Packers QB Rodgers spreads wealth with deep receiving corps
Kelly Hodgson, Packers contributor
Aaron Rodgers.Photo: Image by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
After the 38-20 victory this past Sunday over the Washington Redskins, the Green Bay Packers proved that a deep and talented receiving corps can remain one of the best in the league even with a turnover in talent. For most teams, the loss of not one, but two star receivers would be a difficult hurdle to overcome. That isn’t the case in Green Bay.
With quarterback Aaron Rodgers at the helm and his current stable of sure-handed wideouts (and one difficult to bring down tight end to boot), the offense has not missed a beat.
Two years ago, the November 7 cover of Sports Illustrated lauded the “The Perfect Pack.” It featured Rodgers and his unstoppable receiving corps in the middle of that near-perfect season. They were on top the world. But since then one of his receiver went out a hero and retired; the other departed for what he declared were greener pastures.
If last Sunday’s game was any indication, the staff turnover since then was hardly a blip on the football radar. The four remaining receivers from that cover photo had nothing short of an amazing day.
The lights have long since been turned off at Lambeau Field until the next home game in October, but the accolades for Aaron Rodgers continue to roll in—480 yards in passing, 4 touchdowns and no interceptions. But Rodgers’ productivity only tells one part of the story when it comes to that perfect storm of the passing game.
Unlike some teams where one receiver shines and seem to be the quarterback’s insurance policy for success, the Packers receivers each played their own pivotal role in this dominating victory as Rodgers divided his passes among the entire receiving depth chart.
Though he never reached the end zone, James Jones put that butterfingers reputation from a few years ago to bed once and for all with 11 catches for 178 yards.
Meanwhile, Jordy Nelson only managed a third of Jones’ total yardage, but was able to on 2 of the 3 times Rodgers aired the ball to him. (He would’ve been perfect had one of those receptions not been called back for holding.)
And then there is the jack of all trades, Randall Cobb. When he wasn’t catching the football, he doubled as a running back as Eddie Lacy departed with a concussion and James Starks was still finding his groove.
With 9 receptions for 128 yards and a touchdown, Cobb is no longer a “future star” that so many love to call him. He has already arrived and will be giving cornerbacks grief chasing him to the end zone for years to come.
Then, add Jermichael Finley. He went to summer school or something and scored an A in chemistry with the quarterback.
Those who were quick to run him out on a rail last year were doing the Fin with him as he too punched into the end zone as well on 6 catches for 65 yards. Since the end of last season, Finley has quickly become Rodgers’ ace in the hole.
Yet it wasn’t just the catches that made this such a dominating "Spred ‘em and Shred ‘em" offense. It was the sheer force and effort once the ball was reeled in that made these receivers unstoppable.
While everyone is recalling how Rodgers made it look nothing short of effortless, it is important to note that 270 of those 480 receiving yards were made after the ball was caught.
Those are hard-fought yards, often while dragging a defender or two down the field to extend the play a handful of yards more over and over again. Rinse and repeat.
It’s what makes the Packers offense a deadly threat to defenders that still parrot that it’s painfully predictable formula of Rodgers in the pocket with an anemic dog and pony show of a running game.
The victory on Sunday proved that the offense is nothing like the stereotype the media likes to portray. Remember, those 480 passing yards happened in a game where running back James Starks ran for 132 yards as well.
This is the exact formula for a successful season.
When an offense becomes unpredictable and diverse, it becomes impossible to defend. Aaron Rodgers doesn’t have one favorite receiver. He has five that he is more than comfortable to target as he runs through his progressions. First choice double covered? No problem. There are usually three or four other options running down field.
Think he’s going to stand back in the pocket and air it down the field like he usually does? Wrong! The Packers once again have a running game that can beat you on the ground as well.
The home opener proved that the Packers’ offense is the most diverse it has been in years. The receiving corps hasn’t skipped a beat even while losing two of its biggest names.
The 2013 season is not an easy one. The Green Bay Packers will need to use all of their offensive tools if they want a deep run in the post-season.
But with Aaron Rodgers behind center and a full army of trusted receivers, the team may have what it takes this year to be one of the most feared offenses in the entire NFL.
Thanks to Mike Conklin at @Packerpedia for quick, reliable and comprehensive source for gameday statistics.
Kelly Hodgson, who grew up across the river from Lambeau Field, is the co-host of the podcast "Out of the Pocket" at Packerstalk.com. Her other Packers musings can be found at PocketDoppler.com.