Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman was asked recently about the playing time he’d expect his first round pick to get in his first season. You see the Bears drafted cornerback Kyle Fuller out of Virginia Tech while already having seasoned veterans Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman playing the same position. Trestman addressed this by saying : “They know that this is not a two wide reciever league. It’s a three-wide receiver league. Trestman is absolutely right about that. If it’s not a traditional three wide set which would throw three wide outs out there, it can be two wide outs and a hybrid tight end – or as teams like New England and Cincinnati have shown, two hybrid tight ends and one wide out. Whatever the combination may be, this is the new NFL. Teams find themselves playing a nickel defense, which supplies three corners on the field at once or they chose to drop a safety back into a cover one defense forcing the other safety to cover a man.
Considering how games are officiated now, wideouts can find separation from coverage more easily and go over the middle to make a catch without worrying about losing their heads. A smart head coach knows the only way to take advantage of these things is by manipulating the talent on your roster to exploit it. The key word here is “talent.” You can’t just thrown any average wideout out there to take advantage of today’s rules. You need a quarterback who can read defenses well and wideouts who run good routes while adding their own athletic “twist” to the passing attack.
Aaron Rodgers starts every season with the expectation of putting up MVP like numbers. Rodgers has mastered his offensive system under coach Mike McCarthy and his combination of a quick release and accuracy in throwing the football sets him apart from most. Last year Rodgers had to make due without having Greg Jennings and Donald Driver to throw to for the first time and looking into the coming season he will not have his tight end Jermichael Finley.
Looking at the receivers in Green Bay, discussions can start with the longest tenured there, Jordy Nelson. Nelson has averaged more than 15 yards a catch in his career. He has great hands and locates the ball brilliantly when it’s up for grabs. Nelson was relied on heavily in the passing game being targeted a career high 127 times last season, while also posting a career high in receptions (85) and yards (1314). Rodgers was lost for a chunk of the season and it didn’t seem to matter who was playing QB – Nelson was getting looks and producing. Also without speedster / deep threat Randall Cobb playing for most of the season, Nelson was playing against teams best cover guy and still getting his.
Although Nelson put up impressive numbers last year, most thought it would be Randall Cobb who would’ve had the breakthrough year. Cobb is Green Bay’s version of Percy Harvin. You can place him anywhere on the field: Put him at the 1 or 2 receiver spot, the slot or even in the back field. He’s comfortable everywhere and has big play ability whenever he touches the ball. He shows off his speed whether it’s being the teams deep threat or being the “screen pass receiver” who can make a few moves and pick up big yardage. Due to injury last season, Rodgers couldn’t exploit Cobbs’ talents as much as he would’ve liked. Cobb is a difficult player to prepare for because he can hurt you in a number of different ways when healthy.
The third receiving option for this team ends up being Jarret Boykin or rookie Davante Adams. Because of injuries last season Boykin saw extended playing time and proved to be a formidable receiver. He has some size at 6’2″ 218 pounds but fails to get separation in coverage. He’s smart enough to find a hole in the zone and sit on it but that kind of luck doesn’t last forever. Davante Adams provides the same size with a little bit more athleticism. At the combine he showed off a 39.5 inch vertical jump and coming out of Fresno State, he’s used to high powered, quick hitting offenses. Davante Adams can provide Green Bay with a look of a “new and improved” version of James Jones, who was another one of Rodgers’ main targets through the years.
If one of those two wideouts can’t cut it in a “3 wideout” set, I doubt the Packers will find any help in unleashing a “hybrid” type of tight end to cause match up nightmares. Andrew Quarless has been on the Packers roster since 2010 and last year was the first time in his career he saw 16 games. He didn’t do much with the opportunity, averaging about two catches a game and accumulating a little over 300 yards receiving. Ryan Taylor has been on the Packers team since 2011 but is mostly used in packages where he is a blocker. The wild card is the former Oregon prospect, troubled Colt Lyeria, who has more upside than the other two and brings to the table some freakish athletic ability but his problems off the field raise a flag.