If you read my stuff on a semi-recent basis, you know I am not a fan of ESPN--the worldwide leader in generalized and lazy analysis. Interested in hearing/reading about how great or dysfunctional your favorite northeast- or Los Angeles-based team is? ESPN is the sports media outlet for you. Interested in any team based outside of those two markets? Look elsewhere.
All of that said, the folks at ESPN.com can sometimes get it right (usually when the site has farmed out its research and analysis work to another group). And once in a while, the site's Insider department can hit an absolute home run via the use of trivial details known as statistics (gasp!). Case in point: ESPN Insider today posted a detailed analysis breaking down the game of Packers receiver Greg Jennings, as well as the three teams that would provide the best fit for Jennings when he hits the market as an unrestricted free agent on Tuesday.
Now, full disclosure: I really shouldn't be the one to break Jennings-related news or analysis on this site. He and Jordy Nelson are my favorite non-Dolphins players in the league, and I've had serious interest in bringing the former to Miami ever since he left Western Michigan University in 2006. There's no sense of objectivity for me when it comes to this topic, and the fact that Jennings' former offensive coordinator is our current head coach reinforces my thought that we should sign him in free agency.
Of course, there are some considerable cons in regard to Jennings' overall stock: he'll be 30 years old in September, he's dealt with injuries the past two seasons, and while he is a master at creating separation in the intermediate game, he isn't much of a deep threat (the same cannot be said for fellow soon-to-be-free-agent Mike Wallace).
Does the above information mean the Dolphins should stay away from Jennings this spring? Not necessarily. Here's where the ESPN Insider article, authored by Matt Bowen kicks in with the knowledge. Bowen states that Jennings, based on his 2012 season tape, still has plenty to offer teams--three of which stand out from the rest (bet you can't guess one of the teams on that short list ...).
In the article, Bowen breaks down the routes that Jennings ran last season from the X/Z (outside the numbers) and slot positions--dig, slant, curl, smash/hitch, fade/back-shoulder fade, under/drive (hi-lo) and smoke (one-step hitch against off-man) out of the former; inside vertical seam, corner, skinny post, dig, over, option and bubble screen out of the latter. Bowen then divided up Jennings' overall game by trait. Here are two snippets from that section:
(On the topic of route-running) "Still one of the top route runners in the game. Jennings can push a cornerback up the field throughout the route stem and snap back downhill on the curl or comeback," Bowen wrote. "It's veteran stuff and anticipation that you won't find in the draft no matter how high you grade a rookie prospect. It is a skill to run through the break of the deep dig or create separation at the top of the stem. And that also applies to double-moves. The ability to chop the feet, sell the route and then get vertical is how you win. Jennings knows all the tricks."
(On the topic of burst/explosion) "Watching the tape, there are times when I question if that burst out of his cuts and the redirect to get vertical up the field are starting to slow down a bit," Bowen wrote. "It's pretty tough to gauge the explosion in his legs after the injury last season--was he at 100 percent when he got back?--but it has to be discussed."
Now that's analysis, ESPN. If only your network personalities were capable of such research and depth.
Those who have an ESPN Insider account can read the full article here. And I highly recommend you do. Outstanding stuff.