Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and his receiving team are on the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and his receivers are on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated, he’s the odds-on favorite to win the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award and his team is undefeated.
Seems like there wouldn’t be much Rodgers would need to work on entering the second half of the season.
But during last week’s bye, when Rodgers looked back on the first seven games of the season, he and the rest of the offense identified a few key areas in which they would like to improve beginning with Sunday’s game at San Diego.
For Rodgers, it was limiting the number of sacks, especially the ones he feels like he could avoid by getting rid of the ball sooner.
He has been sacked 16 times, hardly the problem it was during the 2008 season when he was sacked 31 times in the first seven games on the way to 50 for the season. Still, he said on Wednesday he deserves some of the blame for this season’s sacks and identified that as the No. 1 thing he’s hoping to improve on in the second half.
“We’ve got to get those down, and I’ve got to take responsibility for some of those,” Rodgers said. “I’ve got to deal the ball. I’ve been extending plays the way I like to but just more times than not being right about when to extend it and when to throw it away.”
For the receivers, the biggest focus was reducing the number of dropped passes, which reached epidemic status during a two-game stretch that included 10 drops.
For the offensive line and running backs, it was cutting down on the number of negative runs.
Listen to each group and it would sound like this is an offense that has struggled. That’s hardly been the case. The Packers are the highest-scoring team in the league at 32.9 points per game, rank third in passing yards per game (323.4) and fourth in total yards per game (423.3). Individually, Rodgers leads the league in completion percentage (71.5), touchdown passes (20) and passer rating (125.7) and ranks third in yards (2,372).
“Aaron’s like every player on the team, there’s always little things specific to his responsibility that he can continue to improve on whether it’s footwork or certain concepts or getting different looks,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.
“Playing this particular defense (at San Diego), there’s certain concepts that we’ll see against this coverage as opposed to the coverages we’ve seen in prior weeks. Aaron’s working to improve every single day, and it’s reflected in the quarterback drills that (quarterbacks coach) Tom Clements does week in and week out. But he is playing at an extremely high level. The numbers speak for themselves, but this week will be a challenge for us in San Diego.”
It’s hard to imagine Rodgers playing much better over an extended stretch. He’s the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 2,300 yards and 20 touchdowns in the first seven games of a season. His passing yardage total is the highest in Packers history through the first seven games of the season, his 20 touchdowns through seven games ranks second in team history behind only Brett Favre’s 21 in 1996 and his passer rating is third best at this point in a season since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.
Yet Rodgers seems to think he can play better.
“I think so,” he said. “This offseason, one of my goals was to decrease the space between a good game and a poor game. I’m looking forward to doing that and improving on that. I just feel like for 60 minutes, we all can play a little bit more consistently.”
To that end, the offensive coaches on Wednesday stressed the need for improvement in the running game, where the Packers rank 24th in rushing yards per game and 25th in rushing average.
“There’s definitely a lot of things that we can improve on,” left guard T.J. Lang said. “Running the ball is probably the biggest. We looked at a stat today, and it was a little bit frightening the amount of negative runs we’ve had. To be a balanced offense like we want, we have to make sure we’re running the ball a lot better. We’ve have some games where it’s gone well and some games where it didn’t look like it needed to. That’s been our one thing.”