GREEN BAY – However little he ends up playing this preseason, Aaron Rodgers will be fine with it.
The Packers quarterback sat out last week’s preseason opener and isn’t sure if he’ll be playing at Washington this week. But even if he gets just a couple of series in the third preseason game – the extent of his August workload from a year ago – Rodgers will have no issues feeling prepared for 2017.
“I felt great. It was nice,” Rodgers said of his minimal preseason snaps last year. “The body felt really good. We do stuff on the side, conditioning-wise, to make sure we’re ready to go, so my conditioning felt great.
“I would assume this year with Denver being the third preseason game (next week), I’ll play for sure in that one, and the altitude with help with the conditioning because it’s tough to play there.”
Rodgers has said in the past he sees “no correlation” between preseason game snaps and finding (or not) any sort of offensive rhythm early in the season.
He gives far more weight to practice reps, when the defense he’s facing will be mimicking a laundry list of the opponent’s schemes. He pointed to last Thursday’s game against Philadelphia as an example of a plain-Jane defense often run in the preseason, as the Eagles blitzed just twice on roughly 40 drop-backs, the second coming on the game’s final drive.
“That’s not a realistic game plan. They played one-high man, a little bit of one-high zone, and some two-high zone,” he said, the numbers referring to safety deployment. “In practice, playing against our defense, it’s multiple looks, fronts, personnel groupings, pressures, coverages. That to me is more what you’re going to see in the game than preseason.
“Preseason to me is all about execution. Can the guys line up, can they do what they’re supposed to do, when they get the ball in their hands, are they making plays out there? The real football part, that’s saved for the practice reps.”
Rodgers felt all three of his backups made some things happen against the Eagles, particularly on extended plays, moving in and out of the pocket. Brett Hundley, Joe Callahan and rookie Taysom Hill combined to produce a 90.3 passer rating (22-of-36, 262 yards, two TD, one INT) and scrambled for 29 yards on the ground.
Hundley’s pump fake on a stutter-go to Jeff Janis produced a 20-yard touchdown, Callahan’s “whirlybird” spin move to escape a sack led to a 34-yard completion to Max McCaffrey, and Hill’s finish featured a 46-yard deep ball to DeAngelo Yancey and a back-shoulder fade to Michael Clark.
“A lot of good film for those guys,” Rodgers said. “They’ve done a nice job the entire camp of progressing and getting better every week.”
As for the crowded depth chart at receiver beyond the group’s top three, Rodgers has seen something from just about everyone.
He did feel bad seeing rookie Malachi Dupre exit after taking a big hit when he was having a solid game, and he gave a shout-out to second-year pro Trevor Davis, who has a catching radius bigger than his 6-1, 188-pound frame would suggest.
“I laugh with (QB coach Alex Van Pelt) sometimes, because it’s almost better when you throw him a bad ball,” Rodgers said of Davis. “He’s probably best bad-ball catcher we’ve got. He can catch running full speed with the ball a foot behind him or in front of him.
“He’s done a good job for us working with the first-string offense, especially from a mental standpoint.”
That said, Rodgers stopped short of comparing this group’s depth to receiving corps from past years. It’s still early, and the final selections haven’t yet been made.
“We’ll see,” Rodgers said. “There’s a lot of stuff that needs to shake out for us, see what we’ve got.”