Receivers Drop Ball On Offense

"We've kind of stumbled and staggered a little out of the gate, and that's part of the reason," receivers coach Jimmy Robinson said. "You're probably going to have points on that first drive if we don't drop two balls. Maybe that changes the whole game. You can't overemphasize the importance of it."

The Packers think they have the best receiving corps in the NFL, so it's disconcerting to see "Green Bay Packers" atop the leaderboard for most dropped passes.

According to STATS, the Packers have dropped a league-high eight passes. That's one more than Tampa Bay, and only two fewer than the rest of the NFC North teams combined.

"I'm not concerned about it. I'm concerned about it if it continues," receivers coach Jimmy Robinson, who by his more stringent standards has the Packers with nine drops, said on Thursday. "I think it's an aberration for our guys, quite honestly, but nevertheless, it is what it is. It happens, it stops a drive and kills a drive and takes points off the board. It's something that we know we have to eliminate. We've got to start eliminating it now."

The Packers dropped two passes to start last week's game, a first-and-10 bootleg to tight end Jermichael Finley and a third-and-9 to star receiver Greg Jennings, who had toasted cornerback Leon Hall.

Who knows what happens if Jennings makes the catch. Isolated one-on-one against a cornerback, maybe he breaks free for a big gain. At worst, it's a first down and the Packers are close to field goal range.

"The bottom line is, there's a lot of reasons why offenses stumble and stagger, and we've kind of stumbled and staggered a little out of the gate, and that's part of the reason," Robinson said. "You're probably going to have points on that first drive if we don't drop two balls. Maybe that changes the whole game. You can't overemphasize the importance of it."

The drops have compounded the myriad problems that have derailed a Packers offense that couldn't be stopped in the preseason. Green Bay ranks 11th in the NFL in scoring with 22.5 points per game, but of the Packers' 45 points, seven have been scored by the defense and 14 more have been set up by the defense.

"None of us have played well," said receiver Donald Driver, who had two drops in Week 1 against Chicago. "When you've got a guy back there ready to throw and you can't block or he throws the ball and we drop it, it shakes him up, too. As an offense, we haven't played well at all. Everybody that plays offense knows that, and it's all about playing better now."

Playing better, from the perspective of Robinson and the receivers, means improved focus. That means, as Driver put it, "Catch it first, and then run."

The Packers' receivers took great pride in leading the NFL in yards after the catch in 2007 after finishing second in YAC in 2006. Last year, however, they fell back to 14th, and there was plenty of talk during training camp and the preseason about "getting our title back."

"Lack of concentration and then running before you get the ball in your hands, because you're trying to make a play," Driver said. "Greg's drop, we watched him on film. It was funny because he was trying to run before he caught it. Same with mine. Against Chicago, I'm jumping in the air. I'm thinking, ‘When I get down, what am I going to do?,' instead of just focusing on catching the ball."

Jennings was still kicking himself for dropping that pass. Had he beaten Hall, only a safety was standing between Jennings and the end zone.

"I was trying to run before I got the ball, but I still make that play. Period," Jennings said. "That ball is in my hands, and if I focus on the fundamentals before I get to the aftermath of everything, then I catch it and who knows what happens."

Along with two drops apiece by Driver and Jordy Nelson against Chicago (STATS officially lists Driver with one), running backs Ryan Grant and DeShawn Wynn have one apiece, as do Jennings, Finley and James Jones.

While the drops are alarming — especially after their 32 drops from last year were sixth-most in the league — Robinson appreciates that his players never make excuses. The one by Jones, for instance, was on a high pass that he was unable to corral. Robinson wasn't sure if it was a drop but Jones took responsibility.

"He thought it was a drop, and I said, ‘Well, I'm glad you feel like it's a drop, because you're putting that demand on yourself that you've got to make that play,'" Robinson said.

With the offense sputtering, Robinson is on guard. Desperate to jump-start things, Robinson needs to make sure his receivers don't put the cart before the horse.

"I think as a coach, you don't assume anything," said Robinson, who played receiver in the NFL for six seasons and recalled a dropped pass on "Monday Night Football" as "embarrassing as heck."

"You're always constantly coaching, constantly reminding, constantly exhorting those guys that, hey, fundamentals first," he continued. "Look the ball in before you run with it. Catch it first before you run with it. We need the catch — the run is great, but the catch is more important."


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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 and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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