In this four-part series, I will be analyzing the Green Bay Packers’ biggest free agent addition of the 2016-17 offseason, Martellus Bennett, using film from his previous season with the New England Patriots. Today’s focus: the negatives of Bennett’s pass catching abilities.
Continuing on with the third of our four-part series, today’s focus will be on Martellus Bennett’s weaknesses as a receiver. Yes, Bennett was a highly coveted free agent. And yes, he was incredibly productive while fighting through injuries. He’s still human, however, and since we can’t have nice things, it’s time to try and bring Bennett down back to earth. Let’s see what some tape says.
Fighting off the jam
You would think that someone so physically imposing wouldn’t really mind physical play all that much. However, as we saw in part 2 of our breakdown, it seems that Bennett will occasionally be bothered by a defender who tries to pay an aggressive physical style. When it comes to route-running, according to Martellus himself, he gets into his routes quicker and runs them smoother if he doesn’t get chipped at the line of scrimmage. While this is a pretty obvious statement for every receiver in the NFL, the impact that bumping Bennett at the line of scrimmage was much, much greater than I could have imagined. In the first example below, Bennett (bottom of your screen) has a defensive end lined up directly over him. The primary duty of the end here isn’t to get to Tom Brady as fast as he can, but instead, knock Bennett around and throw him off his route.
I would say mission accomplished, and then some. Bennett gets knocked down into the line and by the time he gets out of the mess, Julian Edelman has a 6 yard completion.
In the next example, Bennett’s natural height proves disadvantageous. Having such a large frame and higher center of gravity allows shorter defenders to start engaging Bennett in his midsection and explode upward using the power of their legs into Bennett’s chest. Martellus, on the other hand, has a much harder time trying to shrug off contact by pushing down at an angle that doesn’t allow him to use his leg strength. He also, understandably, does not possess the quick-twitch of a smaller receiver that could possibly avoid contact in the first place by simply juking the in-line defender. The next clip shows that perfectly; as Bennett is lined up just outside the tackle but also off-set from the line of scrimmage, it gives him a yard of space before facing the press of the defensive end.
As Bennett comes off the ball, he doesn’t get his feet underneath him to power through the contact, nor does he turn his shoulders to avoid it. While he still manages to make a catch, Tom Brady had to step up into the pocket to allow Bennett to get free of the press and throw it underneath the soft zone coverage.
Slow off the snap
Again, Bennett’s frame puts him at a natural disadvantage here. I’m no physics wiz, but I do know that it’s harder to move a lot of weight than it is to move a little bit of weight. The force Bennett has to move on the start of each snap means he is going to be slower off the line than most, which slows down the timing of his routes.
Aaron Rodgers is tremendous at extending the play to allow his receivers to work themselves open, but, as we hear quarterbacks and coaches talk about ad nauseam - especially during training camp - timing will obviously be something that the quarterback and new acquisition will have get accustomed to in order to be successful.
Holy crap. Watching every game of the Patriots’ 2016-17 season really opened up my eyes to their offense and its trends. Boy, does Tom Brady really like throwing it to Julian Edelman. And their most successful, “we’ll run it until you stop us” play-action play is this one.
Example 1 was out of the shotgun.
Hmm, I thought that looked familiar.
Let’s see how they mix it up a bit.
Whoah! He ran over the LOS this time? Crazy! What a twist I never saw coming! What will they do next?!
Oh. It’s the same thing. Huh. Well maybe if they see it enough somebody will learn to stop it...
LOOK AT HOW MUCH SPACE HE HAS! Scientists have seen more life on Mars than I see defenders in this picture.
I understand that saying he’s slow off the line is a known trait for Bennett, and being wide-open off of play-action isn’t really indicative of Bennett’s pass-catching ability. But I had to write about something. If we really wanted to nitpick Bennett’s play, he occasionally body-catches some passes, and his vertical leaping ability isn’t outstanding. But they aren’t big enough issues to warrant any concern whatsoever about his ability to be an effective receiver. The bottom line is, Martellus Bennett is a very talented pass catcher who should have a nice 2017-18 season.
The final breakdown is coming tomorrow, be sure to look out for it!