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Friday, January 15, 2010
Rewind'09: Finley's rise in Green Bay

By Kevin Seifert

As promised earlier this week, let’s circle back on the subject of tight end Jermichael Finley's stunning rise up the ladder of Green Bay’s offense.

To summarize, most of us agreed during training camp that Finley had huge potential. A knee injury helped limit him to 17 catches through the first 10 weeks of the season, but after returning to the field Nov. 22 against San Francisco, Finley was the Packers’ leading receiver the rest of the way.

That’s right. As you can see in the chart, Finley’s 44 receptions over the Packers’ final eight games -- including last Sunday’s playoff loss at Arizona -- were more than receivers Greg Jennings (38) or Donald Driver (33) over that same period.

Based on unofficial press box statistics, quarterback Aaron Rodgers targeted Finley on 60 passes, only four less than he threw Jennings’ way.

Among other things, the transition illustrates the changes Green Bay made to scale back opposing pass rushes. One was to target Finley more often, knowing his skills would allow him to beat the single coverage most teams assigned him. The trend was obvious in mid-December, as Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel pointed out at the time.

What does this mean for 2010? At the very least, the Packers will have a unique way to implement a three-“receiver” set -- one that can’t be defended by the traditional nickel arrangements most opponents would prefer to use.