Rodgers' Feet Don't Fail Him


QB Aaron Rodgers

For Aaron Rodgers, the comparisons to Brett Favre are inevitable and ongoing. The reasons don't need to be rehashed here.

But in his first NFL start, Rodgers already separated himself somewhat from Favre, or at least from how the future Hall of Famer has played in the latter portion of his career.

Against Minnesota on Monday night, Rodgers didn't hesitate to tuck the ball and run when he needed to, and he did so effectively.

While his eight rushes for 35 yards, including a 1-yard quarterback sneak for a touchdown, weren't "game-changing" plays by any means, consider the following comparisons to Favre's last several years in Green Bay.

--Rodgers' 35 rushing yards in one game are more than Favre had in three of the last five full seasons. The other two years, Favre had 36 rushing yards (in 2004) and 62 (in 2005), totals Rodgers is likely to surpass in the next game or two.

--Rodgers' long run Monday night gained 21 yards. Favre had two runs of 20-plus yards over the last eight years.

--Rodgers' one rushing touchdown matches Favre's total from the last six years, with the lone rushing TD in that time coming against Arizona in 2006. Favre also rarely ran a quarterback sneak, and the Packers have called on Rodgers to do so liberally during the preseason and the season opener.

These statistics aren't meant to suggest that Rodgers already has more than adequately filled the Favre's shoes. That's an absurd and unfair notion.

But they do suggest that while Rodgers works toward gaining the savvy and experience his predecessor possessed running the offense, he's given defenses another element to be concerned with that has probably been dismissed in preparing to face the Packers in recent years.

"I think you saw another dimension that he really brings and that's his legs," defensive end Aaron Kampman said after Monday night's 24-19 victory. "I purposely haven't said anything about that. I knew it was coming. But people will have to account for that."

Lions head coach Rod Marinelli definitely plans to this week. Rodgers' ability to make plays with his feet - three of his scrambles picked up first downs Monday night - didn't go unnoticed by the Packers' Week 2 opponent.

"The guy can really run," Marinelli said in a conference call with Wisconsin reporters. "He's got a feel for it. He's a tough guy to rush, I think. His escapability, that worries you, and obviously you can see he's really smart. They're using him really well."

Head Coach Mike McCarthy has stated several times that it's important for Rodgers to be a scrambling quarterback, but not a running quarterback. For Rodgers, the difference is in what he's thinking in those first few steps out of the pocket, which is very reminiscent of Favre.

"I'd like to throw it first," Rodgers said. "Running is just a second option.

"I try and pride myself on being a guy who, once I get outside the pocket, I keep my eyes downfield because that's when the big plays happen. When you can stretch it over 3 seconds, 4, 5, 6 seconds, it's tough for the defenders to hold onto guys that long. But if everybody's covered, I'm going to see what I can get on my own, and as Coach reminds me all the time, I'm going to get down."

Rodgers described his game-long 21-yard run, which came during the two-minute drill at the end of the first half, as that type of play. He said the Vikings blitzed, and the offense didn't make the right line call to pick it up.

{sportsad300}So when Rodgers said his internal "time clock" went off, he felt the pressure and stepped up and out of the pocket to his right, looking to get the ball to Greg Jennings. Minnesota cornerback Antoine Winfield took a step back to stay with Jennings, so Rodgers pump-faked and took off up the sideline for a big gain and a first down.

Had the defender stepped forward to stop Rodgers from running, he was ready to hit Jennings. And during the course of any game, that's what might happen the next time that situation unfolds. So the receivers are aware of, and appreciate, the impact of Rodgers' scrambling ability.

"It opens it up a lot, because now defenses are going to have to react to that, knowing he can run the ball and he can scramble outside the pocket anytime," Jennings said. "So it's definitely going to give us opportunities to get open. Obviously he expands the pocket, so we like that."

So does the head coach, who praised Rodgers for "being smart" with the scrambling in the season opener. McCarthy, like any coach would, indicated he'd rather see the offensive plays break down less frequently, but there's nothing wrong with taking what's available, even if it is on the run.

"I think it's another dimension to our offense which can help us out," Rodgers said. "The line I think appreciates it.

"I was able to make some plays with my feet, and I feel that's something I want to do continually throughout the season."

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