Packers: Aaron Rodgers plays a role in early season struggles

Through the first five games of the 2018 NFL season, the Green Bay Packers find themselves at 2-2-1 and struggling offensively. Although there have been a number of factors contributing to Green Bay’s poor play, quarterback Aaron Rodgers needs to be held accountable as well.

By no means is Aaron Rodgers having a poor season, in fact he is still putting up great numbers and finds himself in the top 10 in many statistical categories.

Rodgers is ranked fifth amongst eligible quarterbacks by Pro Football Focus (PFF) with an overall offensive grade of 88.6. He’s also thrown for 1,572 yards (10th best in the NFL), is averaging 7.6 yards per attempt (sixth best), thrown for 10 touchdowns (fifth best) and has a completion percentage of 63 percent (10th best).

For the most part and on paper, Rodgers is having another highly productive season. However when watching him play, it is easy to tell that he is out of rhythm with the rest of the offense.

Now this could be related to his injury and lack of practice time thus far with his wideouts, but it remains clear that Rodgers is not himself.

Rodgers missing open targets

One area that Rodgers has been struggling with is his field vision by not seeing open receivers or not being willing to throw them the ball.

Often times the Packers offensive line is an easy scape goat, but Rodgers has had plenty of time this season to sit in the pocket to survey the field. In fact, the Packers’ offensive protection during passing plays has been phenomenal this year.

For all the criticism that head coach Mike McCarthy has received this year, and I admit much of it is well deserved, he has drawn up a number of plays that get the receiver open. But Rodgers either hasn’t been looking that way or is not willing to make the throw.

An example from Sunday against the Lions was when Green Bay was in Detroit’s territory, Davante Adams was running a crossing route from left to right across the field and the defensive backs lost him. This left Adams wide open and should have resulted in an easy touchdown pass. Instead, Rodgers failed to see Adams and the drive resulted in a missed field goal.

A second example from Sunday came when Green Bay was around their own 40-yard line. Marquez Valdes-Scantling was running one of his many crossing routes and found the soft spot between the linebackers and the secondary.

This should have been an easy 15-yard completion for Rodgers but he was unwilling to make the throw. The play resulted in Rodgers scrambling and fumbling the ball out-of-bounds.

A big factor for this issue could be a lack of trust from Rodgers. Whether it’s from not trusting his wide receivers because of limited practice time or it is because he doesn’t trust what he is seeing in McCarthy’s play calling scheme, it is an area that needs to improve.

Rodgers going off-script

What makes Aaron Rodgers so special is his ability to create when a play is broken down. This often leads to Rodgers making some sort of spectacular play. While this is a key part to his game and has given the Packers a lot of success, it is Rodgers’ weakness as well.

It is not uncommon for Rodgers to pass up an easy completion to an open receiver because he doesn’t like what he sees or because he thinks there is a bigger play potentially developing down the field.

It is not a coincidence that both the Packers and Rodgers’ best offensive half of football came Week 1 against the Chicago Bears after his knee injury. Since he was unable to move around and scramble as he usually does, he was confined to the pocket and was able to get the ball out of his hands quickly and on time.

The offense scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns, moved the ball at will on the Bears, and completed the come-from-behind victory.

Given Rodgers’ school yard style of play at times, he doesn’t always set his feet as he throws and will throw the ball from awkward arm angles. Both of these characteristics will diminish any quarterback’s accuracy, including Aaron Rodgers.

Against the Lions this past Sunday, Rodgers had a clean pocket to throw from and had plenty of space to step forward into the throw. Despite this, he never set his feet and proceeded to overthrow his six-foot-seven tight end Jimmy Graham, for what should have been an easy touchdown pass.

So with all that said, am I worried? Absolutely not.

He is Aaron Rodgers, the most talented quarterback in the NFL and we’ve seen him do amazing things over and over again. But blame for the Packers’ struggles through the first five games can be put on everyone, including Rodgers.

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Moving forward the passing game needs to get back to on-time throws and getting the ball out quick to be successful.