Mark Schofield’s RSP NFL Lens: QB Aaron Rodgers (Packers) And The Lesson of Making the Game Easy

Mark Schofield shows how Aaron Rodgers’ quarterbacking against the Chicago Bears exhibits a lot of common sense.

Football, even at the NFL level, does not have to be a hard game.

There are some simple tenets that are always applicable. Tackle the guy with the football. Throw to the open receiver. Run to daylight. Tackle with your head up. These basic premises span the game from Pop Warner Saturdays to NFL Monday nights.

Here is another premise that is very basic: Take what the defense gives you. When it comes to quarterback play this can often be in the form of taking a check-down route to the open receiver. If the defense wants to give you the swing route to the running back while taking away every other option, then the quarterback should take that route and live for the next down.

Sometimes the defense gives a quarterback an easy read-and-throw before the ball is even snapped. If you watched the Thursday night opener between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears, you saw Aaron Rodgers on more than one occasion execute what looked to be an awkward drop back before making a quick throw.

On those occasions Rodgers was executing a sight adjustment, a pre-snap decision to alter the play based on the defensive alignment. Another example of taking what the defense gives him.

Take this 2nd and 1 play from early in the second quarter. After two big passing plays, most notably the 47-yard strike to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, the Packers have the ball on the Bears’ 18-yard line. The offense lines up with 12 offensive personnel and Rodgers (#12) under center:

Take a quick look at Davante Adams (#17), who is aligned to the right using a reduced split. Across from his is cornerback Kyle Fuller (#23), who is about six yards off the line of scrimmage.

The Packers have a running play called, looking to run Aaron Jones (#33) to the left side on a split-zone running design:

This play is designed to be a run to the left, but with the Bears giving Green Bay’s top receiver about six yards of cushion on 2nd and 1, why bang your head against the proverbial brick wall? Take what the defense gives you. Which is exactly what Rodgers does:

Rather than turning around and handing the ball off, Rodgers executes a shuffle drop from center and throws a speed out to Adams in the right flat. Due to the presnap cushion, Fuller is in poor position to make a play on the football and can only rally downhill and try to make the tackle. But he misses that as well, and only safety Eddie Jackson (#39) prevents a touchdown.

Later in the first half, the Packers face another 2nd and 1, this time deep in their own territory. They line up with Rodgers under center and have a crack toss play called to the left side of the formation:

Once more, look to the right side of the formation. Valdes-Scantling (#83) has about seven yards of cushion this time against Fuller. So what does Rodgers do? Certainly not toss the ball to the left where defenders are lurking:

Fuller reacts well to this play, but the Packers still move the chains as Valdes-Scantling fights for the additional yardage.

I called Rodgers the most “undisciplined veteran quarterback” on a recent episode of the RSP Cast. While these plays might look undisciplined at first glance, and call to mind thoughts of Rodgers throwing out the coach’s script, they are more in line with the notion of making the game easier on the offense.

Again, football does not have to be a difficult game. Throw the ball, catch the ball, tackle the guy with the ball, throw to the open receiver, and take what the defense gives you. If the defense gives you seven yards of cushion on 2nd and 1, just throw that uncovered player the ball rather than running into a stacked box.

You don’t get style points for making life harder on yourself.

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