Richard Rodgers to Remain a Vital Part of Packers Offense

The expectations before the start of the 2015 season for Green Bay Packers tight end Richard Rodgers were high. Toward the end of his rookie campaign in 2014, Rodgers began to incorporate himself into the offense, making some key receptions in the Packers’ run up to the post-season. While Rodgers saw an expanded role in 2015, most fans couldn’t help but to feel a little disappointed with the way that things actually played out, however. The fireworks of the NFL Play of the Year aside, Rodgers never emerged as a consistent threat for the offense.

Rodgers averaged just shy of 32 receiving yards per game (and only 28 yards per game without the Hail Mary play against the Lions). With that marker of offensive contribution, Rodgers ranked toward the bottom of starting tight ends in the league.

This provoked a lot of talk throughout Packerland. Many began speaking of tight end as the Packers’ biggest area of need leading into the 2016 season. After 2015 showcased some major struggles in the passing game, the disappointment of Rodgers’ modest numbers were only amplified. The lack of any significant production from any other tight ends on the roster added to the urgency.

It came as little surprise, therefore, that the Packers brought in and eventually signed ex-St. Louis Rams tight end Jared Cook. Of course, a free agent signing is always big news in Green Bay due to the rarity of the phenomenon, but it wasn’t surprising that the Packers looked to bolster this position as opposed to others. If Ted Thompson was actually going to sign someone from outside the organization, it made sense that he went with a tight end.

On paper, Jared Cook is the more exciting player. He’s faster and more athletic, capable of exploding up the seam and wracking up yardage. In short, he’s so many things that Richard Rodgers is not. If Cook is explosive, Rodgers is the exact opposite. Rodgers finished the season with just 8.8 yards per reception, tying him for 68th among NFL tight ends in 2015. If you remove the Detroit Hail Mary, Rodgers finished with just 7.9 yards per reception. That would have dropped him to 79th among all tight ends. Comparatively, Jared Cook finished with 12.3 yards per reception, good for 24th among all tight ends.

However, while it’s easy to get distracted by the newer, faster purchase, Rodgers should still play a major role with the team. He is best suited for short yardage situations, particularly in the red zone where his sure hands, big frame, and satisfactory leaping ability really shine. This is what Rodgers does best, and it shouldn’t be undervalued. You can’t win football games if you can’t execute in the red zone. Richard Rodgers’ presence on the field greatly increases the offense’s chances of doing just that.

View post on imgur.com

So while the Jared Cook hype train is rolling, let’s not forget to give Richard Rodgers his due. The big play is not the only marker for significant contribution in this offense. Richard Rodgers is going to be the go-to tight end working in short yardage situations, which are some of the most important plays in the NFL. The cliche is true. It’s a game of inches.

Sure Cook is fast, but Rodgers finished the year with 8 receiving TDs, good enough for 5th highest in the league. That’s a significant statistic that is being lost in the bright lights of the Cook deal. Cook has only 8 receiving touchdowns in his last 3 full seasons, with 0 in 2015. And yet there is little to no talk of Richard Rodgers, the Endzone Monster. He caught only 3 TDs less than Rob Gronkowski, and with around 35  fewer targets. That’s impressive.

This is what makes the Cook deal so great. The Packers have not brought in another tight end to replace Rodgers. Fans expecting Cook to post significant numbers in Green Bay will likely be disappointed. The signing is an attempt to improve the offense as a whole. If Cook steps in and plays his role as expected, it will only aid Rodgers in fulfilling his.

He may never be a vertical threat, but the Cook deal means that Rodgers doesn’t have to attempt to be something that he’s not. It is quite possible that a more limited role will in fact lead to greater success and development for him. It will certainly free him up for what he does best, working near the line of scrimmage, running physical routes, and snagging short first downs and touchdowns.

But if the Packers find themselves near mid-field, down by a touchdown with only a few seconds left in the game, Aaron Rodgers may want to still send Rich floating down toward the end zone, just in case.

 

——————

Taylor O\'Neill is a Packer fan born and raised in Oshkosh, WI. He currently lives in Florida and is pursuing his PhD. Taylor is a writer with PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TaylorONeill87 for more Packer news.

——————

Share
  • Mike Sherman

    I like Rodgers more than most fans, as a perfect complimentary 2nd TE (if he can improve blocking), but feel that Rodgers benefited a lot by having ARod throwing him the ball. Still, did a admirable job filling in for 1 year as starter and can’t take that away, but this is a super bowl contending team……. we need better. Cook, Rodgers, Backman, maybe a mid-round pick if there is a guy TT likes, thats a solid group for 2016. I just don’t want to see us forced to start Rodgers for a full season again.

  • Peter Maiz

    Richard, by his own admission, is slow.

    • croatpackfan

      As Ted Thompson said: “He is still faster than Ted Thompson!” And still faster than you and me. And he is real red zone threat!

      • Peter Maiz

        He can’t gain separation, the new guy they hired by the name of cook, should be better.

        • croatpackfan

          You may hope. Everybody is elite player in early April!

          • Dan Stodola

            Cooks has shown in the NFL he CAN gain seperation. Nobody said Cooks is an “elite player”, but he is far more a threat than Rodgers! Which is all Peter said.

            • croatpackfan

              Well if he can run fast good. But he have to catch the ball consistently to be considered as deep threat. Otherwise, sign Usain Bolt and you’ll have ultimate deep threat!

            • Dan Stodola

              If he’s another Finley, I’ll take that all day Looong! Finley may have dropped a couple more than you like, but there is no mistake the effect he had on a Defense, even when he wasn’t getting the ball. I think Cooks had the misfortune of playing w/ alot of suspect QB’s, making some possible poor throws turn into drops for him. Either way, Cooks will be a threat to the Defense as much as Finley was.

            • Dan Stodola

              If he’s another Finley, I’ll take that all day Looong! Finley may have dropped a couple more than you like, but there is no mistake the effect he had on a Defense, even when he wasn’t getting the ball. I think Cooks had the misfortune of playing w/ alot of suspect QB’s, making some possible poor throws turn into drops for him. Either way, Cooks will be a threat to the Defense as much as Finley was.

        • Nick Perry

          Lets not forget the new TE coach too. I like this hire by McCarthy, he took a TE who had caught 44 passes (Something close to that) in 6 seasons and coached him up to the tune of 79 catches last year alone. Keep in mind that was playing IN Cleveland with THOSE QB’s.

  • Pandabucks

    Rodgers’s inability to gain separation was one of the major factors crippling this offense. He, Davante “I can’t even outrun safeties” Adams, and the tortoise-like James Jones left our QB buying endless time with his feet (while morons in the stands complained Aaron “held the ball too long…).

    Richard Rodgers would be cut outright by many teams. Only the Packers’ complete lack of quality st the TE position keeps him in s job.

    • Nick Perry

      “Richard Rodgers would be cut outright by many teams. Only the Packers complete lack of quality at the TE position keeps him his job”

      Hmmm, interesting. While I understand your issue with Rodgers speed, you can’t say he doesn’t have great hands. Because of those hands I’d believe he could be just about any teams 2nd or 3rd string TE so no, I don’t believe he’d be outright cut by most teams. Matter of fact if he was cut by the Packers I’d bet he’d claimed in a heartbeat.

      Rodgers had 58 catches on just 85 targets for 510 yards and 8 TD’s, not to shabby. If that tells me anything it’s Rodgers normally catches the ball when it’s thrown his way. Great Hands, because of that he can get a job almost anwhere, not cut. While it sucks waiting for Rodgers to get to where he’s going, but once he’s there he does what’s required. Catch the ball. I think he’s the perfect compliment to Cook or any other “Fast” TE the Packers might have.

      • Pandabucks

        “Nick,” lots of TE’s have good hands. Rodgers requires pinpoint accuracy from a practically immortal QB, because he can’t create space. He’s also not a good blocker, and he’s practically worthless on special teams. All he’s good for is lumbering into position, shielding off the opponent, and hoping his overworked QB can buy enough time to deliver a perfect strike.

        That’s not good enough, sir. Not even close. Yes, I’d cut him, and I’d be thrilled if a team in our division was stupid enough to pick him up.

        • Dan Stodola

          Making contested catches has value, make no mistake about it. It makes him a good red zone receiver, since there usually is so little room to create seperation in the end zone. I agree he’s no real threat in the seam, he falls down when anyone touches him and he’s a terrible blocker. But he has value due to his hands and ability to make contested receptions.
          The fact you can’t understand that skill, and it is a skill, says more about your lack of understanding of role players!

          • Pandabucks

            I understand the skill. No need to be nasty.

          • Pandabucks

            I understand the skill. No need to be nasty.

        • Nick Perry

          LOL…. Yes he is a horrible blocker (Hopefully Better) and “Lumbering” is the perfect word to describe his movement on the field, but just take a look at some of the TD passes he’s caught. He’s far from perfect but he’s a pretty damn good Red Zone Target that Rodgers trusts. That “Trust” thing with Rodgers is huge and Richard has it.

          • Pandabucks

            Fair enough. I love his hands…pure glue.

          • Pandabucks

            Fair enough. I love his hands…pure glue.

    • Nick Perry

      “Richard Rodgers would be cut outright by many teams. Only the Packers complete lack of quality at the TE position keeps him his job”

      Hmmm, interesting. While I understand your issue with Rodgers speed, you can’t say he doesn’t have great hands. Because of those hands I’d believe he could be just about any teams 2nd or 3rd string TE so no, I don’t believe he’d be outright cut by most teams. Matter of fact if he was cut by the Packers I’d bet he’d claimed in a heartbeat.

      Rodgers had 58 catches on just 85 targets for 510 yards and 8 TD’s, not to shabby. If that tells me anything it’s Rodgers normally catches the ball when it’s thrown his way. Great Hands, because of that he can get a job almost anwhere, not cut. While it sucks waiting for Rodgers to get to where he’s going, but once he’s there he does what’s required. Catch the ball. I think he’s the perfect compliment to Cook or any other “Fast” TE the Packers might have.

  • Dan Stodola

    R. Rodgers has a place as a backup TE and possible Red Zone receiver. However, as a TE he offers almost nothing other than a reliable receiver who can make contested catches. Terrible blocker, no threat as a seam TE and no run after catch ability whatsoever! He can’t really get himself open as a receiver, so its a good thing he can make contested receptions (such as is the case in the red zone), but other than that he offers almost nothing.