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Bleacher Report – Vikings

The Packers player who should scare the Vikings: WR Jordy Nelson

By Matthew Coller

Each week during the Minnesota Vikings’ season, 1500ESPN will look at one player who could be the difference between a win and loss on Sunday and the challenges that player presents the Vikings. For Week 2 against the Green Bay Packers, we look at receiver Jordy Nelson….

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is so good, he can overcome just about anything. No offensive line? No problem. No running game? Whatever. But it was clear last season that the loss of Jordy Nelson affected his overall play. Of course, he was still outstanding and dragged his team into the playoffs, but Rodgers saw a drop from a 112.2 to 92.7 Quarterback Rating and 8.4 Yards Per Attempt to a career low 6.7.

It’s impossible to put a number on how much Nelson’s season-ending ACL injury’s dragged Rodgers’ numbers back into the human category, but the way it changed his game shows up on paper. Let’s have a look at some of the areas the Packers will be better in the passing game because of Nelson and what makes him so impressive.

Sideline passes

Without Nelson, Rodgers completed only 46.8% to the left sideline and 55.6% to the right sideline. Compare those numbers with 2014 where the Packers’ star quarterback nailed 59.7% and 64.8% respectively. By no coincidence, Nelson caught 20 passes on the left sideline and 40 passes on the right in 2014.

Rodgers has freakish accuracy, which enables him to place the ball along the sidelines where nobody else but the receiver can catch it. His problem last year: The receivers simply couldn’t haul the ball in. Like many great receivers, Nelson can rise up and catch it, but he has outstanding body control, catching the ball and landing in bounds over and over. He’s turned it into a science.

The Nelson Sideline Effect is in play no matter how short or deep the pass may be. He made catches in 2014 where he only took a few strides then Rodgers threw the ball, then he made others that were 30 yards down the field. The combination of Nelson’s height and body control and Rodgers’ accuracy means the Packers’ QB has an open man even when Nelson is blanketed by the coverage.

Line of scrimmage

There are few receivers tougher to stop at the line of scrimmage. When he gets press coverage, he can be physical and use his strength to get open.

Or use his speed to just run right by cornerbacks – especially after he has spent the majority of the day catching short passes (56 receptions in 2014 were under 10 yards).

On short routes, the Rodgers-Nelson chemistry is in play here too. Rodgers’ offense is largely based on him reading the defense and, more or less, taking what he is being given. Nelson is excellent at slamming on the breaks to catch a comeback or hook pattern if the cornerback is playing off coverage.

He’s hard to tackle, so the Packers will have him run the occasional screen route when the corner is playing back, then make it a 6-foot-3, 220-pound guy vs. someone smaller than that.

At the line of scrimmage, Nelson will be placed almost anywhere. When the Packers run the no huddle offense, sometimes defenses simply lose track of him. But Rodgers doesn’t.

Nelson only caught six passes between the hash marks in 2014, but averaged 21 yards per catch, so he can occasionally surprise opponents by becoming a middle-of-the-field receiver.

The long game/Red Zone

In 2014, Nelson caught five touchdowns when the play started in Packers territory. Because Rodgers has an outstanding arm and is deadly accurate downfield, defenses are forced to respect that by often playing a deep “center field” safety.

Nelson 1
However, playing a deep man doesn’t always work. You see the over-the-top safety come in at the end of this play, after Nelson burns the man-to-man corner.

Deep zone coverage isn’t always the answer to limiting Nelson in obvious passing downs either. If he is matched up with a safety, he is going to win, even if the safety has a huge cushion. Against Atlanta in 2014, he did double move on this play and blew by the safety for an easy touchdown.

Nelson 2

On third and long in ’14, Nelson caught 17 passes and averaged 16.1 Yards Per Catch.

Using big receivers in the Red Zone is far from a new concept, but there are two things that give the Packers an even more dangerous weapon in Nelson than most receivers. One is that he can line up in the slot and use his size and quickness on a slant route, the other is that Rodgers often buys time inside or outside of the pocket and Nelson is the first guy he’s looking for. That was the story of last week’s touchdown catch against the Jaguars.

Speaking of which, the Jags did a nice job on Nelson, only allowing him 32 yards on six catches. The Vikings would be thrilled at that type of day against one of the league’s absolute best.

The post The Packers player who should scare the Vikings: WR Jordy Nelson appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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