Skip to main content

Notebook: Stopping The Drops A Focus

The Packers know they have to protect quarterback Aaron Rodgers better for their offense to have the kind of success they know they are capable of, but another area that the Packers want to get corrected is the number of dropped passes they have had this season. - More Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Oct. 12

The Packers know they have to protect quarterback Aaron Rodgers better for their offense to have the kind of success they know they are capable of, but another area that the Packers want to get corrected is the number of dropped passes they have had this season.

Though the first four games, the Packers have 14 dropped passes, which heading into Week 5 was the most in the league, according to STATS, Inc.

The Packers had their struggles in that area last season as well, finishing with the sixth most in the NFL, but the total for 16 games was 32 drops.

"We're too good of a receiving group to have that many opportunities that we didn't take advantage of," wide receiver Greg Jennings said. "That's number one, as a perimeter guy. Number two, we've got to protect better or we're going to continue to have struggles. We're going to continue to have our quarterback on the ground.

"Again, this isn't a bash on the O-line. Like I said, this is a culmination of everything. We need to do our job better. We need to protect better, and then Aaron can do some better things."

Rodgers has been sacked a league-high 20 times through the first four games, the most to start a season by the Packers since they allowed the same number in 1992 in the first four contests.

"There's some other statistical things that we looked at, but the things we took a close look at is the negative plays, and particularly the sacks fall in that category, and the dropped balls because we're taking sets of downs off the field that we should easily convert," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "Those are things we can control. Those are probably our two biggest focuses coming out of this bye week."

The problem with the dropped passes is that it has been a shared issue throughout the offense, with the 14 drops being spread around to eight different players. The wide-receiver group has been responsible for nine of them.

Jennings said for a group that prides itself on being one of the best teams in the league at making plays after the catch, that desire to pick up big yardage factors into their struggles thus far when it comes to hanging onto the ball.

"That definitely plays a role because you are trying make a play before you make the play," Jennings said. "As a receiver you are always thinking big play, big play, big play. If you get the ball you can make a guy miss and get north and south.

"Big things are going to happen and good things are going to happen, and that's kind of where we get caught up in a bind because it's like you take your eyes off that ball before it touches those hands. You're putting all of the trust in the eyes that are in your hands when there really aren't eyes in there and sometimes you don't come up with that ball."

The Packers have had their most success this season when they are explosive on offense, with four of their five plays of 40-plus yards coming in the victories over Chicago and St. Louis, but those chances won't come as often if they don't first secure the ball.

"When there is a play to be made, I feel like any one of us can make that play," said Jennings, who has posted 100-plus yards in both of Green Bay's wins. "There are several different ways that I feel about it. I feel like when I get the ball in my hands, good things happen, period.

"It's not an arrogance deal, it's not a 'I better get the ball' type deal. It's fact, and we always talk about being a real team and what are the facts? Those are the facts. When we get the ball in our hands we make plays, but again, we can't have 14 drops and expect to keep getting opportunities to make plays."

Full-time work

With cornerback Will Blackmon's season officially ending on Monday with his placement on injured reserve due to a torn ACL, wide receiver Jordy Nelson will get the first chance to take over both punt- and kick-return duties.

Nelson handled both responsibilities in the season opener against Chicago when Blackmon was sidelined with a quad injury, and he currently ranks fourth in the NFL with a 29.3-yard average on six kickoff returns.

Nelson took over as the team's return man at Minnesota after Blackmon sustained the knee injury in the second quarter, and returned two kickoffs for 52 yards (26.0 avg). He also muffed the catch on a punt-return attempt late in the fourth quarter, but fullback John Kuhn recovered to retain possession.

"You kind of get back there and get a rhythm, get a feel for it," said Nelson, who posted a 18.9-yard average on 11 kick returns last season. "I know last year doing the kickoff returns, it was like one return every five games or something like that. You would get a random kick because obviously we wanted the ball in Will's hands.

{sportsad300}"I look forward to the opportunity to just get comfortable back there, get a feel for the game and how everything is getting played out."

Nelson did not return any punts as a rookie in 2008, but as a senior at Kansas State returned five punts for 264 yards (52.8 avg.) and two touchdowns.

Injury/participation update

The Packers don't have to put out an official injury report until Wednesday.

Tackle Chad Clifton (ankle), who has been sidelined the past two games, went through the jog-through and individual portion of Monday's practice. McCarthy said how Clifton responds on Tuesday will give the team a better idea on his status for Sunday. He added that he would like to see Clifton practice "at least two days" later in the week to make sure he is ready to play.

McCarthy said running back Brandon Jackson (ankle) was back as a full participant, but how he responded to the work on Monday will factor into his availability. Jackson returned to practice on Sept. 23 but had a setback, and hasn't played since sustaining the injury at Arizona in the third preseason game.

McCarthy said safety Atari Bigby (knee) and linebacker Jeremy Thompson (knee) fell into the same category as Clifton and Jackson as far as needing to see how they respond to Monday's work. McCarthy is hopeful that Bigby will be able to practice on Wednesday, and if he can make it through the week, he will have a chance to play.

Linebacker Brady Poppinga missed Monday's practice due to an illness. Defensive end Cullen Jenkins also sat out practice, though his status wasn't addressed. Jenkins had come out of last Monday's game at Minnesota with an ankle problem and cramps, but he finished the game.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content