Rodgers’ injury may mean changes to the offense

Aaron Rodgers’ return to the game this past Sunday helped give the Green Bay Packers earn the respite of a bye week he desperately needed to help heal his injured calf as much as any injured muscle can heal in two weeks.

It was the stuff legends were are made of. The moment Rodgers went down after his touchdown pass to Randall Cobb, the entire stadium knew it was bad. It felt like November 4, 2013 all over again. Rodgers was down and the future looked grim. We’d been down that path before, and a team without Aaron Rodgers looks nothing like the one with him behind center. Another calf injury, broken bone, torn Achilles or blown knee. The only thing worse than knowing he was injured was not knowing the extent.

What happened next has been described several times over and in much better fashion than I can ever recall. Just like he did when he broke his clavicle, Rodgers returned to the field. Only this time he still had his pads and cleats on. As soon as he reached the sidelines, he started warming up. The cheers for MVP were deafening.

While he played with the same determination that the Packers Nation has become accustomed to, it was obvious Rodgers was not the same. The offense had to adapt. In a way, the Packers were running an Offense Lite that helped protect his injured leg but still managed to propel the team to victory.

So what does this injury mean moving forward?

Most–including Aaron Rodgers himself–believe his leg will not be 100% a week from this Sunday. That means the medical staff will be working in over drive to rehabilitate his injured calf and the team will have to plan accordingly for a less-mobile quarterback.

gastroc2A calf strain is, by definition a tear in the gastrocnemius muscle of the lower leg. (Note, this is a graphic of a right leg. Rodgers’ injury is to his left.) Strains are graded. A Grade 1 injury is stretching and minor tearing of muscle fibers. A Grade 2 injury means more tearing, or a “moderate” injury. A Grade 3 injury means a complete tear of the muscle group that typically requires surgery. (Think Des Bishop and his hamstring tear.)

I’m going to go out on a limb and suspect Rodgers’ likely has something in the neighborhood of a Grade 2 injury. Only an MRI (which he likely has already had) is the way to make that determination.

And it is certainly possible that he has had two separate muscle injuries. During his weekly radio show with Jason Wilde on ESPN Milwaukee yesterday, Rodger told listeners that the injury incurred on the “inside” of his calf. He also pointed out that this past Sunday’s injury was on the “outside” just like the tear in the graphic above. The gastroc has two muscle bellies, so it is a possibility that he has injuries in both.

The gastrocnemius is kind of a big deal. It play a pivotal role with running and jumping. It’s what makes the foot flex downward. You know, the whole mechanism that propels you forward. Ironically, Ndamukong Suh’s worked perfectly fine as he lifted off on Rodgers’ leg.

And to complicate things even further, the injury is on Rodgers’ planting foot for passes.

Thankfully Packers have already began to adapt to a less-mobile quarterback. There is no question the offensive line has stepped up. Not only are they playing a cleaner game with less penalties, (only one hold last week against David Bahktiari) but Rodgers was not sacked at all during the win against the Lions. They are buying him more time to safely remain in the pocket. This may mean a temporary hold on the the play action pass.

Remember, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Tom Brady has one many game securely in the pocket.

It also means formations that will continue to favor a less-mobile quarterback. Most think of the pistol formation as a tool a running quarterback uses to get the play off or start sprinting quickly. In Rodgers’ current situation, it saves him the five step drop back and he’s ready to either throw or hand off to his running back.

That lack of strength in the planting foot may also mean the long ball may be few and far in between.

Of course that won’t stop Rodgers from occasionally going rogue and calling  QB sneak on the goal line once in a while. It may not have been the best thing for injured leg, but he sent the message he isn’t going down without a fight.

On the flip side, the defense may not be able to rely on huge offensive cushions of enormous points. The team will need to play a complete 60 minutes of ball. Bend not break won’t be enough.

In the mean time, how the medical staff rehabs Rodgers’ injured calf will likely be a top secret entity. Rest will definitely be first and foremost. It may involve crutches, maybe even a boot. They won’t say, because some things are not for public consumption.

Aaron Rodgers may not be 100% when the Packers take the field in the next round of the playoffs. But they will have a plan in place to play to his strengths and protect his vulnerabilities.

 

 

 

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Kelly Hodgson is a writer for PackersTalk.com and you can listen to her as a Co-Host of Out of the Pocket. You can also follow Kelly on Twitter at @ceallaigh_k

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5 thoughts on “Rodgers’ injury may mean changes to the offense

  1. Good stuff Kelly.

    #1- Rodgers will still be more mobile than Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers have been for a few years. And more mobile than Dan Marino ever was.
    However, even though Arod can throw it as great as anyone, his foot speed WAS an added weapon at times. You hate to take that away. He did have a nice 15-yard scramble for first down AFTER he returned Sunday vs Detroit, so he might still be good enough there. Just hope nothing additional happens on the weakened leg.

    #2- Packers are lucky to have a bye. Dallas was 12-4 and won at Seattle.
    Seattle was 12-4 and killed the Packers.
    The Packers were also 12-4, and beat none of those two, yet still get the seed ahead of Dallas and the bye, and get Dallas in Lambeau

    Interesting:
    Dallas is 8-0 on the road.
    Packers are 8-0 at home.

    Dallas is 4-4 at home.
    Packers are 4-4 on the road.

    Either place, it would be a tossup and a great matchup.

    #3- in the Magical 2010 playoff run, the Packers got lucky in regards to who they played.
    At Philly? Their kicker missed 2 easy field goals, otherwise they beat us.
    Atlanta wasn’t lucky per se, but their defense was and still is horrible. And they didn’t yet have Julio Jones.
    Then the Bears? LOL. Jay Cutler.

    Other than that one magical run, in the now-7 years of the Rodgers Era, this team has only one playoff win, a tainted one at home against Joe Webb. Joe Webb.

    Packers better play SHARP at home in the playoffs for the first time in a long time.

    They laid en egg on offense in 2011 vs Giants and 2013 vs 49ers, both at home.
    In 2012 at San Fran, the offense kept pace for awhile. But of course the defense was pathetic.
    And in 2009 against Arizona, the defense was horrible, but it was Rodgers 3 key mistakes that ultimately cost the game and season.
    He had 2 critical turnovers, plus in OT, missed a wide open Greg Jennings to win the game on a deep ball overthrow. An underthrow there would have been better as usually those result in DPI as the WR stops to catch the ball and the DB runs into the WR drawing the huge flag.

    I love Rodgers.
    But I am warning you that Dallas could win, and if they do, Rodgers Legacy will start to be questioned in the media, locally and from ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Sporting News, Yahoo, etc.

    Let’s hope our defense plays well and contains Dallas to about 21 points, and Rodgers plays like he does in the regular season, for a Packers 38-21 win.

    Leave that monkey on Romo’s back!
    And SHUT SKIP BAYLESS and Colin Cowherd up.

    http://www.PackersInsider.com

  2. Good stuff Kelly.

    #1- Rodgers will still be more mobile than Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers have been for a few years. And more mobile than Dan Marino ever was.
    However, even though Arod can throw it as great as anyone, his foot speed WAS an added weapon at times. You hate to take that away. He did have a nice 15-yard scramble for first down AFTER he returned Sunday vs Detroit, so he might still be good enough there. Just hope nothing additional happens on the weakened leg.

    #2- Packers are lucky to have a bye. Dallas was 12-4 and won at Seattle.
    Seattle was 12-4 and killed the Packers.
    The Packers were also 12-4, and beat none of those two, yet still get the seed ahead of Dallas and the bye, and get Dallas in Lambeau

    Interesting:
    Dallas is 8-0 on the road.
    Packers are 8-0 at home.

    Dallas is 4-4 at home.
    Packers are 4-4 on the road.

    Either place, it would be a tossup and a great matchup.

    #3- in the Magical 2010 playoff run, the Packers got lucky in regards to who they played.
    At Philly? Their kicker missed 2 easy field goals, otherwise they beat us.
    Atlanta wasn’t lucky per se, but their defense was and still is horrible. And they didn’t yet have Julio Jones.
    Then the Bears? LOL. Jay Cutler.

    Other than that one magical run, in the now-7 years of the Rodgers Era, this team has only one playoff win, a tainted one at home against Joe Webb. Joe Webb.

    Packers better play SHARP at home in the playoffs for the first time in a long time.

    They laid en egg on offense in 2011 vs Giants and 2013 vs 49ers, both at home.
    In 2012 at San Fran, the offense kept pace for awhile. But of course the defense was pathetic.
    And in 2009 against Arizona, the defense was horrible, but it was Rodgers 3 key mistakes that ultimately cost the game and season.
    He had 2 critical turnovers, plus in OT, missed a wide open Greg Jennings to win the game on a deep ball overthrow. An underthrow there would have been better as usually those result in DPI as the WR stops to catch the ball and the DB runs into the WR drawing the huge flag.

    I love Rodgers.
    But I am warning you that Dallas could win, and if they do, Rodgers Legacy will start to be questioned in the media, locally and from ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Sporting News, Yahoo, etc.

    Let’s hope our defense plays well and contains Dallas to about 21 points, and Rodgers plays like he does in the regular season, for a Packers 38-21 win.

    Leave that monkey on Romo’s back!
    And SHUT SKIP BAYLESS and Colin Cowherd up.

    http://www.PackersInsider.com

  3. Hmm, so you’ve jumped aboard the Cowboys’ bandwagon? I think their defense will have little chance of stopping the Packers’ offense at Lambeau Field. And if it’s really cold, Romo will wilt like a flower. I’m not a believer in these Cowboys – yet…

  4. Hmm, so you’ve jumped aboard the Cowboys’ bandwagon? I think their defense will have little chance of stopping the Packers’ offense at Lambeau Field. And if it’s really cold, Romo will wilt like a flower. I’m not a believer in these Cowboys – yet…

  5. Aaron Rodgers played one of the greatest games in playoff history in 2009. The critical mistake was the ref not calling a face mask penalty in overtime. The defense was putrid after declaring they were reinvented.

    Anyways this calf injury concerns me more about playing Seattle than Dallas or any other team. Seattle plays the kind of coverage that needs a mobile Rodgers. I really hope this calf injury can be managed. This is the most complete team since 2011.

    Road to Super the Bowl

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