Packers QB Aaron Rodgers reflects on uncommonly high (for him) interception total
GREEN BAY - It's hard to believe but, yes, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has thrown a lot of interceptions this season.
At least for him.
For any other quarterback? No, Rodgers hasn't really thrown a lot of interceptions through the first 10 games of 2020. Russell Wilson, who joins Rodgers among the MVP frontrunners, has thrown 10 picks. Tom Brady has nine. Carson Wentz leads the NFL with 14.
Rodgers' four interceptions are as many as Alex Smith and Andy Dalton. Smith has played four games after returning from his gruesome leg injury. Dalton has played five games. But Rodgers' four also equal his total from all of last season, and they're double his interceptions from the 2018 season.
So in the world of Aaron Rodgers – the world of a historically low interception percentage – four picks actually amounts to something notable.
"Those are going to happen," Rodgers said Wednesday. "I've been really good at taking care of the football over the years. If four is a big number, I think that just goes to show you what the standard has been around here."
Still, when there is an anomaly, it's worth considering what might have changed.
Coach Matt LaFleur said interceptions are "the price of doing business" for an offense. He noted Rodgers has played "pretty aggressive" this season, significant considering Rodgers has occasionally been criticized by fans for not playing aggressive enough in favor of avoiding interceptions.
"He is not a guy that throws a lot of picks," LaFleur said.
Rodgers divided interceptions into two categories, one more forgivable than the other. There is the bad throw, and there is the bad decision.
The bad throw happened Sunday at the Indianapolis Colts. In the first quarter, Rodgers looked off one safety in the middle of the field and then targeted Marquez Valdes-Scantling on a vertical route to the right. Colts cornerback Rock Ya-Sin undercut Rodgers' throw for the quarterback's fourth pick of this season, and his second in as many weeks.
"I think my right foot slipped a little bit," Rodgers said, "but I just missed the throw."
Rodgers said that type of interception wasn't too disappointing. They happen. The ones that really irritate him, he said, are tipped passes when he attempts an ill-advised pass into tight coverage.
"In any season," Rodgers said, "to me it's about the number of potential intercepted passes. I haven't thrown many clean ones over the years. It's been some tipped passes and things of that nature. Those are the ones that are most disappointing."
While the Packers plan to practice through Thanksgiving, they appear content to take things easy on some key starters this week as they prepare to host the Chicago Bears.
Receiver Davante Adams (ankle) and center Corey Linsley (back) were limited in Wednesday's practice. Adams played Sunday at Indianapolis, catching seven passes for 106 yards and a touchdown, despite being on the injury report with the ankle. Linsley left in the first quarter and did not return.
Cornerback Jaire Alexander (knee/hand), running back Tyler Ervin (wrist/ribs), receiver Allen Lazard (core) and punter JK Scott (back, right quad) were also limited in Wednesday's practice. Cornerback Josh Jackson did not participate because of a concussion.
In Chicago, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (right shoulder) was a full participant Wednesday while Nick Foles (hip) did not practice. The Bears also could be without star defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, who didn't practice due to a hamstring injury.
The Packers placed defensive end Montravius Adams on injured reserve due to a lingering toe injury that dates to early in training camp, and could possibly end his season.
Defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery said he didn’t know the timeline on Adams returning but he will miss at least the next three games under NFL guidelines for injured reserve. After three weeks, the Packers can start practicing him at any time and for a maximum of three weeks before having to make a roster decision.
The earliest he could come back would be the Carolina game Dec. 19, but more than likely he would need a week or two of practice to be able to play again. If the toe does heal and he doesn’t need surgery, it's possible he could be back for the playoffs.
“I felt like he was trending in the right direction,” Montgomery said. “He was playing blocks well, he was getting off blocks, he was being disruptive, and he was running to the football. Hate not to have him.”
Adams played in eight games and had 11 tackles, including two for loss.
To fill Adams’ spot on the 53-man roster, the Packers claimed 6-4, 350-pound defensive tackle Anthony Rush off waivers from the Bears. Rush has been with five teams since coming into the NFL with Philadelphia as an undrafted rookie last season.
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He played in nine games with Philadelphia last year and four games with Seattle this year before joining the Bears. He did not play a snap in the three weeks he was with the Bears. In 13 games, he has 14 tackles, including three for loss, two pass breakups and a half sack.
The Packers have two other roster spots open after placing linebacker James Burgess (hamstring) on injured reserve Wednesday. Burgess played in four games and had three special teams tackles.
Preston Smith's struggles
Through 10 games, outside linebacker Preston Smith has 1½ sacks and his position coach said Wednesday that some frustration has set in for the 28-year-old after a 12-sack season a year ago.
“When things aren’t going well and you’re not rushing great and you start stressing things and you start doing things that’s not normally what you do and again, now that the quarterback’s getting rid of the ball, you’re starting to get frustrated,” Mike Smith said. “There’s so many things against you. They read this, they read that, they hear this and then they start just panicking.”
Part of the production issue could be the linebacker’s weight, as Mike Smith said Preston Smith is a little heavier than a year ago. He has been listed at 265 pounds.
“He might be a little bit,” the coach said. “All these guys, ‘Z’ (Za’Darius Smith), ‘RG’ (Rashan Gary), they’re naturally big guys so you’ve always got to monitor their weight. Same thing when I had Justin Houston (in Kansas City). Especially around these holidays, it can get really crazy.”
Mike Smith smiled a little at that before continuing, “But I think the thing with Preston is just staying positive, staying focused. He knows the rush plan. He’s not rushing the way I want him to rush right now.”
To that end, Mike Smith said two things have gone awry for Preston Smith thus far:
• “He’s got to use his power more. When you’re dancing in place or shaking back and forth and all that type stuff, you’re going nowhere.”
• “Then some high rushes. You’ve got long arms. God gave you long arms for a reason. You can scratch your ankles standing up. So get that long arm in there and start getting these guys to set and swipe and that’s the thing I’ve noticed the last couple weeks with him.”
Mike Smith said the pair had a conversation Wednesday and didn’t blame Preston Smith for getting frustrated, and allowed the sixth-year linebacker may be turn the corner soon if he follows through on the rush plan and takes what pass blockers are giving him.
“He’s a good pass rusher,” the coach said. “He knows what to do. He’s a smart kid. I’m hoping it’ll turn around for him.”
On the mend
LaFleur said that rookie running back AJ Dillon, who is still on the COVID-19 reserve list, has been cleared to resume work inside the facility.
He did not take part in practice, however.
There is a long process for anybody who tested positive, as Dillon is reported to have done, to get back on the field. LaFleur didn’t say when he expected Dillon back, but he said he still thought there was time for him to be a significant part of the offense during the home stretch.
“We're definitely hopeful,” LaFleur said. “He's still working through the protocol. He hasn't passed all the steps to get cleared. So, certainly he's a guy we can't wait to get back in the fold. He was showing some great stuff, and we'll just take it day by day.”