For our next Simple Fan's Perspective, we’re turning to the offensive side of the ball and taking a look at 3rd year wide receiver Jarrett Boykin. Joining the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent after being cut by Jacksonville in 2012, he saw limited action in that season, and began 2013 as the 4th wide receiver behind Jordy Nelson, James Jones, and Randall Cobb. Injuries forced him into the lineup, and Boykin got the first start of his career on Oct. 20th, 2013 against the Cleveland Browns.
Jarrett Boykin broke out in a big way that game, with 8 catches for over 100 yards and his first career TD. He also had several more big games last season, including another 8 rec/100+ yard game against Philadelphia, and a few more that approached the 100 yard plateau. Of course, he is also well known for being one of only two players (with Aaron Rodgers) who was able to understand the Green Bay sideline in the season-ending game with Chicago after punting around and finally picking up Rodgers’ fumble - leading to what will probably be the easiest touchdown of his career…
(Even the official NFL Coaches Film doesn’t show Boykin “running” in the score - so we can’t break down this play!)
Instead of looking more in-depth at what ended up being Boykin’s final touchdown of the year, we’ll go back to the Cleveland game and look at his play there. Wide receiver play, much like defensive secondary play, can be very difficult to break down and understand as a fan, as so many different factors can affect a single play. For that reason, we’ll look more generally at what Boykin did in this game as a whole, as opposed to a single play.
Boykin’s day started out inauspiciously, missing a back-shoulder throw by Rodgers on the first play from scrimmage for the offense. He followed that up with a catch on a snap throw behind the line of scrimmage, leading to a 4 yard gain. Boykin made a living this game on one of two types of play - the quick pass gaining only a couple of yards, or a long pass down the field.
The short passes worked almost like quick runs to the outside, and Boykin did what he could with them. He didn’t show a lot of agility or tried a lot of fancy moves, but just went up the field as far as he could go. He did exhibit some good toughness, though, both on a few slants across the middle, and in his run blocking. Boykin’s blocking style did often resemble just “getting in the way", but more than once he made some good stalk-blocks on a secondary player, or slowed down a linebacker briefly.
The other part of his game revealed itself as a deep threat, including two big catches, a third called back for offensive holding at the line of scrimmage, and a long pass interference penalty he drew late in the 4th quarter. A few times Boykin did show good ability to drive the defender down the field and then turn and come back for the ball, but usually the defender recovered in time to make the stop - with one notable exception.
That lone exception was his touchdown play late in the 4th quarter as Green Bay was looking to put some insurance points on the board. Boykin pushed upfield quickly on a 2nd and 6 from the CLE 20, made a quick fake to the center of the field and then hooked back to the outside. Aaron Rodgers’ throw met Boykin at the 5, and he quickly turned upfield and simply ran through the defender, reaching over the back and into the endzone before his knee hit down. It was a well-designed route and Boykin executed it beautifully, forcing the defender to change direction while backpedaling, and causing him to fall down and having to make up ground to recover.
The play also showcased Boykin’s size and toughness, and his awareness of the field around him. At the catch he had two defenders closing in on him, and had to be aware that he probably wouldn’t be able to make the front pylon before he was caught - so his best play was to move in a straight line to the endzone. Then, at the point of contact, he also knew he could probably get the ball across the goal line, and just does pull it off. I’m sure part of him was remembering an earlier play from the 3rd quarter, when he made a big grab on a play down to the 1 yard line.
That 3rd quarter play exhibited another part of Boykin’s game - his strength and athleticism. On what looked like a similar pattern to his later touchdown catch, Boykin jumped high, catching the ball and turning in mid-air as the defender moved in behind him. As he came down, however, Boykin planted his foot and reversed direction, causing the defender to over-run the play. The next defender on the play slipped and Boykin hurdled him, and finally the third defender caught him from behind, and he was spun down at the 1 yard line.
Overall, watching this game again it was easy to get the sense that Boykin was raw, but has great potential. His positives included his strength, toughness, and good size. He seemed to run good routes, which is going to be where Boykin separates himself from defenders, as he’s not considered to be a burner. He did have a few incompletions, however that could be explained by a lack of experience between himself and Aaron Rodgers.
Finally, one of Jarrett Boykin’s best assets is his obvious drive and desire, and that is partially why I expect him to take a step forward this year and solidify his place as the 3rd wide receiver in the Packer’s offense. He may not have the flat-out top speed that Jordy Nelson has, or the jitterbug quickness of Randall Cobb, but he demonstrated that he could be a good possession receiver and he has enough speed to go with his size and physicality, making defenders play him honestly - bump-and-run coverage might be harder against him than cornerbacks expect. Boykin is quickly becoming one of my favorite young Packers due to his drive and work ethic, and I expect that barring injury he’s ready for a bigger role this season.