with any consistency.

When they are getting open, they haven't delivered. Jordy Nelson, who ranked second in the NFL with 18.6 yards per catch and third with 15 touchdowns last season, dropped just two balls in 2011. This season, he's averaged 12.6 yards per catch, scored one touchdown and dropped five passes. His drop rate is third-worst among NFL receivers.

Only Cleveland's Brandon Weeden (22) and New Orleans' Drew Brees (19) have been victimized by more passes than Aaron Rodgers (17). Donald Driver (two), Randall Cobb (two), James Jones (one) and Greg Jennings (zero) give the receiver corps a total of 10 drops.

"I don't have an answer for that," Clements said. "We stress it, we drill it every day, every day that we practice, and it's been an emphasis. We just have to keep on doing it and hopefully the tide will turn. I don't have an answer as to why."

When they've caught the ball, the production has been minimal. The Packers are one of six teams without a 100-yard receiving game. The yards-after-catch total doesn't look too bad, with their 386 yards putting them on pace for 1,235 — or 130 less than last season. Much of that total, however, is skewed by Cobb. His 169 yards after the catch represents 43.8 percent of the team's total.

Pro Football Focus breaks it into YAC per catch. Cobb's 7.7-yard average ties his mark from last year. Nelson has gone from 6.3 to 4.3, Jones from 7.7 to 4.0, Jennings from 4.6 to 3.0 and Driver from 3.8 to 1.0.


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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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