Notebook: Rodgers' Mobility Will Be Asset To Offense

In scouting him for the draft three years ago, Mike McCarthy has admitted he underestimated Aaron Rodgers’ overall athleticism, and his ability to move out of the pocket and throw on the run. But he’ll certainly put that ability to use now. - More Defensive Helmet/Radio Passes Despite ’No’ Vote From Packers


Three years ago, Mike McCarthy was on the San Francisco 49ers coaching staff that ultimately decided to choose quarterback Alex Smith with the No. 1 overall pick over Aaron Rodgers, who slid all the way down the draft board to the Packers at No. 24.

But McCarthy has admitted he underestimated Rodgers' overall athleticism, and his ability to move out of the pocket and throw on the run. He said so again on Wednesday in a chat with reporters at the NFL annual meeting in Palm Beach, Fla.

Whether or not that piece of the evaluation puzzle would have convinced the 49ers to take Rodgers instead, McCarthy wouldn't say, but he certainly has no misgivings about Rodgers' ability now.

"Aaron is extremely athletic," McCarthy said. "I've said it before, I did not evaluate him properly in the movement phase at quarterback coming out of college. I did not see the athletic ability that I have been able to witness since we've worked together."

Rodgers showed his scrambling ability in his solid relief outing last season in Dallas, rushing five times for 30 yards. That ability to move around could be put to good use with more bootleg and "keep" passes in McCarthy's version of the West Coast offense.

The Packers put Brett Favre on the move some in his last two seasons under center, but not as much as they might this year with a younger Rodgers.

"He's had a lot of reps over time, especially with the movement passes," McCarthy said. "I think it will be one of our strengths."

As for passing over Rodgers for Smith while in San Francisco, McCarthy said he and Rodgers have talked about it. Smith has certainly had more playing time in his first three seasons than Rodgers, but without nearly as strong a supporting cast around him, the struggles have been evident.

Rodgers will have his ups and downs, too, in his first season as the starter, but he has more to draw upon now that his opportunity has arrived, and McCarthy has told him so.

"It's about the big picture," McCarthy said. "His opportunity to be able to sit and develop and prepare for his time is the way to go."

New addition

McCarthy emphasized that the team's acquisition of free agent linebacker Brandon Chillar was not a reflection of any dissatisfaction with strong-side linebacker Brady Poppinga, but rather a chance to add another quality player to the roster.

"I've been very happy with way Brady Poppinga has progressed," McCarthy said. "I thought Brady through the course of the year got better. He's one of our younger players who really improved from Year 1 to Year 2."

Chillar's arrival does create two players who play one spot, but McCarthy believes teams that turn away good players simply because there isn't a glaring need are missing opportunities to upgrade their roster. And McCarthy and General Manager Ted Thompson have never shied away from creating competition for playing time.

Poppinga and Chillar will battle it out for a starting linebacker position, but whoever wins out, more depth at that spot will help the team. Poppinga (who was a defensive end in college) could be used more as an edge pass rusher in certain situations, while Chillar's all-around game will give the coaching staff some flexibility as well.

"I think he's solid against the run, very athletic in the passing game, he can play the exotic blitz schemes," McCarthy said. "Very productive player."

Chillar, formerly with the Rams, did make one notable play in the Packers' contest in St. Louis last season. In the first quarter, Favre dumped off a short pass in the flat to running back Ryan Grant, who was hit immediately by Chillar, forcing a fumble. The Rams recovered and got the turnover.

On the interior

Much attention during the offseason program and training camp will be on who emerges as the starting guards on the Packers' offensive line in 2008. The position was a revolving door of sorts last season due to both injuries and performance issues.

{sportsad300}But McCarthy said it's worth noting that even with all the personnel changes and early struggles with the running game, the offensive line as a whole has provided more than adequate pass protection. Last season, the Packers allowed just 19 sacks, even better than the 24 the year before, when Jason Spitz, Daryn Colledge and Tony Moll were all rookies at the guard spots.

"As a whole this group is one of the better pass protection units in the league, one of the better ones as a group that I've been a part of," McCarthy said. "I think that kind of gets swept under the rug because of the criticism ... with some of the things that happened, particularly with the run game, early in the season."

McCarthy said as the season unfolded last year, Spitz was the most consistent of the guards, and he would be a starter if there were a game to play right now. Second-year pro Allen Barbre, a fourth-round draft choice last season, is a candidate McCarthy said the coaches are excited to see compete for a job.

Colledge and fourth-year man Junius Coston also have another year of experience under their belts now, too, and McCarthy said improvement on the interior of the offensive line is a must for the ground attack.

"We feel very confident that we can throw the ball to win against anybody," McCarthy said. "I think we showed signs of that last year. But we need to improve inside in the run game."

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