Category Archives: Wide Receivers

10

April

Xs and Os: The “Smoke” Route

Aaron Rodgers uses the "Smoke" route to steal some easy yards.

Aaron Rodgers frequently uses the “smoke” route to steal some easy yards from defenses.

The plays that quarterbacks call in the huddle are not always the plays that get executed at the snap of the ball. The “smoke” route is a sight adjustment that allows the offensive to steal some free yards from the defense.

The “smoke” route has become a staple in modern NFL, and even college, offenses these days. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers sometimes runs the “smoke” play at least once during every game he plays.

What is the “smoke” route?

Basically, it’s a quick hitch throw to a receiver that is not called in the huddle. It’s usually performed after a running play has been called.

The quarterback will see that the wide receiver is being matched up with off-man coverage, which has the cornerback at least 5-7 yards off the receiver.

Rather than going through with the running play, especially if the box is stacked, why not try for a few free yards to the outside? The cornerback is practically begging for this throw by aligning in off-man coverage.

It’s not a verbal audible, but rather a silent one. Once the quarterback and receiver both see the off-man coverage, they will make some sort of eye contact and a gesture to indicate the “smoke” is on. The gesture is only known between the receiver and quarterback.

Aaron Rodgers throwing a "smoke" pass with the laces out.

Aaron Rodgers throwing a “smoke” pass.

At the snap of the ball, the quarterback takes a one step drop and immediately fires the ball to the receiver on a short hitch route.

This happens very quickly, and the quarterback may not have time to get the laces right, which is why you may see them throwing the ball without the use of the laces.

Only the quarterback and the receiver know the “smoke” is coming. Everyone else runs the play as called, which is why you often see the offensive line run blocking during such a play.

The “smoke” isn’t a viable option for every snap of the ball, and certain conditions should be met before the quarterback calls it.

 

 

 

Conditions for calling the “smoke” route:

1) Defense is in off-man. There has to be a 5-7 yard gap for the quarterback to quickly throw the ball with little risk of interception.

8

April

Cory’s Corner: Aaron Rodgers equals a capable Jarrett Boykin

The equation was proven when Greg Jennings left for Minnesota. And it’s going to be proven again when James Jones suits up for Oakland for the first time.

Jarrett Boykin will be slotted into the coveted No. 3 wide receiver next season. He's ready because of one person.

Jarrett Boykin will be slotted into the coveted No. 3 wide receiver next season. He’s ready because of one person.

I’ve heard many say that Jarrett Boykin is a question mark and cannot be counted on to truly be a No. 3 wideout in the NFL. Those are true and warranted sentiments.

However, don’t be like Jennings and Jones and forget about the most important part of the equation: Aaron Rodgers. Jones is a capable receiver but he has a tendency to grow alligator arms and forgets what route to run.

But this isn’t about Jones. It’s about how Rodgers made Jones and basically got him a three-year deal in 2011. It’s also about how Rodgers found Jones for 14 touchdowns in 2012.

Boykin has only played two seasons and only started in eight games. When the Packers open next September he could very well get the deer in the headlights and look completely confused.

However, the odds of that happening are quite slim. Why? Well, Scott Tolzien made Brandon Bostick look superhuman last year for a possession. I think it isn’t out of Rodgers’ realm to make Boykin look pretty good.

But in Boykin’s defense, he’s not that bad. He runs routes hard and has shown a willingness to learn. He will have to continue that inquisitiveness by peppering Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb — arguably the best wide receiving tandem in the game.

Wide receivers are even more critical now that NFL offenses resemble a seven-on-seven passing drill.

Yet, it all comes back to the quarterback. A subpar quarterback will make even Pro Bowl receivers look average as opposed to a preeminent quarterback that makes average pass-catchers good.

Boykin will be fine, but when you boil it down it doesn’t really matter. There are plenty of warm bodies with pass-catching experience that could be slotted into the Packers’ No. 3 job and succeed. It’s pretty hard to fail when the ball is placed on a platter and is in a tight spiral nearly every time.

This is the year that Boykin must learn and make strides. He must process plenty of information during training camp so that he can be called upon if Nelson or Cobb go down with injury.

17

March

Former Packers WR James Jones Joins Oakland Raiders

James Jones

Jones leaves Green Bay after six seasons and will join the Oakland Raiders

James Jones is now a former Green Bay Packer.  The free agent wide receiver has signed a three-year deal with the Oakland Raiders.  The move will reunite Jones with former Packers personnel man and current Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie.

Jones reportedly received some early interest from the New York Jets and was said to be in favor of joining the Carolina Panthers, had they expressed interest.  On Monday, Jones chose the Raiders and the San Jose native is headed home to California.

The Packers didn’t seem to have an early interest in bringing Jones back according to Frank Bauer, Jones’ agent.  This report emerged in late February.

Jones was a third round draft pick by the Packers in 2007 and his departure leaves only placekicker Mason Crosby left from that draft class on the current Green Bay roster.

Jones had 301 catches for over 4,300 yards and 37 touchdowns in his career with the Packers.  Jones led the NFL in receiving touchdowns in 2012 with 14.  Jones overcame early problems with dropped passes and entrenched himself as a top option in the Aaron Rodgers-led Packers offense.

Jones’ departure leaves the Packers with Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Jarrett Boyking at wide receiver.  The emergence of Boykin last season likely gave the Packers confidence that he could fill some of Jones’ role.  With the draft upcoming in May and what is said to be a deep class for wide receivers, don’t be surprised to see the Packers get after one sooner than later.

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Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on "AllGreenBayPackers.com

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1

March

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: WR Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt

WR Jordan Matthews

WR Jordan Matthews

Packers prospect profile: WR Jordan Matthews

Player Information:

Jordan Matthews, WR Vanderbilt
6-3, 212 pounds
Hometown: Madison, Al.

STATS

NFL Combine:

40 time: 4.46
Vertical jump: 35.5″
225 lb. bench: 21 reps
Broad jump: 10′ 0″

News and Notes:

Ended career as the SEC’s all-time leader with 262 career receptions and 3,759 receiving yards … As a senior, the Biletnikoff Award semifinalist established a new SEC record with 112 catches … His receiving yardage total of 1,477 yards in 2013 is the third highest total ever by an SEC receiver … Matthews has had a record-setting junior season for the Commodores in 2012, arguably the greatest season ever by a Vanderbilt wide receiver, until his senior year … Unanimous First Team All-SEC WR by sportswriters and coaches in 2012 and 2013 … As a sophomore in 2011, Matthews emerged to lead the team in catches and receiving yards … After posting just five catches for 63 yards and no TDs through first five games in 2011, Matthews caught fire down the stretch, reeling in 36 passes for 715 yards and five TDs … Cousin of Jerry Rice. (vucommodores.com)

 What they’re saying about him: 

  • CBSSports.com: “Chiseled frame that was more impressive than higher-profile names also at the Senior Bowl. Size/speed combination along with his hand/eye coordination and body control makes him an attractive prospect, showing the ability to make plays at all levels of the field and do damage after the catch. Balanced route-runner with a sizeable catching radius. Size allowed him to be moved inside and out in Vandy’s offense, allowing the team to find him favorable matchups. Detailed and reliable route-runner. Very good hand-eye coordination to haul in tough passes, including one-handed catches.”
  • NFL.com: Good length. Big zone target. Good form as a route runner. Sinks his hips and pops out of breaks. Concentrates, tracks and adjusts. Soft hands and sticky fingers. Has leaping ability to compete in the air. Opens up his stride in the clear and shows nice long speed. Good field awareness. Gives effort as a blocker. Competes and plays with intensity. Tough and intelligent. Lined up outside and inside and has punt-return experience. Team captain and four-year starter with record-setting production.

Video:

Video Analysis:

  • Cut-ups like this are far more telling than highlight reels. But hey, his highlights are really easy to watch. They look cool.
27

February

What if Packers GM Ted Thompson takes a WR Early in the NFL Draft?

Could Packers GM Ted Thompson take a WR like LUS's Odell Beckham, Jr. in the NFL draft?

Could Packers GM Ted Thompson take a WR like LUS’s Odell Beckham, Jr. in the NFL draft?

It’s obvious to both diehard and casual Packers fans that the team desperately needs to upgrade at the safety position and also on the defensive line. Middle linebacker or tight end (if Jermichael Finley can’t play) could use upgrades as well.

With Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb returning at wide receiver, and Jarrett Boykin emerging last season, nobody is clamoring for the Packers to add another receiver. But the upcoming draft is overflowing with receiving talent, and Packers general manager Ted Thompson might not be able to help himself.

If the Packers take a wide receiver in the first two rounds, I’ll have no problem with it. Sure, it might not fill an immediate need, but Thompson’s batting average in drafting receivers is one of the best in the league. It’s definitely a lot higher than when he tries to draft a pass-rushing complement to Clay Matthews, a dynamic defensive lineman or an offensive tackle.

If Thompson does take a wide receiver early in the draft, here are five guys that I think would be good selections for the Packers.

Odell Beckham, Jr., LSU
5-11, 198
Combine results

Fit with the Packers: I thought Beckham could possibly be a second-round target for the Packers, but he has rocketed up draft boards in recent weeks. After an impressive performance at the NFL Combine, he might be gone by the time the Packers pick in the first round. What I like most about Beckham is the consistency of his speed. Aaron Rodgers takes his footwork and timing on passing plays seriously. When Rodgers is in position to make a throw, he needs his receivers to be where he expects them to be on the route. Beckham’s quickness off the ball and smoothness in his acceleration makes that possible. He’s not herky-jerky in his movements and won’t be a half-step off when Rodgers is ready to throw.

Davante Adams, Fresno St.
6-1, 212
Combine results

20

February

Is the Next Jarrett Boykin on the Packers Roster?

Myles White

Could Myles White end up contributing to the Packers next season?

With Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb due to hit free agency next offseason, the Packers could be looking to draft a wide receiver in April.

Or maybe they’re confident that they can re-up with Nelson and Cobb and aren’t worried about finding another receiver in the draft.

Or maybe they think they have a capable replacement for Nelson or Cobb already on the roster, and the rest of us just don’t know about him yet.

That last scenario seems by far the least plausible, but you never know. Nobody heard of Jarrett Boykin, but he became a reliable receiver and might step into James Jones’ role in 2014 if Jones signs elsewhere.

Of the Packers four “unknown” wide receivers currently on the roster, which one has the best chance of turning into a player? Here’s what I think:

Myles White
Some were saying White was the fastest receiver in training camp. He was also a hurdling star in high school and was signed by the Packers as an undrafted free agent out of Louisiana Tech. Speed and athleticism isn’t the issue for White. Size is.

White is barely over 180 pounds and probably needs to buff up if he wants to stick around and have a legitimate shot at cracking the lineup. If White gets bigger and improves, he can potentially be a deep outside burner who would be a nice complement to the bigger Jordy Nelson, Jones (if he re-signs), Boykin and Cobb (who likes to work inside).

White was called up off the practice squad for the middle part of the season and didn’t do much in 123 snaps. Of course, he didn’t have Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball, either. White’s season came to an end early when he tore cartilage in his knee.

Chris Harper
He used to play for the Seahawks so he must be halfway decent, right? Well, maybe.

Harper has the size (228) to be another Boykin-type of receiver — tough to bring down and holds his own blocking. But there must be a reason he was cut by the Seahawks (and later by the 49ers) not long after getting drafted in the fourth round. Bob McGinn ranked Harper 12th in his pre-draft wide receiver rankings and quoted scouts who said Harper catches well in traffic and can play in the red zone.

19

February

Jarrett Boykin 2013 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

1) Introduction: When Jarrett Boykin replaced Randall Cobb in the Ravens game, Boykin  looked like me trying to get a date back in high school: awkward, bumbling and completely out of his element. My game never improved. Boykin’s did.

Packers WR Jarrett Boykin

2) Profile:

Jarrett Boykin

  • Age: 24
  • Born: 11/4/89 in Chattanooga, TN
  • Height: 6’2″
  • Weight: 218
  • College: Virginia Tech
  • Rookie Year: 2012
  • NFL Experience: 2 years

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season: Be ready in case of injury. With Cobb missing most of the season and James Jones also missing time, Boykin got his chance and made the most of it after a slow start.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Lowlights don’t get much lower than Boykin against the Ravens. He caught one pass in five targets, dropped two balls and was on a completely different planet than Aaron Rodgers. The following week against Minnesota, Boykin caught all five passes thrown his way and began showing that he may be more than just a backup.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Boykin is an aggressive receiver who is tough to deal with after the catch. Might he be the replacement for James Jones if Jones departs via free agency? I would’ve said “no way” earlier this season, but Boykin showed improvement, and with a little more consistency catching the ball and separating from defensive backs, he’ll stick.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: Boykin was only targeted once and didn’t catch a pass. Is Boykin fast enough to separate from good cornersbacks? It didn’t look like it against San Francisco

Season Report Card:

(A-) Level of expectations met during the season

(B) Contributions to team’s overall success.

(D) Contributions to team during the playoffs

Overall Grade:  B-

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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