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Bleacher Report – Vikings

A gameplan to stop Packers’ threat Jordy Nelson

By Derek Wetmore

Jordy Turns Upfield

BY ARIF HASAN

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It became pretty clear last year that Aaron Rodgers wasn’t invincible, and that without his biggest threat in the passing game that the offense could find itself limited in some big ways. He posted his lowest passer rating, ESPN Total QBR, adjusted net yards per attempt and total yards per attempt in his career.

Matthew Coller made a point to isolate what Nelson has done well over the years and why the Vikings need to stop him—and why it will be so difficult.

There is one overriding factor that may play a role, however: Nelson’s injury recovery.

In his first game back for Green Bay, he looked sluggish and out of sorts. Though he racked up receptions—with six—he only ended up with 32 yards and his average depth of target was only 5.3 yards, which ranks 80th among the 96 receivers who took significant snaps on Sunday. What’s more is that he only averaged half a yard after the catch, despite his short targets.

As a result, he only gained 1.0 yards per route run, roughly equivalent to what Mike Wallace did for the Minnesota Vikings all of last year. It’s a remarkably inefficient number and Nelson couldn’t find ways to get open deep, sometimes struggling with physicality and other times showcasing issues with speed.

Instead, on routes more than three yards downfield, Rodgers felt more comfortable targeting last year’s goat, Davante Adams—proclaimed a bust in part because of his abysmal 2015, when he had all the opportunity in the world in front of him. Adams was extremely unreliable in this game too, but was the go-to receiver late in the game when the Packers needed one more score to win.

Given Nelson’s recurring knee issues before the season and his late start in training camp, it could just be that he needed to have a game under his belt in order to get up to speed. A debut in US Bank Stadium would be a tempting target for anyone, but especially a player playing for division rival hoping to get back on track.

It could also be that Nelson, at an age at which twenty percent of high-level receivers fall off of a cliff, has already dropped off as a result of his injury.

There are moments where he seems to have some explosiveness:

But usually he seemed slow and ran as if he was running through water. He’s the receiver at the bottom of the screen in both of the following GIFs.

Jordy Slow YAC

Jordy Not Smooth

He even found occasion to fall down in his routes more than once. The first time from the slot and the second time on a deep crosser.

Jordy Falls 1

Jordy Falls 2

Even his double-move seems slow and uninspiring, as you can see in this route he runs at the top of the screen:

Jordy Start-Stop

If all of this is resolved, the Vikings will be up against a formidable weapon who has a unique chemistry with Aaron Rodgers and some devastating skills. Even without it, Nelson will still be a threat in the red zone because of his technical work in the stem and because of his size.

Jordy Stem Technique

Regardless of Nelson’s speed, Rodgers will still try some of those outside grabs that Coller mentioned.

Jordy Sideline (Miss)

Jordy Sideline (Big Miss)

Those were both incompletions and demonstrate that he and Rodgers will have to re-establish timing, but it’s more important that they were attempted than that they missed.

There really isn’t much defense against it, except for the Vikings to remain physical throughout the route. Smart defensive backs can find ways to push receivers to the sideline and away from space that makes receivers deadly.

One of the reasons that Nelson’s sideline grabs work so well is that before he attempts the sideline grab he creates space by staying inside the “red line” (an imaginary line between the numbers and the sideline) before Rodgers attempts his pass. That space allows Nelson the room he needs for that last-second separation that helps give him exclusive access to the ball.

If the Vikings can push him early in the route to the sideline, any moves he makes to create separation will land him out of bounds.

This would be even easier with a cornerback like Xavier Rhodes, whose length would allow him to contest those passes before they arrive. Trae Waynes isn’t short by any means, but doesn’t have the same kind of length as Rhodes.

Pushing Nelson to the sideline would be easier if the Vikings could win against him at the line of scrimmage. That was another strength that Coller mentioned, and one that would be difficult to overcome with Nelson at 100 percent.

While the Vikings cornerbacks have excellent recovery speed and are better than average when jamming receivers, it makes sense for the Vikings to sacrifices the versatility of Harrison Smith in the box and setting him up as the deep cover safety.

It takes him away from the ball and discourages some of the playmaking he’s been able to do, but he’s the single best protection against deep passing the Vikings have, and if they want to remain sound when in press coverage against Nelson, they have to have insurance behind the corners.

Coller brings up the danger of having a safety against Nelson, but if the Vikings play their defensive backs to consistently trail Nelson until the ball leaves Rodgers’ hand while Smith stays on top, they can close down and create 2-on-1 situations for the ball against a recovering receiver.

One thing that Nelson still seems to have is contested-catch ability, and can even win some of the back-shoulder fades that were all the rage to talk about a few years ago.

In order to stop that, there’s not much the Vikings corners can do besides have talent. Defenses have gotten better at reading the upfield shoulder on these routes in general and responding to the ball being thrown inside instead of out, but it still takes fundamental reaction time and ball-tracking skills in order to win.

Physicality at the catch point should help, and it may even lead to an interception or two. Still, it’s likely the Vikings will be burned once or twice on this kind of catch.

Nelson had a bad day against a poor secondary, but that’s no guarantee he’s no longer the physical outside threat the Packers had in 2014. If his week has gone well, he’ll have regained the athleticism necessary to be a real problem for the Vikings and their response will be a big key to winning the game.

The post A gameplan to stop Packers’ threat Jordy Nelson appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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