No Randall Cobb.
No Jermichael Finley
No problem for the Green Bay Packers’ prolific pass catchers, who piled up yards after the catch at an impressive rate, considering the revolving door at quarterback.
Green Bay finished fourth in the league in YAC with 2,344. Denver (2,750), New Orleans (2,576) and Detroit (2,392) took the top three spots, as those teams’ quarterbacks finished first, second and third, respectively, in overall passing yards.
With the injuries, the Packers relied on everyone to pick up the slack.
Jordy Nelson had a team-high 442 yards after the catch, which ranked 23rd in the league. James Jones ranked 41st with 384 yards after the catch, while Eddie Lacy was 54th (321), Jarrett Boykin was 83rd (259), Finley was 96th (236), Cobb was 126th (189) and Andrew Quarless tied for 157th (141).
Part of the success revolves around the nature of the passing game. While Green Bay has drifted away from the West Coast Offense in some regards, coach Mike McCarthy returned to his West Coast roots in at least one way last season. Not only did Rodgers finish second in the NFL with 8.74 yards per attempt, he finished second with 6.48 YAC per reception. Compare that to 5.51 YAC per completion in 2012, 5.88 in 2011, 5.69 in 2010, 5.91 in 2009 and just 4.42 in 2008.
“The emphasis has always been there but we’re just trying to coach it better and the players are doing a better job at it,” McCarthy said after the team piled up 295 YAC vs. Washington, a record since the league began tracking that stat in 1993. “The timing of the throw and the routes are more in sync. It creates another half-yard of separation as opposed to when you’re not as in sync. All those things factor. “
The other side of the coin is, obviously, the prowess of the guys catching the ball. Other than Cobb, the Packers don’t have any dynamic open-field threats. What they do have is a group of powerful receivers who can take a defensive back along for the ride. According to ProFootballFocus.com, Nelson used his 217 pounds to force 12 missed tackles. That’s as many as Boykin (218 pounds), even with Boykin catching a stunning 36 fewer passes. They tied for 15th in the league among receivers in missed tackles, according to PFF. Jones, who made a living turning 1-yard passes into 6- or 7-yard gains, tied for 20th with 10.
The chart located here, based on PFF’s numbers, are telling. Green Bay’s wide receivers combined to force 43 missed tackles. That was nine more than any other team. Their receivers and tight ends also led the league with 58 missed tackles. Once running backs are included, the Packers fell to third with 67 missed tackles.
Green Bay should remain strong in YAC with a healthy Cobb and Boykin able to offset Jones’ perennial strength as a runner. Yards after the catch was one of the key reasons why the Packers chose Davante Adams in the second round.
“You look at YAC — yards after the catch — he’s a strong runner, gets the ball north and south quickly, breaks tackles but also shows the ability to make people miss,” receivers coach Edgar Bennett said.
Yards after the catch is a hallmark of Green Bay’s passing game. Since 2008, the Packers rank third in the league in YAC and have posted five consecutive top-six finishes in that category.
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YAC: Since 2008
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.