Washington wary of Rodgers despite struggles

Lorenzo Reyes
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Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) stands behind his line of guard T.J. Lang (70), center Corey Linsley (63), and guard Lane Taylor (65) late in the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field.

ASHBURN, Va. - What struggles?

The Washington Redskins have heard all the chatter about this being a down year for their wild-card round opponent, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, but they say they’re not giving the talk any significance.

He’s still Aaron Rodgers.

When the Redskins host the Packers on Sunday at FedEx Field in the team’s first playoff game since 2012, how they defend the two-time NFL MVP will be key in their quest to make a run in the postseason.

And Washington (9-7) isn’t shying away from being vocal about its best options, either.

“There are really no weaknesses from (Rodgers),” cornerback DeAngelo Hall said Wednesday after practice at the team’s facility. “The weaknesses just come from protecting him. I think Arizona and a couple of other teams have been able to get some hits on him and get some turnovers and things like that.

“We feel like if we can get guys around him, always in his face and harassing him, maybe he can make a mistake or two. And then maybe we can capitalize on it. But definitely when they have gotten beaten, it’s just because they haven’t been able to protect him. He’s the same gun-slinging guy who can make every throw on that field.”

Packers hitting the road for redemption

Washington ranked 25th in the NFL regular season in passing yards allowed (258 per game) and has, at times, given up big plays to opposing passers.

Rodgers and the Packers (10-6) entered this season as one of the favorites to make a run to Super Bowl 50 to Santa Clara, Calif. But losing receiver Jordy Nelson, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament, crippled Green Bay’s offense and put significant pressure on the other receivers.

At times, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, James Jones have struggled to respond.

“I think they have modified a little bit with Jordy Nelson going down,” said cornerback Cary Williams, who signed with Washington on Tuesday to help an injury-depleted secondary. “But for the most part, I think they’re trying to stick to what they have and those guys throughout the year have been developing in their system.”

In all 16 games this season, Rodgers completed 60.7% of his passes (almost five percentage points fewer than last year) for 3,821 yards (560 fewer than last year) for 31 touchdowns (seven fewer) and eight interceptions (three more).

But Rodgers is a Super-Bowl-winning quarterback. Even with statistics less impressive than his previous seasons, he’s still considered one of the best passers in the game.

“Now that he’s in the postseason? This man’s focus probably went through the ceiling, in the sky somewhere,” defensive end Ricky Jean-Francois said. “Our confidence and our level of focus has to be on the same level as his, or even above his.”

Follow Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @LorenzoGReyes.

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