Richard Rodgers: A Third Option in the Passing Game

Robert Olson breaks down tight end Richard Rodgers' performance against the Lions.

Green Bay Packers tight end Richard Rodgers by Jeff Hanisch—USA TODAY Sports.

Green Bay Packers tight end Richard Rodgers by Jeff Hanisch—USA TODAY Sports.

The offensive line play (run blocking and pass protection), the running game, the quarterback play, and the production of Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb have been great this season.

However, if this Packers offense is going to take the next step in the playoffs, there needs to be a consistent, third receiving option. If Davante Adams can’t step up and become a reliable target, perhaps Richard Rodgers can.

Obviously, offensive gameplans can change according to the opponent, but Richard Rodgers’ involvement and production versus the Lions in Week 17 was perfect. There is no reason why Mike McCarthy and Tom Clements can’t get him involved in a similar way in the playoffs. Let’s take a look at the tape of all five of Richard Rodgers’ receptions against the Lions in Week 17.

On his first reception, Richard was able to work his way down the seam and make a nice grab in a pretty tight window. It’s difficult to be absolutely sure what coverage the Lions were playing since the Packers went up-tempo, but if Rodgers can make those kinds of plays up the seam, it adds another dimension to this passing game:

Rodgers has shown in the past that he can be a presence down the seam. In the game at Chicago this season, he had a 43-yard reception out of a two tight end set versus Cover 3. He has the ability to exploit defenses in this manner, but McCarthy needs to make it a point to try it.

His second reception came on third-and-1. He was lined up at the No. 3 receiver position (counting from the outside-in) in a 3x1 (trips) formation. This was a “packaged play,” which means that Aaron Rodgers had a couple of options. He faked the inside zone run to Lacy, which forced the Lions’ linebackers to step up, and quickly threw the seam route to the tight end before the safety rotated down. Usually, single-high coverages are best against packaged plays like this, but Aaron’s quick release and Richard’s awareness were too good:

Richard’s third catch came on a simple concept, but it’s yet another way to get him more involved. The Lions were running a single-high coverage, but before one of the safeties rotated down, Aaron connected with Richard on a “Stick” route (“Y Stick”), which is a classic West Coast offense route. This doesn’t look fancy, but it gained six yards. Any successful target to a third option like Richard alleviates pressure on Nelson and Cobb:

Rodgers’ fourth reception was a thing of beauty, and it occurred on a big third-and-4 early in the fourth quarter. The Lions were playing “Cover 2 Man” (man underneath with two safeties back covering the deep halves of the field) out of their nickel defense. So, as a result, the Lions had a linebacker matched up with Richard.

This is a matchup that Rodgers needed to win, and he did. At the snap, the linebacker performed an outstanding jam on the tight end, but at the top of the route, he used his hands and was physical enough to cross the linebacker’s face to the inside. In Cover 2 Man, that linebacker knew that he couldn’t allow Rodgers to get inside, and he made a great effort to prevent that from happening, but Rodgers still fought through the jam and made a nice catch. When you take everything into account on this play, this was probably Richard’s best play of the season:

Rodgers' fifth and final catch of this game came on a route concept that Mike McCarthy loves to run, the “Slant-Flat” concept. The Packers love to run this concept out of “11 personnel” (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR), and Rodgers was the tight end on this play running the “Flat” route. Again, this is a simple route, but it helps move the chains:

This article featured all five of Richard Rodgers’ catches for a reason. All five were perfect in terms of getting him involved in the passing game. His involvement down the seam, on “Stick” routes, versus linebackers, and on the “Slant-Flat” concept was good to see. If McCarthy and Clements can use him like this in the playoffs, you will see a better passing attack.

Thanks for reading, Packers fans. Follow me on Twitter at @RobertOlson92 for daily analysis on the Packers.

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Comments (10)

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RCPackerFan's picture

January 02, 2015 at 05:29 pm

A while back Aaron said that Rodgers was a player that would be good in cold weather.
I really can see Rodgers becoming a much needed option in the passing game. He has very strong hands and is a guy they could use more as a chain moving target as well as a red zone target. 2 areas they could use some help.

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chaka's picture

January 02, 2015 at 05:46 pm

If they re-signed Colt Lyerla he would be the best TE on the roster...

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4thand1's picture

January 02, 2015 at 06:53 pm

Let it go

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zeke's picture

January 02, 2015 at 07:28 pm

"If they re-signed Colt Lyerla he would be the best TE..."

A) in rehab;
B) in jail for stabbing a hobo over a can of baked beans; or
C) living under the Burnside Bridge.

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aj's picture

January 03, 2015 at 12:20 am

Lyerla would just be the most athletic, and athleticism doesn't equate to being a good football player.

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Guisado's picture

January 02, 2015 at 08:28 pm

Thanks Robert for the write up. The use of embedded video is a great asset to your article.

It seemed like RRod's coming out party was last week. I think he'll be a great Bubba Franks kind of TE for many years to come. MM and ARod got obsessed with Finley's down field potential while he was in GB (maybe for good reason) , but with WR's like Jordy and Cobb, I think the best complement is a guy like RRod. I know we all get sucked into high light clips, but the game really is won a few mundane yards at a time. Those reliable 6 yard receptions are game changers too.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

January 03, 2015 at 09:45 am

Bostic - What exactly happened to that guy? It's not as if Quarless is just to good to take off the field.

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Otto's picture

January 02, 2015 at 10:59 pm

I don't remember Bubba Franks that fondly. It seemed like his yearly stat lines read 30 receptions for 34 yards and 9 TDs. It was like he didn't exist from goal line to goal line.
I'd like to see what RichRod could do if he caught the ball on the move. His game right now is to find a hole in the zone and sit down. I'd like to see more down field stuff like the TD in the NE game.

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lou's picture

January 03, 2015 at 12:37 pm

It is easy to root for Rodgers, the kid plays to the whistle, hustles down field, has terrific hands, has the perfect build, and it seems like he always has a smile on his face. Bostick was supposed to be the "answer" after Finley based on his size/speed combination but based on the few times he has played from scrimmage it appears (for some reason we don't know) he is out of the teams future plans. Remember we won a Super Bowl previously with a rookie TE (Quarless - teaming with Donald Lee), we have a chance to do it again.

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4thand1's picture

January 03, 2015 at 01:47 pm

From what I've read, Bostic is dumb.

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