Jennings Developing Into All-Around Threat

In just his second year, Greg Jennings is evolving into a complete NFL receiver, able to pose a threat from anywhere on the field with virtually any type of route, and there’s ample evidence from the past several weeks to illustrate it. - More Packers-Rams Game Center


WR Greg Jennings hauls in a deep throw over Oakland CB Stanford Routt and turns it into an 80-yard TD last Sunday at Lambeau Field.

It's been well-documented how far ahead of the curve Greg Jennings was last year as a rookie wide receiver. He ran routes, caught the ball with his hands, and just generally handled himself, on and off the field, like a more seasoned pro.

But as his development has continued this season, Jennings has gone beyond being fundamentally sound and consistently productive. He's developing into a big-time weapon.

In just his second year, Jennings is evolving into a complete NFL receiver, able to pose a threat from anywhere on the field with virtually any type of route, and there's ample evidence from the past several weeks to illustrate it.

"He just has a knack for making plays when he has the opportunity," receivers coach Jimmy Robinson said. "It's hard to describe why."

**The description starts with his flat-out speed, which still seems to deceive opponents even after seven touchdown catches of 40 yards or longer in his brief career.

The most obvious display of that speed came in Week 8 on Monday Night Football in Denver, when Jennings flew by Broncos cornerback Dre Bly for a game-winning 82-yard TD in overtime.

**Then there's his elusiveness. Two weeks ago in Dallas, Jennings took a quick flare from backup quarterback Aaron Rodgers near the sideline and proceeded to dart and dodge his way back toward the middle of the field and around several defenders for a 43-yard gain.

It's one thing to get yards after the catch when the timing and angle of the route are just right to gash a defense, like on Jennings' 57-yard go-ahead TD on a fourth-quarter slant pass against San Diego in Week 3. But on the play in Dallas he showed moves and escapability similar to that of veteran teammate Donald Driver, with sharp cuts, quick early steps and body control.

**And last but not least there's his ball skills. Last Sunday against Oakland, Jennings went deep against cornerback Stanford Routt but had to slow up on Brett Favre's slightly underthrown pass.

No problem. As the ball came down, Jennings gave Routt a little bang with the shoulder to hold his ground and then caught the ball at the top of his leap as Routt fell to the ground and watched Jennings stroll into the end zone for an 80-yard TD.

"The corners that have speed probably feel that they can run with Greg," Robinson said. "But then they may find out he's a little stronger than they think he is and maybe a little more physical than he looks."

Those facets to Jennings' game weren't readily seen during a productive but frustrating rookie season that was slowed by a bad ankle sprain in Week 7 at Miami. Jennings missed just one game due to the injury but wasn't really full strength the rest of the way and finished with 45 catches for 632 yards and three TDs.

This year, despite missing the first two games of the season with a hamstring strain, Jennings is blowing away last year's numbers. With three games to go in the regular season, Jennings has 46 catches for 812 yards and a team-high 11 TDs.

"A lot of people said late in the year he hit the rookie wall, but I think he's proving to people that rookie wall is over," Driver said. "Now he's a veteran guy, he's stepping up to make plays, and he proves it week in and week out."

Players around the league will cast their votes for the Pro Bowl later this week, and while Jennings is certainly on the radar, his chances realistically aren't too good because he's tied for 47th in the league in receptions and ranked 27th in yards.

The most impressive numbers are his 17.7 yards per catch, second in the league to Tampa Bay's Joey Galloway (17.8) among players in the top 50 in yardage, and his one score roughly every four catches for a TD total that's tied for fourth overall (with Cincinnati's T.J. Houshmandzaeh), behind New England's Randy Moss (19), Dallas' Terrell Owens (14) and Cleveland's Braylon Edwards (13).

{sportsad300}But Pro Bowl-bound or not, what's most impressive about Jennings is just how difficult he's becoming to stop in this offense.

Always a team-first guy, Jennings credits the scheme and the multiple threats his teammates pose for any success that comes his way. And to a certain extent he's right, because defenses have seen film of not only Jennings but Driver, James Jones and Donald Lee make their share of big plays this season as well.

"When teams go to the single-high safety, we all lick our chops, honestly," Jennings said. "Brett, the receivers, everybody. It's just like, if we can protect, we'll make a big play. When we see that, it's almost like our eyes get huge."

But Jennings deserves just as much credit for some of his eye-openers, particularly the "jump ball" of sorts against Oakland for 80 yards. Jennings had a similar play in Week 10 against Minnesota, when he out-battled cornerback Cedric Griffin for a Favre lob and took a good whack from safety Darren Sharper but held on for a 34-yard gain to the 7-yard line that set up a TD.

Favre admitted after the Raiders game that Jennings wasn't necessarily open on that deep ball and the throw didn't feel right coming out of his hand. The only thing he said he did well was keeping the throw to the outside. The rest was all Jennings.

"He continues to make plays every week that I don't want to say 'wow' you, but it's just he makes what could potentially be a hard play (and) makes it look easy," Favre said. "It's nice to know when you don't throw your best ball, that plays like that can happen."

That play, probably moreso than the game-winning bomb in Denver, could give opponents pause the rest of this month and next.

"It's not like he was 5 yards past the guy, he just made a play," Favre said. "And to me as a defensive coordinator, that worries you a little bit. A guy is 5 yards past you and you make a good throw, I mean, that just happens. But when you have good coverage, now you have to consider doubling guys like that, because even with good coverage and the guy makes a play, you've got problems."

That's a good problem for the Packers, because if defenses do start double-teaming Jennings, his teammates will benefit. Robinson calls it "one of those pick-your-poison kind of deals" when it comes to this offense.

The same can be said for defenders sizing up Jennings himself with his all-around game - deep routes, underneath patterns, yards after the catch, and ball skills - proving dangerous.

"We're not going to put him in the Hall of Fame just yet but he's certainly playing well," Robinson said. "I think the sky's the limit for the guy."

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