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Respecting Ruvell Martin

Jeff Leonard wrote this article about WR Ruvell Martin a couple of weeks ago, but it hits right on point about something I've talked around for a while that Martin is the Packers number 2 WR.

The loss of Jennings produced the emergence of Martin, who caught 13 passes in December for a total of 234 yards for an 18.0 yard average. In Martins' six wins with the team, he was targeted 34 times and caught 19 of those passes. Anytime a starting receiver can catch over 50% of the passes thrown to him with a reception average of 17 yards, that player must play a significant role in the offense.
Jennings production fell off a cliff mid-season after his injury. The combination of rookie inexperience and playing through an injury was probably the reason for his poor play, but you never know and Martin produced whenever he was given an opportunity.

Leonard also has a great analysis of the differences playing wide versus in the slot and why starting Martin makes more sense.

Martin offers something to this group in his size alone, standing at 6'4" and 210 pounds, making him taller than every other receiver by 4 or 5 inches. Jennings and Driver are widely undisputed as the top two receiving options for Favre, but for an optimal production, Martin would need to start opposite Donald Driver with Jennings in the slot.

Before you disagree and say Martin should be given the slot and not Jennings, keep in mind that nickel backs play closer to the receivers than cornerbacks do, often employing press coverage as a means of defense. 6'4" players clearly would not have the same sense of balance a 5'11" player would because of center of gravity. If a tall receiver is going against the press, his percentage of beating the coverage will consistently be lower than that of the smaller receiver. Matching Martin up against the opposing teams' cornerbacks instead of their nickel backs means that he will typically have more space to work with since cornerbacks tend to keep the play in front of them with a cushion of open field. Thus, Martin would have more open space to move unimpeded and keep his focus on route running instead of beating the jam. With Martin playing wide out and Jennings at the slot position, the positions that both are more appropriately suited for, the Packers passing offense will become more productive.

The Packers were awful on 1st down last season, only Oakland was worse, and the biggest reason for that was the standard offense with the tight end and fullback was toothless. TE Bubba Franks and FB Brandon Miree were no offensive threats and they gave QB Brett Favre few options on early passing downs. However Leonard adds to that by suggesting if Jennings is playing outside on 1st down, when he would be much better in the slot, then he is as much of a non-passing threat as Franks and Miree. If there is a battle between Martin and Jennings for the number 2 receiver spot, it could be really interesting because the best player might not win. The receiver best suited to play outside might win instead.