What follows is one of the many nuances that make our QB+WR tandem of Nelson and Cobb the most dangerous in the NFL.
In the NFC Championship, the Packers went up against the stingiest defense in the NFL both in points allowed and in yards allowed. Suffice it to say that Jay Cutler and company were watching this game from the comfort of their armchairs. What follows is a snapshot of what Packernation will be seeing again in 2015 (hopefully without the final four minute breakdown – but that’s another post) and one of the many reasons that Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are worth every penny. It starts with a first and ten:
The Seahawks single up on the outside and play off coverage on Cobb in the slot, dropping a single high safety back to play center field.
Pre-snap, the play called in combination with the off coverage gives Aaron Rodgers and opportunity with a soft spot in the defense. The play combination is a slant over a flat and so this soft spot is in just the right spot for the play on. Rodgers knows where he is going with the ball and has faith that if he gives Randall the ball, anything is possible. But what makes this play a first down is not the route by Cobb or the brilliance of Aaron Rodgers…it is a single long chop step by Jordy Nelson.
Right before his break, Nelson makes an exaggerated, long stride before planting to cut. Look at that stride…totally unnatural. But little things like this are what make Jordy a great receiver. He makes this exaggerated stride for two reasons:
- With Sherman playing outside leverage, this step boxes him out and gives Jordy inside position on an inside slant. Jordy knows that he could have a catch against one of the best corners in the league if he gets underneath the single high safety.
- But there’s more…the direction of this long step is very intentional as seen in the following frame:
The top red arrow indicates the off-coverage on Randall. Jordy chop-steps directly at him, forcing Sherman to run into his own man. This turns a cornerback who has been described as “the best in the business” completely around and nullifies the coverage on Randall Cobb altogether. This single step by Nelson is the wildcard that makes this play more than just a completion. Just look at the position of the defense after Jordy Nelson makes that chop-step and gets out of his break. Do you see the “best in the business” with his back to the line of scrimmage, completely taken out of the play?
The timing of this could not be better as Rodgers connects with Cobb, who is a dangerous man after the catch.
Randall does what Packers receivers have been known for for a very long time…get YAC. The result of the play is a first down!
So when we think of the Packers’ great wide receiver corps, there are so many nuances…so many things that these guys have to do to separate themselves from the rest of the pack and to be successful against the great competition that opponents bring to the table. I am grateful for our corps and the tradition of excellence that it maintains. And I am truly looking forward to watching these guys (and the young guys that learn from them) take the field and give defenses nightmares every week!