GREEN BAY – With a hamstring injury likely keeping quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the pocket Sunday, the Houston Texans could ramp up their blitz against the Green Bay Packers quarterback.
But should they?
Through much of his career, Rodgers has been the rare quarterback defenses fear to blitz. His quick release, quicker recognition and strong, accurate arm presents a flashing warning sign for defenses: blitz at your own peril.
“Best I’ve been around, by far,” Packers quarterback coach Alex Van Pelt said of Rodgers’ ability to beat the blitz. “He understands it, he sees it before it happens a lot of times. Study habits of pressures, what they bring from different looks. A lot of times we’ll have looks in walkthroughs, and he’ll go, ‘No, no, no, scoot over a little bit, you’ve got to be a little further off the hash when you bring this pressure.’ He’s dialed in as well as anybody I’ve ever seen.”
Rodgers' limited mobility could entice the Texans to rush for sacks, instead of rushing to contain him in the pocket. They certainly don't need any reason to bring additional pressure. Under defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, the Texans are one of the most blitz-happy units in the NFL
Earlier this season, Rodgers was as susceptible to the blitz as any time in his career. He has since broken out of his slump. Though he’s not playing at his two-time MVP level, Rodgers has climbed near the top of the league in many passing categories.
He’s second with 27 touchdown passes, and his seven interceptions are third fewest among 11 quarterbacks with at least 20 touchdowns. Rodgers is one of seven quarterbacks with at least 3,000 passing yards (3,074) before the season’s three-quarters mark. His passer rating has also started to climb, now sitting just outside the top 10 at No. 11 with 97.8 points.
Rodgers has been blitzed on a quarter of his 504 drop backs this season, according to Pro Football Focus. He’s completing 61.3 percent of his passes against the blitz, slightly down from his 65.5 completion percentage with no blitz. But his nine touchdowns to one interception shows just how effective he remains against extra pressure. With no blitz, Rodgers had a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 18-to-6.
Rodgers’ 103.6 rating against the blitz is better than his 95.6 rating when he isn’t blitzed.
“I was kind of hoping for a while there that he wouldn’t figure it out before us,” Texans linebacker Brian Cushing said, “but it seems like he has. He’s got it going, and there’s no question that himself and the offense together seems like they’re firing, and they’re going on all cylinders now. I’m not sure if there’s one exact thing I can put my finger on. They look like themselves again, and we know we’re going to have to bring our best game.”
The payoff for defenses blitzing Rodgers is when the pass rush does get to him. He has a 70.4 passer rating under pressure this season, completing just 40.6 percent of his passes. His rating without pressure is 105.8.
So it could be enticing for the Texans to blitz Rodgers, particularly if his mobility is limited. If Rodgers looks like himself as a passer, the risk probably outweighs the reward.
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