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, confusion For the third time in three games, Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews was penalized for roughing the passer. For the second week in a row, the play drawing the flag has become a flashpoint for NFL players, coaches, fans, and referees regarding the league’s rules around protecting quarterbacks.In week two’s game against the Minnesota Vikings, Matthews was called for roughing the passer when he hit quarterback Kirk Cousins. Referee Tony Corrente said that he threw a flag for an illegal “scoop-and-pull” technique, for which he also penalized Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks earlier in that game. This week, Matthews sacked Alex Smith, bursting off a block and hitting Smith in the shoulder. Matthews’ momentum carried his body weight onto Smith, which was apparently the action worthy of penalty.This is a new rule in the NFL, despite referee Craig Wrolstad’s comments to the contrary to media after the game. Complicating matters, Wrolstad did not flag a far more egregious hit on the previous series, when Da’Ron Payne picked up Aaron Rodgers and body-slammed him to the turf. Wrolstad apparently was picked up on his microphone saying that he “couldn’t see through 14 guys.”Regardless of the inconsistent application of roughing the passer rules, players and coaches are upset about what is being considered a penalty in the first place. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy was livid on the sideline after the flag was thrown, and was spotted screaming at the official nearest him. After the game, McCarthy stood by his initial feelings, saying “I thought Clay did exactly what he’s supposed to do there.”McCarthy continued on to elaborate why he felt that Matthews’ hit was within the rules: “He hit him with his shoulder, he’s coming full speed off of a block, he braced himself. I was fine with what Clay did there.” However, that was the extent of McCarthy’s comments on the matter, saying that questions about the intent of the rule should be asked of “other people,” presumably in the NFL officiating department.Matthews himself, however, was much more willing to address the rule itself after the game.He spoke at length with reporters, clearly upset about yet another flag that he seemed entirely incapable of avoiding. “Obviously I don’t agree with it again,” Matthews said. “(Like) last week, I thought I hit the quarterback correctly. (My) head was to the side again, (I) wrapped him up. You see as soon as I hit the ground I try to put my hands up. Obviously when you’re tackling a guy from the front, you’re gonna land on him. “I understand the spirit of the rule, I said that weeks prior. But when you have a hit like that, that’s a football play.”Matthews even went on to say that he talked to Alex Smith after the game, asking him what he could have done differently on that hit. Predictably, Matthews said that Smith told him there was nothing he could have done, and simply “That’s a football play.” That response echoes Aaron Rodgers’ comments from after the Vikings game, when the Packers quarterback said that he “couldn’t believe there was a penalty” on the Kendricks or Matthews hits.Ultimately, Matthews went a step farther on Sunday, however, calling out the NFL entirely. “Unfortunately this league’s going in a direction I think a lot of people don’t like,” he said. “I think they’re getting soft. The only thing hard about this league is the fines that they levy down on guys like me that play the game hard.” He added that as a pass-rusher, he feels that the only option now is to not bother hitting the quarterback at all Color Rush Lane Taylor Jersey
, saying “you just have to attack the ball.”Ultimately, the officials aren’t giving Matthews, or other pass-rushers, much leeway here to make those “football plays” that players — including quarterbacks — feel are a normal part of the game. It’s lessening the enjoyment of the game for those playing it, as well as for those watching it when plays that do not appear to be unnecessary injury risks are being legislated out of the sport.Packers rookie wideouts need time to develop but might contribute early as deep threats Aaron Rodgers, and the Packers generally haven’t really had a good deep passing game since 2014, and it’s been a disturbing trend over the last three seasons. Before 2015, Aaron Rodgers never had a yards per attempt (YPA) below 8 outside of his first year as a starter, but over the past three seasons, he’s struggled to crack 7.0 YPA. In their primes, Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones, and Jermichael Finley were all outstanding deep threats, but after Nelson blew out his ACL, that dimension has been completely absent in Green Bay. Davante Adams can be effective deep, but he’s most effective as a catch-and-run bulldozer. Cobb is a dink and dunk specialist, and potential deep threats like Trevor Davis and Jeff Janis never materialized. The Packers’ offense has been a problem more often than most people realize, even with Rodgers at the helm. In 2015 without Nelson, they were bad, and in a rare role-reversal, the offense undid a lot of good work by the defense. 2016 was bolstered by a phenomenal performance by Rodgers in the red zone, and while that’s a nice skill to have, the offense was pedestrian between the 20s. The fact is that some defenses are going to stymie the Packer offense if they have no ability to take the top off. Alvin HarperSome of you probably swore at the mention of Alvin Harper just now. When the Cowboys were thwarting the Packers in the playoffs every single year in the early 90s, Harper was the constant ticking time bomb. While Emmitt Smith was annoyingly gaining 5 yards before even being touched, and Michael Irvin and Jay Novacek were picking up first downs seemingly at will, it was that bomb to Harper that you knew was going to hit at some point and blow the game open. Do you want to hear a fun fact about Alvin Harper? He never caught more than 36 passes in a season for the Cowboys, and he only caught more than 50% of his targets once. Now, he did also average 25 yards per reception one year which is amazing, but Harper was mostly just a 6-3 burner who could do one thing, and that one thing was almost always open because the defense was occupied with a bunch of Hall of Fame level guys and Troy Aikman. Harper was a one-trick pony, but it was a pretty good trick, and he was effective immediately as a rookie, catching 20 balls for 326 yards (16.3 yards per catch). The cliche is that rookie wide receivers take two or three seasons before they really develop, and you don’t need to look any further than Davante Adams for support, but Adams is a complete, technically fantastic receiver. If you’re looking for guy to go and get deep balls, rookies can handle it without too much trouble. For example, Kenny Golladay was a 3rd round pick of the Lions last year, and while he only caught 28 balls (in an injury shortened Jaire Alexander Jersey
, 11-game season), he averaged 17 yards per catch. Golladay may turn into a complete receiver down the line, but he was a dangerous deep threat immediately. The Jaguars were actually a functional offense last season partially because of rookie Keelan Cole. Cole was an undrafted free agent speed demon who caught 42 Bortles-thrown passes at a clip of 17.8 yards per reception. Deep routes are simple routes, and many receivers enter the league adept at running them. If you need to buy this specific skill-set, loading up on a few burners late in the draft isn’t a bad way to go. Recent late-round rookies to make immediate impacts as deep threats include Taylor Gabriel (36 catches, 17.25 YPC), Louis Murphy (34 catches, 15.32 YPC), Snoop Minnis (33 catches, 15.48 YPC), Denarius Moore (33 catches, 18.73 YPC), Kenny Stills (32 catches, 20 YPC), Brian Hartline (31 catches, 16.36 YPC), and Charles Johnson (31 catches, 15.32 yards per reception).The Packers Bought The SkillsetJ’Mon Moore - 6-3, 207 lbs., 15.7 YPC, 4.48 40 (Pro Day)Marquez Valdes-Scantling - 6-4, 206 lbs., 15.4 YPC, 4.37 40Equanimeous St. Brown - 6-5, 214 lbs., 16.1 YPC, 4.48 40The wideouts taken by the Packers in this year’s draft may turn into All-Pro level contributors at some point in their careers. However, as rookies, all have the ability to contribute immediately as deep threats. ESB’s closest Mockdraftable comparable is the aforementioned Kenny Golladay. All MVS did in college was run either fly routes or bubble screens, and as a big receiver with unmatched speed, he should at least attract attention down the field. Moore is the most likely to turn into a complete receiver and his downfield tools don’t jump out quite as much, but he’s the best physical receiver of the group, and his advanced route running and body control should allow him to do damage in the deep secondary. Between Adams, Cobb, and Graham, along with some nifty receiving backs, the Packers have the short-to-medium space covered. They needed to buy bomb runners, and that’s exactly what they did. The Packers haven’t had a receiver catch over 25 balls with a 15 YPC average since James Jones in 2015, and no one outside of James Jones or Jordy Nelson has accomplished the feat since 2011. Don’t be surprised if one of the kids winds up as Alvin Harper to Davante’s Michael Irvin this season. That’s really all they need to blow the doors off of the league.
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