New Orleans Saints wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. had an ugly start against the Green Bay Packers in week seven. He struggled to field his first two punt returns, and luckily the Saints suffered no consequences as a penalty nullified the first drop, and Ginn managed to regain possession of the second one. After the game, Ginn expressed to reporters that he felt obligated to rebound from his early miscues. “I just had that attitude that I had to make a play because I had messed up so many times,” he said.
Ginn went on to make more than just one big play, finishing Sunday’s game with seven receptions for 141 yards. Both were season highs, and he’s on pace to finish with career highs in both categories at the end of 2017. Not only has Ginn been productive, he’s quietly become a reliable target for quarterback Drew Brees with wide receiver Willie Snead seeing limited action so far. Once notorious for dropped passes, Ginn has only drop this season, and possesses a remarkable catch percentage of 81.5 when targeted. Ginn has clearly grown beyond his expected roles of deep threat and return ace, and should continue to excel in the Saints offense.
Here is a breakdown of Ginn’s biggest plays in week seven with video links.
New Orleans Saints Week Seven Film Analysis: Ted Ginn Jr.
40-Yard Reception – 3:57 Remaining in First Quarter
This catch took place two plays after Ginn’s second dropped punt. Lined up as a flanker to the left of tight end Josh Hill, Ginn took off on a deep post route. Three other Saints receivers ran routes, and the Packers seemed well prepared for a deep pass with seven players in coverage. Cornerback Kevin King played a deep outside zone, and Ginn found himself with plenty of open space as he made his cut with no safety in the area. Brees likely under threw the ball intentionally to avoid the safety on the other side, but the pass came out wobbly and nearly landed out of Ginn’s reach. Ginn slipped as he angled back for the catch, but still managed to keep his hands under the ball as he hit the turf.
A breakdown in Green Bay’s coverage gave Ginn plenty of room. As Hill took off on his route, safety Josh Jones moved out of his way and into coverage in the flat. He passed the assignment to cornerback Damarious Randall, but Randall immediately passed Hill on to safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who initially had inside coverage on Ginn. Either Jones or Randall were supposed to shadow Hill, but both ended up covering the same five-yard area.
Clinton-Dix followed Randall’s signal and came up to cover Hill, but he probably should have recognized the need to stay deep since several other Packers were covering underneath. Considering how bad the breakdown in coverage was, Brees likely would have tried to hit Ginn in stride in dryer conditions, rather than throwing it short.
17-Yard Reception – 2:06 Remaining in Third Quarter
Facing a third-and-17 situation, the Saints ran a very well executed screen pass to Ginn. He lined up in the slot between tight end Coby Fleener and wide receiver Brandon Coleman, and the Packers dropped into prevent coverage after the snap. When Ginn caught the pass, he ran towards the hash-marks where there was enough space to gain about ten yards. However, Ginn cut outside and weaved between his blockers to pick up the first down.
The blocking was nearly perfect on the play. Coleman immediately sealed off the outside with a block on King, and turned him around once Ginn took off. Fleener located Randall right after the snap, waited until the cornerback committed to an outside angle, and made his block just as Ginn passed behind him. Meanwhile left guard Andrus Peat initially ran ahead of Ginn, but noticed Jones and linebacker Blake Martinez coming from the right. Rather than continue downfield, Peat decided to turn and block Martinez, which also cut off Jones in his pursuit of the ball-carrier. From there, Ginn just had to beat Clinton-Dix to the first-down marker.
47-yard reception – 8:48 Remaining in Third Quarter
New Orleans used the Sail Concept here with two receivers and a tight end lined up on the left side. Hill ran a short curl route, Coleman (from the slot) moved left into the flat, and Ginn ran an intermediate hook route. Brees is known for using his eyes to deceive defenders, and he did so here just before the throw. He initially focused on Hill in the middle, then scanned left and eyed Coleman near the sideline. Randall, the cornerback overreacted and stepped up, leaving Ginn wide open as he turned around for the ball. Ginn initially turned upfield, but cut inside to avert two defenders on his left. As he crossed the field, he made a nasty double-move that froze cornerback Davon House, allowing him to turn upfield again. A tackle by Clinton-Dix prevented what would’ve been a touchdown.
Saints head coach Sean Payton always seems to make the most of his speed players. He was able to elevate Darren Sproles career to new heights in 2011, and has found a strategy for Ginn that has him playing the best football of his ten-year career. Unlike his previous coaches, Payton isn’t just sending Ginn deep every play, hoping that he’ll eventually get single coverage and separation. Instead, he’s getting Ginn space on short and intermediate routes, and letting Ginn use his experience as a returner to read the open field and find space. While most receivers will run to the outside after making the catch, Ginn seems unusually comfortable turning inside, or crossing the entire field as did here.
Michael Thomas remains the Saints primary receiver at this point, and when Snead returns from a hamstring injury, Ginn will probably see less action. Nonetheless, Ginn has more than proven he deserves targets, and Payton will surely continue to find ways to utilize his explosiveness.