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Aaron Rodgers' Consistent Impact On the Packers' Running Game

The Packers' quarterback has been a key contributor to the team's rushing game over the past several years, and we examine

Tom Lynn

The Green Bay Packers are lucky to have one of the more athletic and mobile quarterbacks in the National Football League. Aaron Rodgers has been a threat to run the ball as well as pass it over the past few years, and despite not being thought of as a dual-threat quarterback, he has consistently had success escaping the pocket and scrambling for solid yardage in his career as a starter.

Rodgers' ability to throw on the run also helps his running ability, as defensive players must respect his arm while he is on the move but still behind the line of scrimmage. Here are Rodgers' raw rushing numbers over his five years as the starting QB for the Packers.

Year Games Attempts Yards Y/A TDs
2008 16 56 207 3.7 4
2009 16 58 316 5.4 5
2010 15 64 356 5.6 4
2011 15 60 257 4.3 3
2012 16 54 259 4.8 2

These statistics show remarkable consistency on Rodgers' part in escaping the pocket and making things happen with his legs. In each season as a starter, he has also had at least one run of 21 yards or more, so he is not necessarily just limited to picking up small amounts of yardage at a time; he is also capable of breaking the occasional big play with his legs. Now let's take a look at how much of the team's rushing load Rodgers has been responsible for.

Year Attempts % of Team Yards % of Team TDs % of Team
2008 56 12.8% 207 11.5% 4 36.4%
2009 58 13.2% 316 16.8% 5 25.0%
2010 64 16.7% 356 24.3% 4 36.4%
2011 60 16.2% 257 17.4% 3 25.0%
2012 54 12.5% 259 15.2% 2 22.2%

Note that these percentages do not take into account the two games Rodgers did not start - namely the New England game in 2010 and the Week 17 Detroit game in 2011.

What does this tell us? Well, one thing I interpret from Rodgers' raw numbers is that he is running on a consistent number of plays, and that this is almost certainly due to scrambling rather than called running plays. Obviously, the Packers are not going to put Rodgers at risk by using the read option or other deliberate running plays, so this is no surprise.

The fact that his total number of carries stays consistent while his percentage of the team's total carries has varied is just another data point that indicates that Rodgers' runs are unplanned and have nothing to do directly with the Packers' offensive game plans. When the team got away from the run more in the 2010 and 2011 season, those scrambles took up a greater proportion of the team's running plays, and when they tried to re-establish the run more in 2012, Rodgers' carries stayed consistent but accounted for less of the team's overall running game.

One thing is certain: Rodgers' ability to scramble helps both the passing game's effectiveness and makes the Packers' rushing attack look more effective than it would otherwise. Without Rodgers' added rushing yards, Green Bay would have been a bottom-5 rushing offense (based on yardage) four of the past five years, and would have finished dead last twice. Admittedly, that is an oversimplification of the various factors in play, but it does show how little the team has relied on the ground game as a primary means of gaining yardage.

For 2013, I would not expect Rodgers' rushing numbers to change drastically from his established trends. He will likely end the season with around 60 carries, between 250-300 yards, and a handful of touchdowns. Packer fans should hope that his raw numbers stay the same while his percentage of the team's total rushing numbers drops precipitously.

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