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Would Rodgers Playing More In Preseason Help Packers Start Faster?

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Would Rodgers Playing More In Preseason Help Packers Start Faster?

There has been a recurring theme coming out of 1265 Lombardi this spring, both publicly and in private conversations I've had with a number of people, about the Packers putting a specific emphasis on getting off to a better start in 2015 than the last couple of seasons. 

It's been three straight 1-2 starts for Mike McCarthy and crew since the Green and Gold tore through the league in 2011 with a 15-1 record. Since that season, it's been nothing but sputtering starts for McCarthy and company. There are a plethora of reasons, on both sides of the ball. But when it comes to the Packers' slow starts, there's one constant that would seem easy to address. 

Maybe Aaron Rodgers needs to play more in the preseason. 

Now, before you say all the things you're going to say - I know. Yes, indeed, I know. 

But let me point out that Rodgers played 45 snaps in five offensive series back in the preseason of 2013. In 2014's preseason, he played even less than that. 

I get that the defenses the Packers face in these exhibition games are traditionally quite vanilla. That was certainly the case against the Rams last year. But the following week, against the Raiders, Rodgers didn't exactly light things up against a team that showed a few more looks than is customary for the preseason. On that day, QB1 completed only 45% of his passes, going 9 for 20 on the day. Yes, he threw two touchdown passes before exiting, but the offense as a whole was more than a little disjointed. 

And that was the last time the starting offense saw the field in any kind of live setting until the Thursday night opener two weeks later against the Seahawks. 

Of course, there are lots of reasons for the Packers' slow starts the last few years. I am by no means saying that Rodgers playing a handful more series in the preseason is going to magically fix things in that regard.

However, with an offense as complex as the one the Packers run, coupled with a bevy of young tight ends and receivers, it would seem to make a small amount of sense to want to get the quarterback as many reps in a live situation as possible with his supporting cast. Not to mention the fact that the entire play calling cast will be different this season. Rodgers mentioned at his locker last week that McCarthy has yet to decide who will be where on game day when it comes to the coaching staff. Wherever Tom Clements ends up, Rodgers should get as many reps as possible with whatever set up McCarthy decides on for game days. 

Last year, the Packers needed to figure out who the backup quarterback was going to be. I understand wanting to give as many reps as possible in the preseason to Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien. (Although, even after doing so the coaching staff made the wrong choice on who to make the backup.) 

This year, Tolzien should be the unquestioned backup (though I'm sure they'll try to force some kind of competition) leaving no need for a split of the preseason reps. Perhaps Rodgers could get the lion's share in the first three games.

Yes, I recognize all your fears. I recognize all the reasons Rodgers should play as little as possible and then come out swinging on opening weekend against the Bears. 

But if the last three years have taught us anything it's that Rodgers and the offense can't just "turn it on" when the games start to matter. 

I'm interested to see what fruits McCarthy's philosophical offseason shift ends up bearing. 

But maybe it's just time the first team offense, including the quarterback, got a bit more work prior to opening weekend. 

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (13) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Klincker's picture

Yeah, what Nagler said!

MCM's picture

I think they're missing the obvious factor. The Packers weren't a better team than the 2012/2013 49ers and the 2014 Week 1 Seattle Seahawks. They played the Seahawks scared week 1 avoiding Sherman and spent the offseason of 2013 preparing for Kaps legs from that playoff massacre, which ultimately led to him destroying the Packers with his arm.

I place most of the blame on McCarthys prep (from my couch) that seems to be game planning for the years prior 49ers/Seahawks whereas Seattle and San Fran make unpredictable adjustments.

That being said, I'd much rather start slow and peak late (2014) than start hot and peak early (2011)

It's nice to get Week 1 @ Lambeau though. Set the tone for the season.

Spud Rapids's picture

MCM I agree that at the time those teams were better than the Packers.

I don't think preparation makes the difference when you are taking on teams that kick the snot out of you like the 49ers/Seahawks did. To quote Tyson "everyone has a plan 'til they get punched in the mouth." The only thing you can do is become as nasty as those across from you and I think McCarthy's commitment to running the ball has allowed them to turn that around.

"They played the Seahawks scared week 1 avoiding Sherman"

I don't understand why people think the Packers were scared of Sherman. Is it completely implausible to think that receivers simply were not getting open when Sherman was defending them? Defenses have the advantage early in the year in today's NFL. When you look at precision passing offenses, like the Packers, it takes time to get 100% synced. With the new CBA rules there is less and less time for the first string offense to get reps at regular season speed. We all know Rodgers doesn't really make bad decisions and I can't think of a worse one that trying to force something into Sherman's direction.

Idiot Fan's picture

I think the claim of playing scared comes from the fact, IIRC, that they mainly lined up Boykin against Sherman, and not Jordy. And no, I do not find it implausible at all that Boykin couldn't get open against Sherman.

MCM's picture

They had all offseason to game plan the Seahawks. They decided to throw to Sherman 0 times. Not sure what else to call it. The offense went left on every play. They even admitted to it after the game and prior to the NFCC game. Jarrett Boykin was lined up against Sherman during the entire game. That was the big plan. That's pretty much admitting defeat

The TKstinator's picture

"They decided to throw to Sherman 0 times."
For that, I am glad, because throwing TO him would be an interception. Throwing AT him, however, is a different story.

[Consider your chain yanked, MCM, twice!]

The TKstinator's picture

McCarthy does his prep from your couch? That's just bizarre.

J0hn Denver's Gavel's picture

The Packers play the Bears at Soldier Field in the opener. They host the Bears at Lambeau on Thanksgiving, when #4 gets put up on the North end zone next to the other retired Packers greats.

MCM's picture

You right. My bad.

ScottH's picture

Well thought out article. I hope Rodgers gets more snaps in preseason but I doubt it. McCarthy and Co. are so afraid of another injury that Rodgers will become a glass QB.

The TKstinator's picture

McCarthy's fear will turn Rodgers to glass? That is some powerful fear.

Alex559's picture

I don't think he needs more playtime in the preseason. It's the communication that needs to be worked on. Especially those back shoulder passes. Well into the season those things never became consistent . Hopefully with skill players in the same room as Qb's will clean that up. Maybe Clements tweaks some things an outside perspective might be nice for this Packers offense.

Nick Perry's picture

Pretty much what I'm thinking Alex, the Packers offense is based so much on timing like the back shoulder throw for example, it just takes time to get everyone in sync. I've said it 100 times already, I'd rather have played Seattle in week 4 or after than week 2 for that simple reason. With so many 2nd year guys being counted on like Adams, Rodgers II, and Janis and Abby to a lesser extent, I'd like to see Rodgers and Co. get a little more work in the preseason.

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