While there are a myriad of reasons for the recent ineptitude of the Green Bay Packers’ offense, one which has received less attention that others is QB Aaron Rodgers’ inability to get out of the pocket. It’s common knowledge that Rodgers’ ability to extend plays by getting out of the pocket is one of his greatest abilities as a quarterback. This is especially important for wide receivers that have been having trouble getting open as it extends the play and makes the defense respect Rodgers’ ability to take off and run instead of making a pass down field. Even the best defensive secondaries in the league will have trouble accounting for all of Rodgers’ receiving weapons when they’re given 4 or 5 seconds to get open.
The first and most obvious solution is for the offensive line to improve its pass protection. It’s not as if the big guys up front are giving up more sacks or individual penetration. In fact, Rodgers has often flourished when escaping a single rusher or two. What has proved to be kryptonite for Rodgers, however, is when defensive lines collapse the pocket as a unit, aiming not such for sacks but primarily to bottle up Rodgers, giving him nowhere to run. The Chargers executed this gameplan exceptionally, and the Broncos unsurprisingly followed suit. There’s no reason to think that Carolina and others will not attempt the same.
Clearly this is something that the Packers’ offensive line has struggled to prevent two weeks in a row, so hoping for a sudden change is probably not wise, however.
That being said, there are ways that Mike McCarthy and Offensive Coordinator Tom Clements can get creative and manufacture opportunities for Rodgers to get out of the pocket and utilize his ability to extend plays and make tremendous throws on the run.
The easiest method is simply to utilize plays that are intentionally designed to get the QB quickly out of the pocket. Roll out plays are one such example, literally rolling out the QB beyond the tackles. If the offensive line continues to struggle with holding a pocket in the coming weeks, these kinds of plays will provide Rodgers the breathing room and a precious second or two to make more than one check down and plant his front foot into the throw, two things which have been neutralized by Rodgers being isolated by opposing defensive lines into a telephone booth sized passing space.
The Packers don’t have to call such plays on every down. Calling and executing these kinds of plays strategically throughout the game should force defenses to attack Rodgers differently. The goal is to use designed roll outs to begin establishing a rhythm, forcing the defense to shift away from merely collapsing the pocket on every play.
Andrew Luck, sitting behind a line that most would consider less talented than the Packers’, was given a lot of time to pick apart Carolina’s defense on Monday night (when he was up to the task, and not throwing interceptions). Rodgers should be able to do the same, but it may be predicated upon how McCarthy and Clements respond to the continually collapsing pocket.——————
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.