Early on in the second quarter of Thursday's Packers-Bengals game, Aaron Rodgers lined up under center at the Packers' 40 yard line. He had two receivers split wide to the left side, with a tight end and receiver on the right. As he dropped back to pass, he looked over to James Jones, running up the right sideline. Seeing that Bengals' corner Terence Newman had his back turned, Rodgers threw to Jones and was intercepted by Newman, who returned the pick 30 yards.
Interceptions happen, but this one appeared especially ugly. I see only two possibilities on this throw that led to an interception: either Jones and Rodgers were mixed up on what route was to be run or Rodgers just miserably underthrew the pass. Where then does the blame lie for this turnover? We may not be able to determine that for sure without knowing the play that was called, but let's try to take a look at the play from each player's perspective.
Jones is running up the sideline after the snap. At the point that Rodgers releases the ball, the has a few yards on Newman, while both players still have their backs to the line of scrimmage. Jones turns his head to look for the ball just a few yards downfield, but it's thrown well behind him and he has no way of getting to it. He clearly expected the ball thrown in front of him down the sideline, but based on the ball's placement, there would be no way for him to reach it unless he had run a different route. However, even that might not have prevented this interception.
Looking at it from Rodgers' perspective, this throw doesn't make a whole lot of sense if Jones ran the wrong route. Let's say that Jones was supposed to run a 15-yard hitch route. The throw is too far behind Jones and the corner underneath is playing soft, expecting the safety's help deep, so his presence should have made Rodgers look to another receiver rather than trying to throw the ball behind Jones.
Really, the only conclusion I can make from this play is that Rodgers missed the throw, and missed it badly. It seems like he may have tried to fire a rocket to Jones above Newman but before the safety arrived to help. I would feel more comfortable if I could have come to the determination that it was a miscommunication between quarterback and receiver, but something about that just doesn't make sense.
I guess the positive here is that if Rodgers is going to miss a throw or two, it's best to do it in the preseason.