GREEN BAY – Aaron Rodgers will concede that adjustments have to be made on offense when some fellow starters can’t play.
But that doesn’t mean he wants to hold back.
“I don’t ever want to take a conservative approach,” Rodgers said prior to Wednesday’s practice, “and I don’t think Mike (McCarthy) does either.”
As the Packers begin preparing for the Bengals, lineup uncertainty reigns on offense.
Starting tackles David Bakhtiari (hamstring) and Bryan Bulaga (ankle) both missed last week’s game at Atlanta, and then top receiver Jordy Nelson (quad) exited in the first quarter. Receiver Randall Cobb (shoulder) eventually left the game as well.
The Packers may not have a good idea about those players’ availability until the final workout of the week on Saturday.
Green Bay could be required to employ Kyle Murphy and Justin McCray again at tackle, and receivers Trevor Davis and Jeff Janis could see their playing time increase, too.
For Rodgers, the expectations are for those players to perform well and not limit what the offense must do to win the game.
Last week in Atlanta, once the Packers fell behind in the second quarter and it was clear the Falcons’ offense was setting the pace, Rodgers was determined to do whatever it took, throwing any caution to the wind.
“He’s like a bull in a china shop,” McCarthy said. “It shows you his competitiveness and the way he attacks the game of football.
“He wasn’t worried about who was playing tackle. He was more focused on scoring points. That’s a component of his greatness I really appreciate. Sometimes I feel like I have to try to protect him from himself, because he is so aggressive as a player.”
That’s easier said than done, and Rodgers took a couple of big hits in the Falcons game. He said his body is fine.
The game plan won’t be the same if the top tackles and receivers are out, but Rodgers looks at it like this – you run plays and concepts early to get the new players comfortable with their matchups and their roles, and then you push the envelope when necessary.
“We’re going to figure out what we want to do against them and try to be aggressive,” Rodgers said of the Bengals.
Cincinnati’s defense is that team’s bright spot during its 0-2 start. Defensive tackle Geno Atkins is a “menace,” according to Rodgers, with his disruption and inside pressure. He calls veteran Adam Jones “crafty” and starting partner Dre Kirkpatrick “physical” at cornerback. Edge rushers Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson are “large humans on the outside.”
On Green Bay’s side, Murphy and McCray will be better for last week’s experience if they have to go again, and playing at home reduces some of their challenge. Geronimo Allison got his first action of 2017 after a Week 1 suspension, while tight end Martellus Bennett had multiple drops that don’t concern Rodgers.
“No. I think it’s a blip on the radar and you keep throwing him the ball,” he said.
Rodgers, of course, would love to find out this weekend the entire offense will be back at full strength, but if it’s not, so be it.
He’s never going to lower his own standards of play when his top teammates aren’t around, so by extension, the offense shouldn’t suffer either.
“We expect to play well every time we’re out there, no matter who’s out there,” Rodgers said. “They’re all professionals who line up. There’s an expectation of a style of play and a performance that we have for ourselves and each other. Whoever’s lining up will be expected to play well.”