Grading the Packers: WR's, TE's

Wide receivers, Lee are ‘Fab' for the Packers in 2007

There was all kinds of doubt by so-called experts regarding Green Bay's wide receivers entering the 2007 season, but playmakers evolved as the season progressed and the doubt has subsided considerably. Led by their "Fab 5" combo of Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, James Jones, Koren Robinson and Ruvell Martin, the Packers receivers spearheaded an offense that ranked second in the National Football League in passing.

Each receiver's ability to run after the catch, combined with Brett Favre's quick release, enabled Green Bay's receivers and tight ends lead the league in yards after the catch in 2007. The Packers piled up a league-best 2,294 yards after the catch, or 51.4% of their total passing yards. The NFL average in 2007 was 1,596 yards, and only two other teams (New Orleans, 2,112, and New England, 2,052) surpassed 2,000 yards after the catch.

Favre completed more high percentage passes to his receivers, who often ran shorter to medium routes, then used their physical ability to make defenders miss and gain yards after the catch. With all the short passes, Favre still connected on a few bombs in wins over Denver, Kansas City and Oakland this season. His 57-yard touchdown pass to Jennings, who caught the ball in stride while running a slant route, gave the Packers the go-ahead lead in the fourth quarter of win over San Diego in Week 3.

When many felt the Packers had to obtain Randy Moss in a trade with Oakland last off-season in order to give the offense a needed playmaker, the young receiving corp got along fine without him. While Moss thrives with New England, the Packers thrived behind Driver, Jennings and tight end Donald Lee. Driver led the team in catches (82), Jennings led the team in touchdowns (12), and Lee had a breakthrough season in his first year as a regular starter.

Green Bay's ‘Big 5' passing formation was unveiled in the Packers' 34-0 rout of the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field to kick off the second half of the season. Favre passed for 351 yards.

"It's mismatches versus time (to throw) is what we're playing against," Favre explained. "If I was a defensive coordinator, I don't know who you stop or who you go in saying, ‘OK, this is what we (have to prepare for)' … And for us that's a good thing. We have enough diversity to present its own set of problems."

Driver, Jennings, Lee and Jones led the Packers in receiving, respectively. The four combined for 22 of the team's 49 touchdowns in 2007.

Donald Driver: Despite catching only two touchdown passes in the regular season, Driver led the team with 82 catches for 1,048 yards and earned his second consecutive and third career Pro Bowl selection. He tied a franchise record with 1,000 receiving yards in a fifth overall season, joining Sterling Sharpe and Pro Football Hall of Famer James Lofton as one of three Packers to achieve that feat.

Driver turned 33 years old a day before Super Bowl XLII in Arizona, but the ninth-year pro continues to be productive and why the Packers extended his contract prior to last season. His 90-yard touchdown catch in the NFC Championship Game briefly gave the Packers a lead.

Above all, he is a leader among the receivers, durable and has an intense desire to win a NFL title.
Grade: A-

Greg Jennings: The second-year wide receiver was the top playmaker for the Packers in 2007, leading the team with 12 touchdown receptions in 13 games.

Jennings was not active for the first two games of the season due to a hamstring injury, but he returned with a bang in Week 3, catching four passes for 82 yards, including a 57-yard touchdown that gave the Packers the go-ahead lead in a win over the San Diego Chargers.

Jennings finished the regular season with 53 catches for 920 yards, second to Driver in both categories, with many memorable moments. He caught Brett Favre's NFL record-setting 421st touchdown on a 16-yard slant Sept. 30 against Minnesota. He caught six passes for a career-high 141 yards and a game-winning 82-yard score in overtime against Denver on Oct. 29. He also caught a 60-yard touchdown against Kansas City the following week late in the game as the Packers beat the Chiefs.

Jennings was tied with Pro-Bowl caliber players such as Plaxico Burress, Brian Westbrook and T.J. Houshmandzadeh in total touchdowns.
Grade: B+

James Jones: The rookie impressed everyone soon after he was selected in the third round of the NFL draft last April but was inconsistent during the season.

Jones' 47 catches for 676 yards was second in the NFC to Detroit's Calvin Johnson (48- 756), and third overall in the league for receptions by a rookie receiver. Kansas City's Dwayne Bowe led all rookie receivers with 70 catches for 995 yards. Jones played in all 18 games for the Packers with 11 total starts, complete with peaks and valleys.

Jones' confidence was shaken and he was benched early on in Green Bay's Oct. 7 loss to the Chicago Bears for fumbling the ball away twice. But two games later, he caught a long pass from Brett Favre for a 79-yard touchdown in an overtime win against the Denver Broncos. It was his second and final touchdown of the season. A California native, Jones struggled in cold weather games. He had four catches in four games in the month of December. After catching three passes for 42 yards on a snowy evening in Green Bay's NFC Divisional playoff win over Seattle, he was held without a catch in the NFC Championship game on a bitter cold night eight days later at Lambeau Field.
Grade: C+

Ruvell Martin: A tall, lanky receiver (6-foot-4, 210 pounds), Martin played the role of a possession receiver in a limited role. He caught 16 passes for 242 yards and four touchdowns in 15 regular season games. He sat out of the Nov. 4 game at Kansas City with a back injury and did not have any catches in two postseason games.

Martin is a good blocker in the open field and has decent hands, though, he dropped a catchable pass over the middle against the Giants in the NFC Championship Game.
Grade: C

Koren Robinson: The seventh-year pro returned to the Packers in mid-October after serving a league-mandated one-year suspension for violating the league's drug abuse policy. He played in the team's final nine regular season games and both playoff games, giving the Packers a shot in the arm on special teams as a kickoff returner (23.8 yards per return). Robinson also added another dimension to Green Bay's receiving corp, making 21 catches for 241 yards and one touchdown, often rotating into games with Martin. Robinson caught four passes for 16 yards in the NFC Championship Game.

With a full off-season to prepare, look for Robinson to play a bigger role next season in Green Bay's offense. He is fearless at catching passes over the middle, and has the ability to make tacklers miss after making a catch.
Grade: C

Shaun Bodiford: He was released at the end of training camp, then re-signed with the Packers on Sept. 24. He played in six games and was inactive for seven. He caught his only pass of the season, and first of his career, in the regular season finale Dec. 30 against Detroit for 18 yards.

Bodiford, who was not active for either of the Packers' two postseason games, returned two kickoffs for 41 yards in the regular season. With Driver, Jennings, Jones, Martin and Robinson ahead of him, Bodiford never got a chance, other than the regular season finale, to make plays.
Grade: Incomplete

Carlyle Holiday He was having a good training camp till he injured his knee after the first preseason game. He was placed on injured reserve on Sept. 15. A versatile player, Holiday has good hands and can throw the ball. The ex-Notre Dame quarterback also has the ability to contribute on special teams. He'll get another chance to make the team this off-season and in training camp.
Grade: Incomplete

Donald Lee: Lee was inserted as the starter during workouts last off-season and he made the most of his opportunity. He led the team's tight ends in receiving during the regular season with 48 catches for 575 yards and six touchdowns.

Lee demonstrated a great ability to stretch the field with his improved agility and strength, and rarely dropped passes. He played in 15 of 16 games. He had five catches for 51 yards and a touchdown in two postseason games.

The Packers rewarded Lee by extending his contract (four years, $11.9 million on Nov. 5).
Grade: B

Bubba Franks: The veteran missed eight games in the middle of the season with a knee injury and finished with 18 catches for 132 yards and three touchdowns. A solid blocker, Franks is in a tie with Robert Brooks for 10th on the team's all-time touchdown receptions list with 32.

With a high salary cap number ($3 million) in 2008, Franks, 30, may be asked to take a pay cut, or could be released during this off-season, to make way for a younger, up-and-coming tight end. Though he is a solid blocker, his days in Green Bay appear to be numbered.
Grade: C-

Ryan Krause: He was signed to the 53-man roster from the practice squad after Franks injured his knee Oct. 14 against Washington. Krause played in nine games as an extra tight end. He had two catches for 11 yards and four special teams tackles. Never did anything special for the offense in the time that he played.
Grade: C-

Tory Humphrey: He was on his way to backing up Lee until he sustained a broken ankle early in training camp and placed on injured reserve. The second-year pro has a solid off-season, and coaches were excited about his potential. He will get every chance to pick up where he left off this off-season.
Grade: Incomplete

Editor's note: Stay tuned to PackerReport.com for an analysis of the Packers' offensive linemen Thursday on PackerReport.com.


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