Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers may be putting up unprecedented numbers in yards, passer rating and completion percentage that's worthy of the NFL's MVP award, but there's one area of his game that's way off pace from the past couple seasons: rushing yards.
Through the 2011 season's first seven games, Aaron Rodgers has a mere 75 yards on 29 carries, a 2.9-yard average that's a far cry from the numbers he put up in 2009 and 2010.
In 2009 Rodgers had his first real good rushing season when he ranked second in the NFL among quarterbacks with 58 rushes for 316 yards (behind only Jacksonville's David Garrard) with a 5.4-yard per carry average. His average per carry was tops among all quarterbacks that played in at least 10 games that season.
Then in 2010 he was third in the NFL among quarterbacks with 64 carries for 356 yards with a 5.6-yard per carry average behind only the incomparable Michael Vick of Philadelphia and Josh Freeman of Tampa Bay.
This year Rodgers' 75 yards ranks ninth in the NFL in rushing yards among QBs, his average per carry is much lower, though his two rushing touchdowns is second only to Cam Newton.
So what's the difference between the past two seasons and this one? Only Rodgers or the Packers could say for sure, but one has to wonder whether his two concussions from last season have taken their toll.
In terms of rushing attempts, Rodgers is not running significantly less than than the past few seasons, though that average is much lower, perhaps signifying that he's more hesitant or less willing to fight for the extra yards by sliding or going out of bounds more often.
The Packers offense has been a juggernaut so far this season, leading the NFL in points per game and fourth from the top in yards, so it could be argued that Green Bay hasn't needed Rodgers contributions on the ground with a knowledge and confidence that yards can still be gained in less risky ways.
One could also say that in Aaron Rodgers' seventh season in the NFL, he's hit his peak athletically and is not quite as fast as he once was. But at only 27 years old and not playing much his first three years in the NFL, there would still seem to be a lot of tread left on the tires, which would make for a less compelling argument.
Perhaps the sample size is too small to draw any significant conclusion. Only seven games into the season, the Packers haven't even hit their halfway point yet. A single 30-yard scramble in Sunday's game against the Chargers could make the debate a moot point, but it's worth pointing out that Rodgers' longest run is only 11 yards this year.
One thing is for sure, fewer rushing yards haven't made Rodgers any less a player this season. Rodgers is the near unanimous choice for the NFL's mid-season MVP that columnists and analysts like to hand out.
Yet it's also a facet of Rodgers' game that bears watching as the rest of 2011 plays itself out, especially given his concussion history.
Brian Carriveau is the editor of the Maple Street Press Packers Annual. To contact Brian, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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