It didn't look like much. Matt Flynn dropped back and fired a pass into the flat, where a young tight end rumbled past the sticks for a first down. It would be the only pass of the series, but it was just the first of what will hopefully be many catches for rookie tight end Richard Rodgers. Seeing Rodgers go in Day 2 was a bit of a shock to many analysts, who had consistently labeled the California product as a late-round prospect. The former Golden Bear has performed admirably at both OTAs and training camp, though. To find out a bit more about the second Rodgers from Berkeley, I turned to Vlad Belo at sister site California Golden Blogs, which covers Cal athletics.
APC: Is he as slow as his 40 time suggests? He doesn't appear to have the blocking ability to make his paycheck solely as a mauler, so it would be a concern if he couldn't get separation versus linebackers at the pro level.
The 40 time I saw on Rodgers was 4.87 and, I have to admit, I was surprised it wasn't a little faster. To my eye, Rodgers has some elusiveness. He seemed to have a knack for getting open. And when he got the ball, he was a decent YAC guy. But that was college. Can he get separation against NFL linebackers? I think he can get separation for purposes of getting open -- and because your quarterback is Aaron Rodgers, the best in the business at throwing a guy open, you don't need much separation to get open. But if you're asking me if he's Jermichael Finley at getting away from guys after he catches the ball, I'd have to say no at this point.
APC: Can he make plays in the red zone?
Yes, I believe he can. My assessment, however, is based on the dreaded "P" word -- potential. Because Cal's ineptitude in red zone offense the last couple of years doesn't give us an actual body of work to go on in order to back up my assessment. But Rodgers is big enough and athletic enough that I think Green Bay may be able to utilize his red zone capabilities better than we did. And again -- you have Aaron Rodgers. If anyone is going to bring out Richard Rodgers' potential in the red zone, it's Aaron.
APC: Did he have any issues with drops in college? What is his catch radius like?
Drops? No, I really don't remember him having that as an issue. As for his catch radius, I think that it's pretty good. Though Rodgers had a pretty accurate quarterback last year at Cal, that wasn't always the case in his career. He had his share of instances where he had to catch the ball high or away from his body with arms outstretched. He was able to haul them in. Richard has good hands.
APC: Rodgers spent time in the ‘Bear Raid' offense, in which he was essentially forced to play wide receiver. Do you believe that playing two positions will negatively impact Rodgers' development, or will it render him more versatile?
The "Bear Raid" factor is why I thought Richard wouldn't go as high in the draft as he did. In my estimation, his blocking ability wasn't fully developed and he didn't have enough of a body of work in the wide receiver position to showcase his talents, especially when you consider that Cal's "Bear Raid" was somewhat anemic in the latter part of the 2013 season. That said, I'd have to lean toward saying his experience with the Bear Raid and the Jeff Tedford (now the OC with Tampa Bay) offense before that will make him more versatile. Tedford's offense, though incorporating spread concepts during Richard's time with it, was pro-style in its foundation. So Richard has that experience to work with -- in 2012, he was a receiving tight end who also had the blocking responsibilities you would expect from a tight end in an NFL style offense.
APC: Based on your understanding of Rodgers, who is his best pro comparison?
The guy that comes to mind is Dennis Pitta of the Baltimore Ravens. Pitta's not known particularly for his blocking ability, and neither is Richard, though both are probably better than they're given credit for. Neither is really known for getting separation, but both have a knack for getting open. And both have good hands and an ability to make a tough catch in traffic. And both Pitta and Richard have some elusiveness after the catch.
APC: Any favorite plays or anecdotes featuring Rodgers?
My favorite Richard Rodgers play is at 3:26 of this video. It came in his junior year against UCLA. Rodgers caught the ball while blanketed by a defender and then kind of shook off the guy in a "get off me" sort of way before rumbling for 20 more yards after the catch.
I don't have any anecdotes about Richard. But I do have a favorite one about his dad (Richard Rodgers Sr.) who is the special teams coach of the Carolina Panthers and also a Cal alumnus. The senior Rodgers handled the ball twice during The Play -- the crazy 5-lateral play in which Cal defeated Stanford in 1982.
There you go, folks. Thanks once again to Vlad and CGB.