Breaking Down The Back-Shoulder Fade

The first time JORDY NELSON saw the back-shoulder fade pulled off to perfection, he was still eight months away from playing in the NFL. It was the 2007 NFC Championship Game, and Giants quarterback Eli Manning and receiver Plaxico Burress ran it over and over against the Packers' Al Harris. "Al was in perfect coverage every time," Nelson says, with a hint of empathy. These days, few QB-WR combos run the back-shoulder fade better than Aaron Rodgers and Nelson, the NFL's second-leading receiver with 712 yards through seven games. Here, as Nelson takes us through the intricacies of the route, the message is clear: "If the timing is down, the back shoulder is unstoppable."


"Right now, this is just a go-route. I'm just trying to win over the top because if I do, it's a 60-yarder. There are multiple ways Aaron can throw it at this point. He can go over the shoulder or jump ball or back-shoulder. It's all on the quarterback. I'm just trying to get going, not knowing how the ball is coming."


"Once I get my head around, it's all reaction. There's nothing in the play call that says Aaron is going to throw it back-shoulder. I don't even think I can feel the defender at this point. A lot of times receivers coach Edgar Bennett will get on us like 'Get your hands on him.'"


"I'm not worried about my feet yet; I'm still just trying to make sure I catch it because Aaron has put the ball in a position where he knows I'm the only one that can get it. That's the beauty of the back-shoulder. It's all about the placement of the ball and getting your head around to see it."


"Once you're on the way down, you're trying to figure out where you're at and get your feet in. There's not much time to think; that's just reaction and knowing where you are on the field. As I come down, I know my right foot is going to be in, but I'm trying to pull my left one back in."


"It all happens in a split second. It's just being an athlete, I guess. Knowing where I was on the route and where the ball was and how it was going to carry, I knew we had completed it. You're just hoping the refs would call it a catch."

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