Reports surfaced today that Greg Jennings had some kind of blow up on the Packers’ sideline during the Redskins game this past Sunday.
I’m not surprised.
I know lots of fans and observers in general have wondered about Jennings’ lack of production through five games so far this season. But it really isn’t any great mystery. The defenses the Packers have faced have been playing a two deep shell almost exclusively, taking away a lot of the deeper routes that Jennings excels at. Even worse, the times Jennings has found room to operate, quarterback Aaron Rodgers has either just missed him completely in the progression or has been too preoccupied with the rush to see Jennings deep.
A perfect example of what I’m talking about occured in the second quarter of Sunday’s game. Take a look at the play below:
(Feel free to mute the audio. I usually take it out.)
Now watch what Greg Jennings was doing on that play:
And judging from the gameday Tweets from various beat writers up in the press box, this kind of thing has been happening two or three times a game.
The biggest problem comes from the soft edge being set by the offensive tackles, whoever they may be. Clifton. Tauscher, Bulaga – it hasn’t seemed to matter. The edge is just mush at the moment and Rodgers is almost anticipating the pocket collapsing and getting ready to run, rather than standing tall in the pocket, going through his progressions and making stick throws. (To be fair, in the clip above Colledge gets in on the act by being pushed into the backfield as well – but the fact remains Rodgers has plenty of time to make the read and the throw)
The only game we’ve seen Rodgers stand tall in the pocket for a full game is in Chicago. Every other game has been an adventure.
The deeper stuff that Jennings runs requires the quarterback to have the patience to let those routes develop. Right now, Rodgers just isn’t doing that – not that its all his fault. It’s hard to drop back and be confident in your protection when you are consistently having to take off because the pocket is collapsing around you. But that’s your job as a quarterback. And as much as it pains me to say it – the video below is a perfect example of a quarterback standing confident in the pocket even though guys are pushing in around him. (And yes, I recognize this isn’t nearly as bad as what Rodgers is facing in the play above – but just watch the difference in quarterback play)
No looking around.
No springing out of the pocket like a jack rabbit.
Take the snap. Make the read. Make the throw.
Now, Greg Jennings is by no means without fault for some of his lack of production. He’s had a few glaring drops already this season, most notably a beautifully thrown deep ball from Rodgers in the Chicago game. But the fact remains that Jennings is by far the most gifted receiver on the roster and one of the best route runners in the NFL. The Packers paid him handsomely last summer in recognition of these talents and right now they are going to waste. The best thing that Mike McCarthy can do to get Jennings involved is to get his quarterback settled down, get his protections shored up and start mixing in some slant, smash and smoke routes designed to go to Jennings to get both he and Rodgers in a rhythm early.
Another obvious suggestion to free up Jennings deep would be for McCarthy to at least make a half-hearted effort with the ground game to force defensive coordinators to bring a safety down – but I prefer to navigate through reality and not sit around waiting for miracles.