Wes, Pete and Ryan break down the Packers' 31-21 win over the Raiders in their third preseason game. (Aug. 23, 2014) Weston Hodkiewicz
Over the course of his seven seasons in Green Bay, Charles Woodson watched Aaron Rodgers go from the backup to an eventual Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback in Brett Favre to an MVP in his own right.
Rodgers' timing, precision and moxie always stood out, but the former Green Bay Packers defensive back saw something different from Rodgers in the Packers' 31-21 preseason win over the Oakland Raiders on Friday night at Lambeau Field.
Lining up on the opposite side of the football, the 37-year-old veteran witnessed the evolution of a field general capable of running a constant, no-huddle offense in fluid motion.
Rodgers wasn't perfect — he finished 9-of-20 for 139 yards — but three of his six series resulted in touchdowns. Five of his eight preseason drives with the starters in the no-huddle produced points.
If the Packers are going to dedicate themselves to the no-huddle, Woodson believes they have the right man at the focal point.
"The no-huddle is a beast," said Woodson, who returned to Oakland following his 2012 release from the Packers.
"You call a defense and you think you have it figured out and he calls a play, the play progresses and he gets the ball out of his hands before sometimes you get a chance to react to it. Special player. Him being able to be in command of the no-huddle offense and command that team, it's going to be great for the Packers."
The six series against the Raiders weren't as crisp as Rodgers' two drives in last week's 21-7 win over St. Louis, but the first-team offense was effective in his 39 offensive snaps.
Like the first two preseason games, the Packers shied away from substituting on their first series and moved the ball down the field with ease operating in the no-huddle.
The linchpin was again running back Eddie Lacy, who carried the ball six times for 36 yards on the seven-play drive. Rodgers' first pass was his longest of the night, a 32-yard completion to tight end Richard Rodgers across the middle.
As evidenced by the number of plays they ran in less than a half, Rodgers didn't take his foot off the pedal. It didn't matter if it was a 31-yard completion to running back DuJuan Harris or a dropped pass - the offense was in fast forward.
"It's going to be good for them, especially when you have a guy back there who can get the ball out as quickly as he can get it out," Woodson said. "You have playmakers outside, inside. They finally brought in a running back who can do some damage. It's going to be tough for some people."
Once Lacy exited, the pace slowed on the Packers' next three series.
A holding call on JC Tretter washing out a James Starks' conversion on fourth-and-1 to stall the second series. On the ensuing possession, offensive linemen Josh Sitton and David Bakhtiari missed a switch and conceded a sack to Oakland linebacker Sio Moore on third-and-7.
The offense went three-and-out again on the next possession with Randall Cobb dropping passes on back-to-back plays and Bakhtiari getting flagged for a hold on third down, though it was a moot point with Starks failing to look back for a check-down pass from Rodgers.
The drive lasted all of 12 seconds, showing the dangers of the no-huddle. As much as it can quicken the tempo and prevent the defense from substituting, the swift three-and-outs can have an adverse effect on your own bench.
However, the first-team offense rebounded on Rodgers' final two series. He hit Jordy Nelson on a quick hitch for a 12-yard touchdown and then delivered a laser to tight end Andrew Quarless on a quick slant in his final work of the night.
The Packers controlled the time of possession 14:59 to 9:03 when Rodgers was on the field and converted 14 first downs for 205 total yards (72 rushing, 133 passing).
"A lot of good, a little bit of bad," said guard T.J. Lang of the no-huddle. "The three-and-outs you don't really like to see, especially when they're consecutive like we had out there, but I think for the most part it's been productive. … It's just something that — we always try to start games fast and I think we've done that the last two games, so that's always one of our biggest keys going into the game is start fast and stay on pace and for the most part I think we've done a good job of that."
Woodson isn't the only former Packer on the Raiders' roster. Receiver James Jones and defensive lineman C.J. Wilson signed with Oakland this offseason after lengthy stays in Green Bay.
Wilson spent his first four years in the NFL lining up in practice against Rodgers' no-huddle in its infancy, but never saw anything quite what Green Bay rolled out Friday.
"They always talked about doing it, but that's the first time they really went through with it," Wilson said of the no-huddle. "We did some last year when I was here, but going against it, it's really difficult and it can get you winded."
Jones' departure robbed Rodgers of one of his favorite targets. Third-year receiver Jarrett Boykin is vying to fill that spot in the offense. Fresno State receiver Davante Adams was drafted in the second to lend a hand.
Based on what he's seen, Jones feels the offense will be just fine.
"Man, they looked good. They looked like they were in midseason form," Jones said. "A-Rod is the man in that offense. They're doing a lot of quick plays, giving the receivers a chance to get the ball in their hands, make some plays for Aaron, but they looked good. They looked real explosive."
Woodson and Jones stayed on the field long after the game ended and traded hugs with Packers coach Mike McCarthy, Rodgers, Nelson and many others.
It likely was Rodgers' last series of the preseason. In his former teammates' mind, he's ready for the regular-season opener in Seattle in a little less than two weeks.
"I think we're ready," Rodgers said. "I think it's been a good preseason. We scored some points, moved the ball. We saw what we wanted to see out of our skill players and the offensive line. We have 13 days to the game."