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 positives of Bennett’s pass catching abilities.
The quick scouting report on Martellus Bennett as a receiver: he is a big target with a good catch radius, is more elusive than his frame should allow, can drop an easy catch at times, runs routes that aren’t necessarily “crisp”, and has had success while lined up all over the field at various times in his career. But you knew this already, because you’re smart. You read Acme Packing Company. I like you.
I also liked what the Patriots did with Bennett in 2016. While he had a career year in 2014 with the Chicago Bears and our beloved-will-be-missed Jay Cutler, Bennett had his highest yards per reception - 12.7 - with the Patriots in 2016 while playing three-quarters of the season with an ankle injury (that will require off-season surgery) as well as a minor shoulder injury. Sure, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are a bit of an upgrade over 2014 Jay Cutler and the current head coach of the Toronto Argonauts (Marc Trestman, for those who have forgotten). Nonetheless, Bennett instantly provides the Packers with a dangerous receiving weapon. Now on to the film!
Run After the Catch
Bennett, carrying 275 lbs spread out over a 6’6” frame, simply shouldn’t be able to move the way he does with a football in his hands. He obviously carries the frame necessary to lower his shoulder and plow forward into would-be tacklers, but he also has a tremendous body wiggle, making him able to get skinny and create poor tackling angles. I have to say I was surprised with his open field ability.
What wasn’t as surprising was Martellus using his lengthy wingspan to ward off tacklers. As I have mentioned in the past, I adore the stiff-arm. It’s a great move to shame and disrespect your opponent, like a posterizing dunk or picking up a sports franchise and moving it to a city that shouldn’t exist because it’s in the middle of a desert and is desecrating the water supply.
And this time, why not be elusive and throw a mean stiff-arm?
It will be an absolute joy watching this behemoth of a man rumbling down the field on his way to the end zone with a path of bodies in his wake.
As the Patriots are wont to do, they put their tight ends in every receiving spot imaginable during 2016. In-line, flex, slot, flanker, running motion, you name it. Early in the season before his ankle injury, the Patriots would throw a smoke screen to Bennett at least once a game and let the big man go to work. That’s a tough task for most cornerbacks.
The Green Bay Packers used Jared Cook in a few different spots last year, but Cook was the biggest threat when lined up in a flexed position running mid-level routes in the middle of the field that utilized his great straight-line speed. The addition of Bennett gives the Packers an additional layer of formation flexibility.
I don’t want to harp on Bennett’s physicality too much, but I just can’t help myself. Not only does Bennett show an uncanny ability to make people miss in the open field, he has good body control when asked to track a ball in the air. Being huge helps.
His vertical leaping ability isn’t all that great, but just because you can jump high doesn’t mean you’ll be able to get in the right position. Having good body control means being able to absorb contact while pinpointing the football while also getting your body underneath your hands. Does this next play really look like a tight going against a defender, or a bizarro Calvin Johnson (with the tinted visor to boot)?
The clips above should begin to demonstrate why pundits considered Bennett to not only be the one of the best tight ends available this off-season, but perhaps one of the best tight ends in the NFL. He’s must-watch TV when the ball is in his hands, and If Bennett can stay engaged and stay healthy, both he and the Green Bay Packers’ offense should thrive this upcoming season.