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Making the catch just the beginning for Driver

Discussion in 'Packer Fan Forum' started by Heatherthepackgirl, Sep 26, 2007.

  1. Heatherthepackgirl

    Heatherthepackgirl Cheesehead

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    By LORI NICKEL
    lnickel@journalsentinel.com
    Posted: Sept. 25, 2007

    Green Bay - Ray Sherman was a new assistant coach for the Green Bay Packers in the spring of 2000 when a wiry young receiver first caught his eye.


    Packers WR Donald Driver has shown the capacity in recent years of taking a short pass and turning it into a big gain.


    The guys were playing pick-up basketball in the old auxiliary gym in Lambeau and Donald Driver suddenly drove to the basket, leaped all the way over Packers scout Lenny McGill and dunked the ball.

    "I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes," said Sherman, now the receivers coach for the Dallas Cowboys. "I said, 'This guy is a freak.' "

    In his ninth season now, Driver is known for a lot of things. Four 1,000-yard seasons. Pro Bowl. Gnarly tough. Fearless. Athletic.

    And since last season, Driver is also known for one more thing: He is exceptional at getting yards after the catch.

    Driver has a knack for turning a 25-yard pass from quarterback Brett Favre into a 35-yard gain because he can tip-toe down the sideline, electric slide away from a linebacker and split two safeties. It's not easy. Once that ball is in the air headed toward No. 80, there are 11 defenders who want to rip his head off. Yet Driver's blend of God-given talent and self-driven tenacity account for those extra yards after the catch.

    "The thing about Donald, he's got incredible balance," said Packers backup quarterback Aaron Rodgers. "He's able to balance on one leg. He's done it every year, almost once a game, where he makes the first guy miss, stays on his feet, avoids the tackle. It's unbelievable."

    Driver's athleticism obviously helps him at his position, but it is especially beneficial in gaining the yards after the catch. He qualified for the 1996 U.S. Olympic trails with a high jump of 7 feet 6½ inches.

    "He's as quick as a cat," said Packers cornerback Charles Woodson, who faces Driver in practice. "You can be on him once he catches the ball, but if he has any space, and if you're not low, got a good base, he's going to get away from you."

    But what Driver doesn't wake up with, he works for every single day.

    In his ninth NFL season, he has missed just six games in the last five-plus seasons. Incredibly durable, undaunted by double teams, he could be, pound for pound, the toughest 190-pound player at receiver. Look no further back than last Sunday when he was uncorked by San Diego safety Marlon McCree.

    "Here's a guy that got blown up on the vertical shot downfield early in the ball game," said Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin. "And here he goes back in again." Driver came back to catch six passes for 126 yards.

    It takes a certain fearlessness to play this game at this level, Packers receivers coach Jimmy Robinson said, but Driver is especially unfazed, and that also helps him gain those extra yards. Three-fourths of the time Driver has an unfavorable one-on-one matchup, body wise. He has to get by the first two levels of the defense, the linemen and linebackers, before he meets someone his own size in the secondary. Yet Driver lines up at any receiver spot, charges to the middle of the field for the quick pickup and takes off for more.

    "He doesn't go down," said teammate and fellow receiver Ruvell Martin. "You know, a lot of (receivers), when you're held up, it's kind of natural to want to go down, that's when the kill shot comes in, or when they come in and strip the ball to try to cause fumbles. The defense is taught to hold you up. Well, Driver, if you don't slam him to the ground, he's going to keep going."

    The Packers overall are strong in yards after the catch - third best in the NFL after three games. That has been critical to their 3-0 record without any run game established.

    "We're not a big, deep-ball-throwing team," said Rodgers. "We pride ourselves on higher completion throws and yards after the catch."

    The Packers next opponent, the Minnesota Vikings (1-2), know how badly Driver can burn a defense with a big run after the reception. In the Packers' 23-17 victory at Minnesota last year, Driver had a career-best 191 receiving yards, including an 82-yard touchdown just before the half. On that play, Driver ran a short slant, shook off a defender and raced to the end zone untouched.

    "As a defensive back, you want to keep the ball in front of you," said Minnesota veteran defensive back Dwight Smith on Tuesday, who has also faced Driver when Smith played with New Orleans and Tampa Bay. "It's not the end of the world if you give up a 5-yard hitch or a 10-yard curl, but when they the guy gets the ball at 5, 10 yards and turns it into a 20-, 30-yard gain, that's going to be a problem. He tends to do that very often.

    "His toughness factor comes in. A lot of guys, nowadays at receiver, they want to go down without getting hit or not want to go in the middle. He doesn't complain about doing any of it."

    Robinson said that while he works with his receivers on the techniques of gaining extra yards, Driver simply has a gift.

    "I would like to take credit, but I'm not (going to)," said Robinson. "I'm not saying he has eyes in the back of his head but he kind of anticipates well where the next hit is coming from. He's got a little natural shake to avoid the hit and he has the ability to stop and get back to full speed to gain another 10 or 12 yards."

    After coaching Driver for five years, Sherman said he is capable of playing at this level for at least another five years.

    "He'll take a shot, but that's not going to shy him from going back and making the next catch," said Sherman. "Some guys that take the shot he would take? They don't want to go back in there. This guy is in a different class. He's not intimidated by anybody.

    "I tell people, don't underestimate this guy. I know we have to play them after Thanksgiving and I tell them, don't underestimate this guy. He can hurt you."
     
  2. Greg C.

    Greg C. Cheesehead

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    Excellent article. I agree with Sherman that Driver is capable of playing at this level for another five years. And he already has more receptions at Lambeau Field than any other player.
     
  3. fvre4mvp

    fvre4mvp Cheesehead

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    Donald Driver has more moves than a bowl of jell-o
     
  4. Cdnfavrefan

    Cdnfavrefan Cheesehead

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    I like how vocal he's been about wanting that record td. It says a lot about him that Brett has always stood up for him even when he was a 7th round 4th string WR. Favre saw it then already before anyone else
     
  5. Packnic

    Packnic Cheesehead

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    Donald doesnt get enough credit man. we all love him but even we take him for granted, most of the time. The guy has been as good and as consistent as anyone in the league the past 4 or so years.

    The only reason he doesnt get the accolades and press is because hes an intelligent person who keeps his mouth shut on hot issues... instead of pullin TO and MOSS and runnin his mouth for attention. Hes just a player.

    i have a friend who is as diehard a 49er fan as i am a Packer fan. and is very very knowledgeable when it comes to football. even as a 49er fan, his favorite NFL player is Donald Driver. even more so after his heroic performance after that huge hit last week. that says a lot.

    Love this guy.. we need to acknowledge him more if you ask me.
     
  6. millertime

    millertime Cheesehead

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    I love how Driver jukes. It's so unsmooth its kinda of funny.

    Like Reggie Bush has all these sick moves. But Driver just kind of jerks back and forth until the defender over steps and Driver goes the other way.

    He make look funny, but it works just as good as a spin move or stutter step.

    Driver for vice president.
     

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