GREEN BAY – It wasn’t an ideal start to the 2014 regular season for Jarrett Boykin, the Green Bay Packers’ new No. 3 wide receiver.
Seattle Seahawks corner Richard Sherman is a tough matchup as it is, but last Thursday’s game plan didn’t call for Boykin to move around at all, and instead he found himself completely taken out of the contest as quarterback Aaron Rodgers didn’t look his way once.
On Monday, Packers offensive coordinator Tom Clements said that wasn’t planned, the game just worked out that way. Rodgers reiterated that Wednesday.
So Sunday’s home opener against the New York Jets may prove to be the true "start" of the year for Boykin, the third year pro out of Virginia Tech.
It’s one he’s built to slowly after he signed with the team following his release from Jacksonville in the spring of 2012.
"His mindset coming into it goes back to what we said day one – he didn’t come in here thinking I’m an undrafted guy, I’m not going to play," Packers wide receivers coach Edgar Bennett said. "He came into it thinking I have to be prepared. I have to be ready. I have to prepare and be ready like I’m the guy, like I’m lining up, going out there on Sunday and I’m the starter.
"And then when his opportunity came he was well prepared and he seized the moment and he made the most of his opportunity. Now he has to continue to do it this year."
Boykin acknowledges such expectation, and has set new goals for himself as well, but he insists he hasn’t put any additional pressure on himself.
"Like I’ve been saying all along, throughout the whole preseason, my main, biggest thing, was consistency," he said. "So, I just wanted to come in here and be consistent and improve on the little things that I probably was a little bad at and lacking from the previous year.
"And just getting around other guys and still learning different tidbits and just keep growing."
He did, which was evident through camp and the preseason.
"I think you get a little bit more comfortable certainly with our playbook, our concepts, what we’re asking him to do; and certainly even from a technique and fundamental standpoint," Bennett said. "You see that comfort level and confidence starts to go (up). That’s a big part of it as well."
That confidence has grown each year, beginning with the five catches he made his rookie year. Then last season, he stepped up when Randall Cobb was injured to catch 49 passes for 681 yards and three touchdowns.
His rapport with Rodgers was evident – a connection that developed through intense, fruitful work on the practice field.
"The biggest thing that helped Jarrett was he became an expert of our offense," Rodgers said. "He spent a lot of time studying our offense, getting in my ear, wanting to hear what he needed to do to get on the field, what I expected out of him in certain situations and certain route concepts and if you’re consistently in the right place at the right time, you can’t help but make plays."
One could almost expect Boykin to play a big role Sunday.
Last year, he was targeted six times (one catch) filling in for Cobb in Baltimore, then caught eight passes for 103 yards and a touchdown the next week.
He was targeted just once against Chicago (the game Rodgers was injured), then caught another eight balls (on 13 targets) for 112 yards against the Eagles.
"The ball’s going to find you, because we throw it to the open guy in this offense," Rodgers said. "We have our progressions. We don’t lock in on one person. And if you’re consistently doing the right thing, running the right route at the proper depth, you can’t help but make plays. And that’s what happened with Jarrett.
"The more plays you make, the more confidence you’re going to have and that’s when you’re going to see guys reach, and at times, exceed their potential."
"I mean, it helps a lot tremendously," Boykin said of Rodgers’ confidence. "Of course when you have a person who expects you to be in a certain place at a certain time; that only helps. Just as long as you keep linking up, getting on the same page and finding out different things post-snap, pre-snap reads, on the sidelines after the series is over, it can only help you throughout the game."
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.