That’s hardly noteworthy. What else would you expect from one of the NFL’s premier receivers?
What was noteworthy was the play in question was a running play.
With Josh Sitton pulling to his left, Eddie Lacy rumbled for 13 yards. The key to the play was Nelson’s dominating block against Marcus Roberson. Nelson locked onto Roberson at the 18-yard line and drove him 12 yards downfield.
Five plays later, quarterback Aaron Rodgers took the snap and threw it almost immediately in the flat to Randall Cobb. The 9-yard gain was made possible by Nelson’s block at the line of scrimmage. One play later, Nelson delivered another key block by sealing the corner inside on Lacy’s 7-yard run.
Receivers coach Edgar Bennett — who knows a little something about blocking following a standout career as a Packers running back and then a stint as running backs coach — was impressed.
“When we’re put in position to block, we’ve got to do our job, and that’s the focus,” Bennett said on Tuesday. “Now the how part — the assignment, that’s one thing. No. 1, you’ve got to have the mind-set, the want, the will to want to do it. And then the fundamental work — hands inside, accelerate with your feet on contact, the angle that you take and the finish has to show up on tape. I think our guys understand when you look at some of the things we were able to accomplish, you know, we’ve just got continue to play at that level. Certainly some of the blocks Jordy made last week were at an extremely high level. We’ve got to do it all the time, all of our guys. That’s the mind-set, that’s the standard in our room.”
What drives Nelson, an elite pass-catching weapon, to sell out — during a preseason game, no less?
“One (reason) is having a running back as your wide receiver coach,” Nelson said. “He holds us to a very high standard. And it’s very black and white. If your guy touches the ball-carrier, you get a minus on the play. No matter where it is on the field, keep your guy off the pile. Two, it’s a pride factor. Obviously, you don’t want your guy making the tackle and you don’t want to look bad on film. A lot of it goes hand in hand. The accountability in our room, we try to hold ourselves to it.”
Bennett laughed when his playing background was mentioned but didn’t disagree with Nelson’s analysis. For many receivers, a running play provides a chance to catch your breath between passing plays. However, at a position populated by pretty boys, Nelson isn’t afraid to do the dirty work.
“Part of it is pride but part of it is what you emphasize in the room and guys buying into it and understanding the importance of it,” Bennett said. “It’s part of their job description. That’s kind of how I look at it. As far as being a former running back, maybe he mentioned that because it’s more to do with just the mind-set. We have that in our room and not every (receiver) has that mind-set. Our guys, they take pride in it and they know it’s something that we’ve got to get done in order for our team to be successful.
“We feel like we have an outstanding offensive line that creates running lanes for our backs, and we feel that they’re exceptional, as well. Our guy can’t be in on the tackle. That’s our mind-set. We’ve got to finish our blocks. We talk about from a fundamental standpoint, we’ve got to be fundamentally sound and we’ve got to finish.”
Obviously, it’s easier for a young receiver to “buy into” the necessity to block when the big-time player with the big-time contract in the position group is selling out in a preseason game.
“I think so,” Bennett said after nodding his head vigorously in agreement. “No. 1, it goes back to our actions. (Offensive coordinator Tom) Clements talks about it all the time as far as the way it’s supposed to look. That’s how it’s supposed to look in our room. That’s doing your job. That’s doing your job. That’s the type of effort and passion we need for doing our job every single time. Those are the standards.”
Rookie receiver Davante Adams is learning those standards. Adams, who was regarded as a quality blocker while piling up record-setting receiving numbers at Fresno State, jokingly called Nelson’s blocking “terrible” while standing next to Nelson in the locker room on Tuesday.
Turning serious, Adams said: “Coach Bennett holds us to that type of standard where if you’re not blocking, you’re not going to get the ball. Jordy, being in the league for seven years, that’s the type of stuff that you’ve got to look up to. If you want to be successful in this league, you’ve got to block as well as catch it. He obviously showed that on several plays in this past game. It’s not just him — it’s everybody. ...
“I don’t feel like I had a good game if I go for 200 yards but my guy makes the tackle too many times. If you want to be a great player, you’ve got to hold yourself to a higher standard than just catching the ball.”
In the battle royale to round out the team’s receiving corps, the little things are going to matter. It’s not just catching the ball or running good routes. It’s going to come down to blocking, special teams and doing the little things. Nelson said his blocking wasn’t about sending a message to the group of young receivers vying for a roster spot. Though the message was certainly received by everyone watching Nelson’s blocking clinic in the film room.
“To me, it’s not sending a message. It’s doing your job,” Nelson said. “I’ve been asked about goals and what it is that I set out to do. To me, it’s just doing my job. Everyone on the field has a job to do. Preseason game or not, it’s not right for me to not block my guy and everyone else block theirs. It’s just doing your job and holding yourself accountable. If you can’t do that, are your teammates going to think you’re going to run the right route if you can’t block the guy who’s over you?”
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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.