Aaron Rodgers said it himself -- "What a difference a year makes."
One year after a frustrating Family Night scrimmage and forgettable preseason in general, Rodgers continued his strong start to training camp in 2006 with a solid, productive effort in front of a Family Night record 62,701 fans Saturday at Lambeau Field.
Leading the No. 2 offense against the No. 1 defense in three series plus a two-minute drill, Rodgers completed 11 of 23 passes for 92 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.
But the statistics don't really speak to how well he played. Two of his first four passes were dropped by wide open receivers, and his first deep ball was well-placed but just glanced off the fingertips of receiver Ruvell Martin.
"I felt pretty comfortable," said Rodgers, the Packers' first-round draft choice in 2005. "The key I think for me is just having complete trust in the play call and just running it out. Believing in the play, going through my progressions, there's going to be somebody open, or there's going to be some possibilities. Just being patient, slowing the game down in your mind and letting your feet tell you where to throw the ball."
With the drops and near-miss early, Rodgers' offense did not gain a first down on its first two series. But he showed his trust in the offense on the third drive by converting three consecutive fourth downs, hitting Donald Lee for 20 yards on fourth-and-7, Martin for 30 yards on fourth-and-9 to get the ball in the red zone, and then Marc Boerigter for a touchdown on fourth-and-4 from the 5.
Rodgers admitted that on some of those plays last year he might have rushed things and run out of the pocket or forced the ball. But he clearly has elevated his play in his second season.
"Last year's scrimmage, last year's preseason left a bad taste in my mouth," Rodgers said. "I felt tonight I was very confident in my throws...I felt so confident that I was just drilling the ball."
Rodgers' night was nearly flawless until his final pass. Running the two-minute drill, he completed five straight throws to four different receivers and then picked up a first down at the 35 on a defensive pass interference call with 12 seconds left.
But then his deep throw over the middle to Martin was intercepted by safety Marviel Underwood, who made a nice play on the ball.
Still, it was a noteworthy effort Rodgers can build on heading into the first preseason game of 2006 next Saturday in San Diego.
"I just liked the way he was coming off his back foot, stepping and throwing the ball, it was coming out quick," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "He has definitely reached the comfort level out there, and you saw that tonight for the most part he played with a lot of urgency. I'm excited about Aaron."