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Going Wide: Packers Looking for Playmakers at WR

Discussion in 'Packer Fan Forum' started by Bruce, Jan 22, 2007.

  1. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

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    Going Wide: Packers looking for playmakers at WR

    Note: the 4th in a series of positional analysis of the Green Bay

    When looking for a playmaker we all know who future Hall of Fame QB Brett Favre looks to first, so we too shall start with looking to Pro Bowl WR Donald Driver.

    [​IMG]

    Much has been written about Donald Driver epic story of overcoming adversity and long odds on his path to an NFL career. As such, I will not go there today, rather simply comment that this story of resilience, courage and redemption is still evolving today. Donald is one of those rare individuals who embraces the many lessons of life, integrates them and uses them to continue to grow and succeed. His contributions on the field are what we will focus upon here, but his work off the field is equally great, with the Donald Driver Foundation: Helping homeless families and education services with "Strong Hands, Strong Minds, and Loving Hearts" being just one example.

    Listed at 6-0 190 lbs (perhaps in full pads and after a huge meal and someone’s toe on the scale), this 2nd pick by the Packers in the 7th round of the 1999 draft seems to be like a fine wine, because he seems to just get better with age.

    Driver finished the 2006 season in the top 5 of the league in reception yardage with 1,295 yards – his 3rd straight 1200+ yard season and 4th 1000+ in the last 5 seasons. He also recored the most receptions in his career with 92 of them – also in the top 5 league wide. Donald also found the endzone 8 times despite constant double teams and zone defenses rolling toward whereever he lined up.

    Despite his dimunative size, fan favorite Driver is fearless in making his living on the inside, where bigger (supposedly stronger) men often tremble as they hear the impending footsteps of Safeties and Linebackers closing quickly with malicious intent.

    Donald Driver is as clever as he is sudden, with a feel for the game and instincts that not only fool defenders on routes, but often leaves them embracing air as they attempt to tackle him. In 2006, Donald Driver averaged a career-best 4.95 yards after the catch, which ranks only behind Antonio Freemans’ 7.3 average in 1998 and Robert Brooks’ 5.1 average posted in 1995, among the team's No. 1 wide receivers, since YAC have been recorded.

    Staying with the improving with age theme, Donald had lowest drop rate of his career – 3.5% – which is especially impressive given the extra coverage thrown at him throughout the season. Donald will turn 32 by Super Bowl Sunday and is signed through the 2009 season.

    =========================================================
    When discussing playmakers the next logical place to look is on the opposite end of the extreme – from the oldest Veteran playmaker to the youngest, Greg Jennings.

    [​IMG]
    Selected with the 2nd of Green Bay’s second-round draft choices in 2006, Greg Jennings quickly showed why he was selected above some of the more name receivers still on the board. From the moment Jennings stepped onto the field, he demonstrated his knack for making big plays, and had fans and offensive coordinators suddenly studying up on this 5-11, 197 lean pounds WR from Western Michigan.

    Over the course of the first third of the season he led the team in big plays with 8 catches for 20 or more yards – an unbelievable achievement for a rookie WR in a West Coast offense. Like Driver, Jennings shows instinctive qualities that can not necessarily be taught in juking defenders before and after the catch. In route running his smooth running style contributes to his deceptive speed, and after the catch his moves are unpredictable and explosive.

    People began to mutter possible offensive rookie of the year. Then just as suddenly, he suffered the dreaded classic high ankle sprain in the 6th game of the season and never fully recovered. When he returned to the field, he gutted out patterns and made a few plays here and there, but clearly lacked the ability to cut and turn. There were moments that he looked frustrated and a lesser man may have lost confidence, but he endured and still secured a spot on the NFL all-rookie squad. His 5 ½ average gain after the catch was tops on the team.

    Greg has surprisingly good hands, and posted a far better than average drop rate of 4.9% – especially when one remembers this was a rookie making the leap from Western Michigan to the spot lights of the NFL. He is one of those rare individuals who seem to shine brighter when the lights come on and there is great reason for optimism as this 23 year old is fully recovered heading into his second season of Professional football.

    =========================================================
    After Donald and Greg the pickings at WR begin to thin out.

    One can almost hear the groans from readers as I am typing the next logical place to look – Veteran WR Robert Ferguson. It is probably fair to point out that if it were not for bad luck; Robert would probably have no luck at all. At least that is true when it comes to injuries since this suffering this near career ending hit…

    [​IMG]
    … in which he somehow held onto the ball despite an illegal forearm clothesline hit by Jaguars safety Donovin Darius – who was subsequent fined $75,000 by the NFL for the illegal play. This December 2004 injury, put him on the shelf for the season and left the Packers thin as they headed into their short excursion into the playoffs. Some question whether he has ever recovered.

    After battling back from sever migraines and vision problems, the injury nightmare continued in ‘05’ with injuries to both knees that should have put him on the shelf far before he was finally sent to the IR -- he just did not want to give up.

    2006 started well with Robert enjoying a healthy productive off-season and training camp. While not happy about losing his starting job to Greg Jennings, Robert seemed to be handling the move back to #3 receiver like the team player he has always been. When the injury bug struck again – this time the dreaded Lisfranc foot sprain, Robert again landed on injured reserve list.

    Robert, who just turned 27 in December, is a well cut 6’1’ 210 lbs physical wide-receiver. He has great hands and can make acrobatic catches, but needs to regain his confidence (seemingly lost post hit above) and heart in fighting for the ball in a crowd where his superior strength should be more of an asset. His strength is a great assest in fighting off jams and his versatility is among the tops on the squad. When healthy Fergy can run after the catch, and has always produced when used as a kick or punt return man and has always been the Packers top gunner on both in running down opposition returners.

    Despite his popularity with teammates and coaches (past and present, Driver and Walker love him) and his incredible work ethic, Robert is far from a fan favorite.

    His salary of $1.8 million is significant given his injury history. The current coaches do not hesitate to say they look forward to his return – where they want to give him the chance to reclaim the #3 receiver spot.

    TT has publicly said he is behind the return of Ferguson and because of his relative young age, will probably give him a shot to come back and compete. However, one has to believe that any setbacks may lead to a quick hook and cut if Robert stumbles at all in camp – before his money becomes guaranteed. I am probably in a thin minority of folks(outside of his coaches and teammates) who wishes the hardworking warrior a change of fortune heading into ‘07’


    =========================================================
    From a talent and upside perspective, 25 yr old former QB Carlyle Holiday comes next.

    At 6’2” 217 lbs Carlyle is an athlete with upside. He has good hands, ball skills, body control and above average feel for the game – and is a put you on your *** blocker as a WR. He is still quite raw in his route running, but has all of the raw materials to be developed into a serious receiving threat.

    [​IMG]

    Of the current young talent, Holiday holds the most promise. If he commits to serious work and stays in Green Bay over the off-season this kid has the tools to surprise in ‘07’ BTW he was Notre Dames punt return his senior season and may get a shot there coming training camp, which of course would only enhance his value to the team.

    =========================================================
    Next in line is blue-collar WR Ruvell Martin. One would have to be heartless not to give props to this hardworking ‘street’ free agent who scratched and clawed his way onto the roster and significant playing time in ‘06’ He is a long strider with questionable speed, who finished the season with 21 catches and a team high 17 yards per catch.

    While Ruvell has heart, he also has limited upside – what you see is what you will get from him. He will battle for the ball and has decent hands (drop rate of 7%) and does not lay down after the catch. He is not afraid to go over the middle, will put his nose in there blocking and gives 110% on special teams. Despite this he will once again need to scratch and claw to earn a spot on next season’s squad.

    [​IMG]
    At 6 foot 4 and 217 pounds Ruvell is a big target -- something he used very well in training camp to earn his spot on the roster against bigger named competition.

    =========================================================
    Also turning 27 years old in March, Koren Robinson’s fate is no longer solely in his own hands. Blessed with great talent, Koren has seemed Hell bent upon wasting it, falling back on his severe chemical addiction after being given 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th… chances time and time again. Any chance to return will depend upon his strict adherence to his treatment program and to the terms of his probation/parole program – if the MN courts decide to turn him loose.

    Mike McCarthy has publicly declared that he does not consider Robinson someone he can count on when planning for next season. I believe there are multiple reasons for this: 1.) the possible time behind bars he faces, 2.) his history of relapse after relapse, 3.) the potential deterioration of skills that can come prematurely with chronic severe addictions, 4.) the uncertainty of further action by the NFL if he is convicted on the felony counts in MN, and 5.) at best, Robinson will not be able to work out or have any association with the team until several games into September after the season starts. The above reasons are why it is wise not to count on him and consider any return on investment to be strictly bonus territory.

    [​IMG]

    At 6’1’’ 205 Robinson has shown flashes of having serious game, but has never had consistent hands. He burst out as a kick return man for the Vikings, making the Pro Bowl as a returner, but did not stand out as anything special in the limited opportunities he had with Green Bay before being suspended. For the sake of the team, and more importantly for Koren, we all hope he gets his life together and gets back to playing the game he purports to love.

    =========================================================
    Of the rest of the long-shots, Shaun Bodiford is probably the most intriguing. Shaun is a quick study – within two weeks of joining the Packers, the 5-foot-11, 186-pounder learned all three receiver positions. Further, he impressed the coaches so much that in his second game he was elevated to No. 1 kickoff and punt returner. Before he really got a chance to show what he has he broke his leg on the opening kickoff against Minnesota

    Part of what is intriguing is the word that Mike Martz had a fit when GM Matt Millen decided to cut him – declaring that it reminded him of Isaac Bruce when he watched Bodiford with the ball. Frankly, I think Mike Martz is a head case, but I certainly trust his ability to evaluate WR talent. He is a tough kid, with lots of speed and raw ability. I also remember Patty saying that she was intrigued by him as well. His kick and punt return ability, with a whole offseason and training camp and exhibition season may help this kid launch a career in Green and Gold if he can stay healthy and grab the brass ring.

    =========================================================

    Chris Francies was an undrafted rookie free agent who was cut twice, but somehow showed enough to get called back both time. He is a tenacious kid who will battle, but has average speed and hands. I remember having lunch in Austin, TX with one of his college teammates from Texas El-Paso, who kept telling me this 6’1” 193 lb WR was the real deal. I have to say I didn’t see anything special, but the kid talking was a pretty decent player himself so I am going to keep a bit of an eye on him.

    =========================================================

    5’11” 214 lb Carlton Brewster an undrafted rookie from Ferris State Deep and Calvin Russell a 6-0 190 undrafted rookie from Tuskegee round out the current roster as true long shots to land employment in '07'
     
  2. porky88

    porky88 Cheesehead

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    Nice work again Bruce.

    Couple of comments on the receivers going into the off season.

    1. Anyone who thinks Driver isn't a true #1 needs to pickup some film and watch every game over and over again. He's a true #1 and is now starting in the Pro Bowl. He blocks, goes across the middle. He does everything he's asked too.

    2. I believe the NFL will reinstate Koren Robinson. I think Robinson can be a great player for us on special teams and be one of the better #4 WR's in the NFL if given a chance. He needs to stay clean though and his teammates will need to accept him into the locker room when he returns.

    3. I believe Greg Jennings can develop even better. When healthy I think he can obtain that status of a legit #2 receiver. He has great hands and runs great routes like stated in the article written above. What people don't know is how hard the west coast offense is to learn. Jennings for what he did was very impressive as a rookie and another year and off season learning the offense will only make him better.

    4. I don't believe we need a #1 or #2 WR. I believe this team lacks a legit #3 receiver right now. Finding another guy to take pressure off of Jennings and Driver would open up the offense even more. A lot of key names are out there but just because we need a #3, doesn't mean we need a marquee name like Terrell Owens or Randy Moss. Just someone who can stretch the field and possibly play the slot for us would greatly improve this offense. We don’t need to sign someone to a Charles Woodson like contract. We just need someone to come play a key role for us. I like Patrick Crayton from Dallas but he’s a restricted free agent.

    5. Finally Holiday and Martin are also going to improve. I'm not sold on either yet but they both have shown flashes of great potential and that's something we haven't had on our depth chart in a long time at receiver. We’ve had some high picks show potential but never undrafted players.
     
  3. Jakest3r

    Jakest3r Cheesehead

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    Cool Article. :)
     
  4. Cory

    Cory Cheesehead

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    It's a nice article, but Ferguson has ALWAYS sucked. Sure the hit didn't help, but his career high in receptions was 38. WOO HOO!!
     
  5. P@ck66

    P@ck66 Banned Banned

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    This list does not fill one with confidence, Bruce..

    Groooaann..Robert Ferguson making 1.8mil...Wasn't Javon Walker making less than that? Might have had something to do with his departure....

    After that..it's anybody's guess...

    Just like it's been with TT at the helm. He needs to get another VETERAN WR...either a field stretcher or possession type guy like Freeman...

    All I know is you can't go into next year with just this cast. You'll end up with only Driver out there getting double and TRIPLE covered!!!
     
  6. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

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    It is a positional analysis, not a cheerleading article that I wrote.

    No, Walker always loved Ferguson, they are still close friends. Walker's blow out had more to do with Favre sticking his nose into his business dealings and then fans and press praising Favre (who Javon felt stunned and betrayed by) and jumping all over Javon.

    The Pack does need to improve its depth at WR one way or another. It is a deep draft at WR and TT making some moves in free agency is a possibility -- but I doubt it will be for a big name receiver.

    BTW: the Moss rumors began last June and are still flying -- I think a snowball has a better shot in Hell -- but that is just MHO.
     
  7. Bobby Roberts

    Bobby Roberts Cheesehead

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    Moss isn't going to happen. I like the analysis of Holliday, who I think has great potential to turn into a solid #3 WR who can move up when needed. Bodiford showed promise, but he will earn his spot on special teams first.

    As for Robinson, I expect to see him re-instated and in the line-up by the end of Sept. The NFL has given many other players the same opportunity to return. He appeared to be dedicated to turning things around when he came here, but only time will tell. Wouldn't it be great to see him and Bodiford back for KRs?

    IMO, the problems with the passing game this past season had more to do with the TEs faltering in the second half than with not having good WRs. Not having a go to TE (the way Martin started out last season) really hurt this offense and put a lot of pressure on the WRs. Add in the fact that we had to consistently keep extra blockers in to protect Favre and it's easy to see why WRs had a tough time getting open.

    I expect us to see an improved OL that doesn't always need help in pass protect, along with better play from the young WRs. I hope to see better play from our TEs. If that happens, then this offense will be hard to stop.

    GO PACK GO!!!
     
  8. yooperfan

    yooperfan Cheesehead

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    Great analysis Bruce, as always.

    After Driver and Jennings we need major help that isn't on the roster now.
    Where that will come from is anybody's guess. I think Fergy deserves a chance at least through Pre-season, and Holliday and Martin should be kept as developing talent.

    Anybody that is counting on Robinson is delusional, forget his dependency problem, his looming legal problems will probably result in enough jail time to preclude his availability in 2007 and I think the Packer heierarchy realizes this.

    Teddy has his work cut out for him in this area and This will be interesting to see how it plays out.
     
  9. packerfan1245

    packerfan1245 Cheesehead

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    He hasn't sucked. He was actually pretty good. However i would take Koren over him, But not a guy like Holiday
     
  10. P@ck66

    P@ck66 Banned Banned

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    Totally agree.. :thumbsup:

    Great post!
     
  11. Bobby Roberts

    Bobby Roberts Cheesehead

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    :kickcan: Upgrading our #3 and 4 WRs isn't going to do nearly as much as improving our TEs and pass protection. Heck, until our OL doesn't need extra blockers for pass protection, we're not going to be using the #3/4 WRs much anyway.

    Of course this discussion is all pointless anyway because there's little to no chance that TT is going to trade for Moss or any other big-time WR. The best chance we have of TT upgrading the WRs is through the draft.

    GO PACK GO!!!
     
  12. Buckeyepackfan

    Buckeyepackfan Cheesehead

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    Great breakdown Bruce,

    I agree with BR, TT has not shown the tendancy to overspend on FA's.
    I do believe we will see a top notch TE at least given an offer, whether the player decides to come to Green Bay is another story.

    A lot have written off Bubba as being on the backside of his career, IMHO, Bubba was asked to do more blocking in 2006, which made his receiving suffer. But if a young tough TE could be picked up, one that can exploit the middle of the field, Bubba would still be quite valuable as the guy who stays in blocks, and be used as Brett's safety valve.

    I like our group of WR's, DD and Jennings are proven starters, while the rest are only going to improve, once again it comes back to "What Brett decides", we have all seen him make young receivers better than they actually are. Don't count out Fergy yet, he is due some good luck to come his way.

    I look for TT to ad depth to an improving D, early in the draft, and grab a couple of lineman in the middle rounds, then go looking for some offensive sleepers in the late rounds.

    Rnd 1-3 Defense(maybe a RB or WR in 2nd rnd)
    Rnds 4-5 O-Line
    Rnds 6-7 Offense

    Hey, but I don't know much, just going on what TT has done the past two drafts.

    This is what makes the off-season interesting.
     
  13. Timmons

    Timmons Cheesehead

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    Does anyone know the speed of our current receivers? Without looking myself, I'd say that what we are missing is a deep threat guy.

    Donald is our best slot receiver. He is money on the quick slant. If we can add a deep threat guy, then opposing D's have to line up their fast corner on him, which will allow opportunities for GJ and DD.

    I too, don't believe Moss is coming to Green Bay (but that would give opposing defenses fits). I also agree that a solid TE and better pass blocking will help more than we want to admit. Our need for a TE is very evident after watching Sunday's play off games. TE's are required to go deep into the play offs.

    Good work Bruce.
     
  14. WinnipegPackFan

    WinnipegPackFan Cheesehead

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    Bruce,

    Thanks for taking the time to bring us this well thought out piece !!

    Cheers :packbeer:
     
  15. bozz_2006

    bozz_2006 Cheesehead

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    agree. he might be reinstated by the NFL but he has impending jail time in lovely Minnesota looming on the horizon.
     
  16. retiredgrampa

    retiredgrampa Cheesehead

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    Hoping my endorsement doesn't jinx them, I'm looking for Holiday(very intelligent and versatile) and Bodiford(huge potential per Martz) to make waves this year. They are hungry guys and will make the necessary effort to be all they need to be. Ruvell Martin, with his size, is an intriguing WR. I'm not sure who our WRs coach is, but he has several real prospects to work with. If he can do it right, this group could well become the surprise group of camp. I hope they don't rely on Fergy. He's just a tease now.
     
  17. Cory

    Cory Cheesehead

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    When was he "actually pretty good" ?
     
  18. warhawk

    warhawk Cheesehead

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    My take on it is we HAVE playmakers at WR in Driver and Jennings. What we don't have is depth (a strong #3), a TE that is a threat in the passing game, or, a consistant enough run game that puts that needed pressure on the defense.

    Driver and Jennings are proven playmakers who need these other areas shored up to get more opportunities to make big plays.

    Playmakers don't generally make big plays when everyone is looking for it. They happen when the defense is working to stop an offense that is functioning effectively and then, bang, a big play hits.

    What I see is a need for a bonafide #3 WR that keeps the pass defense honest in their coverages of DD and Jennings to allow them a better chance to make plays. That alone, however, is not enough IMO.

    A strong pass catching TE and stout run game will do wonders for the playmakers we already have on the team.
     
  19. Greg C.

    Greg C. Cheesehead

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    I'm not the one who wrote that, but I agree with it to a certain extent. I think Fergy played quite well during the second half of the 2003 season, right when Javon Walker was starting to put it all together. Fergy did not put up big numbers, but I remember him making some great catches at Houston, at home against San Francisco, and in the playoffs at Philadelphia (two TD's). The following year he got overshadowed by Walker and Driver, who were both phenomenal, but maybe his presence helped keep defenses honest. Then the clothesline from Donovan Darius happened, and he was never the same player again. He used to play with a lot of courage, but without his courage he was nothing.

    I think he's always had a good attitude. It's the injuries that have killed his career. He should be in the mix for a roster spot in training camp, but anything he provides at this point will be a bonus.
     
  20. GakkofNorway

    GakkofNorway Cheesehead

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    that's over 3 years ago, lol. How many chances are u going to give him?
     
  21. bozz_2006

    bozz_2006 Cheesehead

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    i think he's washed up. it's clear to me that any potential he had to become a serious playmaker evaporated after the clothesline. sad, but true.
     
  22. tromadz

    tromadz Cheesehead

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    we definitely need depth, you obviously dont wanna put all your eggs in the martin\holiday basket. if one or both pan out and provide solid depth, great, but an early draft pick or solid free agency pickup is needed.
     
  23. Zero2Cool

    Zero2Cool I own a website

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    Between Holiday and Martin, which one will succeed farther in the NFL?

    I can't answer it myself, I can't say I've watched either enough to say one or the other. If I HAD to pick one, I'd probably go with Holiday.
     
  24. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

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    I know who my daddy is, and I know who yours is too. The questions are: will yours (Brett Favre) decide to come back and play next season? and whether or not to rename Soldiers Field -- Brett Favre's Backyard?
     
  25. Cory

    Cory Cheesehead

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    Again. When was he actually pretty good? I view pretty good as a guy whom consistantly produces. He didn't and hasn't....
     

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