For younger readers, in 1999 Nike came out with a clever advertisement featuring Atlanta pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine watching Cardinal’s slugger Mark McGuire knocking balls into the seats during batting practice. Here’s a look back on that classic commercial:
Well, the same is true in the NFL – fans and players alike love to see their teams complete long touchdown throws. A week ago I happened upon an article that mentioned that Aaron Rodgers led the league last year in number of 40-plus yard passes thrown. It didn’t seem possible to me, as 2018 was a down year for the team, the passing game, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Besides, the Pack’s 2018 receiving corps was very inexperienced and nothing like the glory days when Aaron had Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Donald Driver, and Jermichael Finley to throw to. Were we fans actually watching a great demonstration of Aaron Rodgers throwing the long ball in 2018 despite the team’s pathetic record?
Statistics such as number of 40 yard passes (or longer) thrown or caught are not easy to come by. I scraped around, however, and what I came up with is that the statistical claim is half right.
According to nfl.com, Aaron had 16 completions of 40 yards or more last season. I believe Ben Roethlisberger matched that number – he’s had 14 or more five times, with a high of 17 in his career. From 2013-18, Antonio Brown alone had 34 such throws, including seven in 2018. And in just his first two years, JuJu Smith-Schuster has hauled in 11 Roethlisberger bombs.
Here are comparisons with last season’s other top quarterbacks: the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes threw 15; the Falcons’ Matt Ryan had nine (and he’s only had more than ten once in his career); Jared Goff had 9 (his top mark is 12); the Pats’ Tom Brady had 8; Andrew Luck had 7; and Drew Brees had but 6 (however, he’s had one season of 18 and one of 16 in his long career).
Brett Favre had 16 such completions once, in 2007. Rodgers has completed lots of deep balls throughout his career. In 2009 he had 17; in 2008 he had 16; in 2014, he had 15; in 2011 he had 13; and in 2010 and 2016 he had ten of them.
The good news for Packers fans is that most of the receivers who grabbed those 16 long balls are still with the team – and almost all of them should still be getting better. The leader of that group, Davante Adams is back – he caught five of these throws, and he’s hauled in 14 over his first five years. Those having one 40-yarder each were: Geronimo Allison, Equanimeous St. Brown, Randall Cobb, Jimmy Graham, Jake Kumerow, Robert Tonyan, and Ty Montgomery.
Here’s another comparison: Jordy Nelson, who almost everyone will wrongly recall as being slow-footed, had 29 40+ reception in nine years with the Packers, and he got three more last season with the Raiders.
Green Bay’s totals for 2018 leaves out four catches, which were made by Marquez Valdes-Scantling. That’s especially impressive in that MVS only got 691 snaps on the year, just 64% of those available. Despite his long-ball prowess, however, he ended the season behind St. Brown on the depth chart. MVS, taken in Round 5 out of South Florida, had to sit out the 2015 collegiate season in order to transfer from NC State to South Florida, so he had unusual maturity for a rookie. He’ll be 25 in October.
At USF he had fine catch averages, 18.3 in 2016 and 16.6 in 2017. His 40-yard Combine dash speed of 4.37 seconds is at or near the top of any Green Bay receiver in a long time; it even bests Javon Walker’s time of 4.38 in 2002. MVS tied for the longest reception in USF history, a 95-yarder in 2017. He had quite a few receptions of more than 50 years at USF, and holds a bunch of school records due to catching so many deep balls.
The Packers have acquired so many speedy players over the past two years that it’s easy to lump in MVS with the rest. For a player who stands 6’5” though, a 4.37 dash time is almost unheard of. Though he’s seven inches taller than Jaire Alexander, Marquez had the faster dash time at the NFL Combine. MVS might have more potential for greatness than any other young Green Bay player.
On Tuesday, Aaron Rodgers handed out this compliment to his second-year receiver: “I think Marquez has had a fantastic spring and really stepped up as a guy who can be an every down player.”
LaFleur’s Offensive Scheme
That Aaron Rodgers tied for the league lead in long pass completions in 2018 leads one to dream big dreams for 2019. Rodgers had mobility issues for most of the year, and his pass blocking, barring serious injuries, should be better this year than last. Additionally, his fleet-footed rookie receivers will all have a year of pro experience under their belts.
Adding more fuel to the fire, as the players are getting introduced to the new head coach’s play book and philosophy, several have expressed excitement over LaFleur’s offense. Just days ago Adams referred to the new offense as “electrifying,” He added that he saw a lot of big play potential, and more opportunities for receivers to “get the ball in space.”
A lot will depend on the development of Green Bay’s young receivers. If they progress as well as the front office seems to think they will, fans should be in store for not only a lot of wins, but some pretty exciting football as well.
Rob I tend to agree. Some will depend on Rodgers willingness to buy in as well as receiver development. A lot also depends on some of the new pieces on the offensive line, because let’s face it, even if Bulaga isn’t cut, the chances of him staying healthy for 16+ games are slim to none. I like Bulaga a lot as a player, but I am not sure he is a great fit for a zone blocking scheme, and I don’t think he can be counted on anymore. Lane Taylor also looks to be in jeopardy. Of course there is the defense too, but that is getting off topic.
I really like MVS, but for him to be a true every down player, and not a one trick pony with his deep speed. If he can just be average with short and intermediate route running and getting open, that will help him, and the offense so much. Desean Jackson was similar early in his career.
Nice piece Rob…
Not only did Nelson have a plethora of long passes caught. More amazingly, was the degree of difficultly with a lot of them. How many times do we remember saying things like…”How the F did he catch that?” or “Did he really stay in bounds?” or “Did he really just come down with that?” or yelling with a big smile “Are you fucking kidding me…did you see that?!!”. Yes Sir…..this dude had it all A-Z. So much respect.
Speaking of respect….the Starr family will be having a public Memorial for Bart this Sunday in Alabama. In addition to a private ceremony for family and friends. I think it’s absolutely fantastic that they are holding a public one. I’m also sure in the private ceremony it will be a Who’s who from the NFL World.
Full disclosure…..Every time i bring this stuff up, or i hear story’s of people describing their experiences with Bart, i tend to lose it a bit (every time). And i’m ok with this.
Lots of yards after the catch. Packers are loaded with talented receivers. With the speed, and bolstered offensive line, the Packers may even begin to score some touchdowns when they get into the red zone. It’s too bad the coach had to go get hurt. I feel a bit sad about Mo Wilkerson, they shouldn’t punish him (the league) he was so close to legal, it isn’t even funny.
Are those long completions due to yards through the air? Or due to a WR making a nice catch and run? The former demand more sheer physical talent from the QB, while the latter rely on scheme and a QB being sharp to recognize the favorable matchups.
Also, I don’t really know if the long passing game should be prioritized as much as the short and intermediate, low risk passes. Yes, we have a guy that has the ability to challenge defenses high… But should we do that every single play instead of taking what the defense gives us? Brady has 1/5th the arm talent Rodgers has, yet his system gives him consistently open WRs all over the field. Offenses have been shifting towards safe passes and consequently, INTs have been dropping.
MJ, most of those 40+ yard pass plays were long passes. The shortest pass (10Yds) was in the Chicago game with Cobb running for the game winning 75 TD. Most of the passes were close to 25 yards to 40+ yards in the air. Two or three were in the 15 to 20 yard range in the air.
One of the best passes did not make the list. In the 1st Chicago game Allison caught a TD pass about 7 yards deep in the endzone when the yard of scrimmage was at the 39.5 yard line, about 47 yards in the air. That was the TD that got the second half comeback started. Pinpoint, on a rope long pass, and a very good catch.
One thing in common with almost all the passes was the ball was placed so the receiver was able make the catch in stride with an open field in front of them.
One thing about the 40+ yard pass plays is in the first 8 games of the season 11 of the long passes occurred, with only one week that no long pass was completed. In the final 8 games the Packers had no 40+ yard pass in 6 of those 8 games and had only 5 40+ yard pass plays.
Welfare check anyone?
I’d like to talk Sternberger, Jones, and today’s minicamp MVP. But i need to see a pulse first.
All righty then…..
Let me pose the question….what was (is) odd about the Josh Jones situation. Asking for a trade, skipping voluntary workouts, showing up….but not participating in today’s mini camp?
What’s your take?
Who cares. He’s done jack squat. Now he wants to act like he has leverage yet he’s afraid to compete with a rookie for his job when he has a two year advantage? Fuck’em, add him to the long list of DB draft busts.
nothings odd. odd man out..playing for next contract (and a continued career) blames everyone else for his rocks between his head… wanted to get paid so he showed up..pack didnt want him getting hurt so he sat.
To me this is orchestrated by Rosenhaus. Remember Mike McKenzie and his mysterious hamstring injury until McKenzie was traded? Who was the agent for McKenzie, Rosenhaus. Rosenhaus orchestrates these type of moves all the time. Antonio Brown the most recent. The only difference this time is Josh Jones has not proven he is more than just another guy, if that.
Right now Rosenhaus is telling Gutekunst if you don’t trade Jones you are going to get a guy that will have minor injuries all year, and those injuries are going to keep Jones on the training table, just like McKenzie.
The only reason Jones showed up is not that he wanted to get paid it’s that Jones/Rosenhaus did not want to lose money via fines for missing a mandatory minicamp.
This extremely accurate post by Howard is why some consider Howard to be even more intelligent than that self indulgent rebel PF4L guy (though…i’m not quite there, yet).