Re-Igniting the Flame: Getting Greg Jennings Back into the Game

Jason PotvinContributor INovember 13, 2009

GREEN BAY, WI - JANUARY 12:  Wide receiver Greg Jennings #85 of the Green Bay Packers smiles after catching a two-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter against the Seattle Seahawks during the NFC divisional playoff game on January 12, 2008 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Seahawks 42-20 to advance to the NFC championship game. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

With their backs against the wall, the Green Bay Packers are desperate for a win this Sunday.

Aaron Rodgers must step up, and put the team on his back if the Packers look to upset the 6-2 Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau Field.

It all starts with getting the ball into the hands of Green Bay's most dangerous weapon: Greg Jennings.

Whether it was Brett Favre's 82-yard touchdown pass in overtime in Denver (2007), or Rodgers' 50-yard touchdown pass with 1:11 left, to win over the Bears in Week One, Greg Jennings has been Green Bay's most dynamic player, who can make a play when called upon.

In the two seasons prior to 2009, Jennings had turned into Favre's, and now Rodgers', favorite target.

After signing a lucrative four-year extension in the offseason, Jennings' numbers have taken a dip.

With half of the season completed, Jennings is on pace to catch 68 balls for 996 yards, and four touchdowns. These stats are a far cry from 2008 when he hauled in 80 balls for 1,292 yards, and nine touchdowns.

What's even more interesting is that he is on pace to receive only five less targets than last year.

Is there something wrong with Jennings?

Though he is averaging 14.6 yards a catch (down from 16.2 last year), the problems lie more within the offensive game plan, and execution.

This year, Aaron Rodgers has been averaging one less pass per game (32.5), and has a completion rate of 63 percent (compared to 64 percent in 2008).

Rodgers' passing stats may seem similar to last year, yet his offense has changed...not so much for the best.

With the lack of pass protection, Rodgers has been utilizing his tight ends more than ever. This year, targets to tight ends have more than doubled (11 percent of pass attempts in 2008) where Rodgers is throwing to his tight ends one out of every four attempts. 

The disruption of chemistry between Rodgers and Jennings is apparent.

Only 57 percent of targets to Jennings have been caught, down from last year's 64 percent. The accuracy between the two has taken a hit more because Rodgers is looking for Jennings deep, when he only has about three seconds to deliver the ball.

With two productive seasons already under his belt, Jennings was not a one-season wonder. With his agility and deep speed, he has the ability to run any route, whether it's a streak down the sidelines, or a quick slant over the middle.

The simple answer to this problem is to run a more West Coast passing offense.

Too many times this year, the offense has been relying on "the big play" to move the ball down the sideline. The three-step drops and slant passes have disappeared from the offense.

With the lack of pass protection, it makes even more sense to implement quicker release passes. The offense that was so successful in 2007 and 2008 was built around quickly getting rid of the ball into the receivers' hands in order for them to make a play.

This Sunday, look for the Packers to try to establish a pass game that uses screen passes and quick slants. With 20 sacks last year, DeMarcus Ware will look to constantly harass Rodgers in the pocket. The best way to avoid the pressure is to implement a quick delivery.

If the Packers look to turn their season around, it is going to start with getting the ball out at a much faster rate in order to let the rest of the team make the play.