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Packers Film Room: It’s time for Aaron Rodgers to let go, part 2

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There have been positive glimpses from Rodgers, but they need to come more consistently.

Buffalo Bills v Green Bay Packers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Last week I told you it was time for Aaron Rodgers to let go of the football. He hasn’t done so consistently this year and it’s clearly hurting the offense. While Mike McCarthy should shoulder some of the blame by trotting out the same offense Green Bay has had for years that relies far too much on isolation route concepts and uncreative formations, Aaron Rodgers has been holding on to the football too long and not seeing open receivers.

Not all is lost, however. There have been instances this season of Rodgers making on-time crisp throws to his receivers. And some of those throws have even been to a receiver that has a defender within 3 yards and a catch was made! What a wild concept.

The two games in which Rodgers has best shown the willingness to make on-time throws were the second half of week one against the Chicago Bears and in week 4 against the Buffalo Bills. It’s clear that the knee injury suffered in the Chicago game restricted him to the confines of the pocket, and without the ability to extend plays, Rodgers was forced to either throw the football or take a sack. Fortunately he chose the former, and Green Bay was able to make a historic comeback. Let’s start there and show some of the throws that Rodgers needs to continue to make.

Early in the fourth quarter, Rodgers takes a five step drop, holds the safety for a second, and delivers a beautiful three-quarter-arm ball to Davante Adams. The ball is out after a hitch step, and Adams hauls it in for a big gain.

There was no second guessing, and no moving around in - or out of - the pocket. While Adams had a step on his defender, he was by no means wide open. Adams has found himself open quite a bit this year, and even when he’s not ‘open’, he’s the guy who should be targeted when the pocket is collapsing and all of the other options are covered.

The on-time passing showed up in the third quarter as well; Rodgers found Geronimo Allison and Randall Cobb a few minutes apart on similar inside curl routes. Each pass came on a shorter drop, and the ball was out in under three seconds.

These types of throws aren’t what make Rodgers special, and they won’t necessarily always be available, but they keep the offense moving forward. The point here is to be willing to take what the defense is giving you and not waiting and waiting for a scramble play to develop.

Rodgers reverted to unnecessarily extending plays and missing open receivers in week two against the Vikings, but there was a one play I wanted to mention from that game. In the second quarter with the game tied 7-7, Rodgers hit Adams for a short touchdown.

What was encouraging to see was Rodgers saw an open man and had the confidence to get him the ball on time - even making the throw before Adams had his head around. That’s two players in sync, paired with the right playcall. It was known that this was to be a timing throw on a speed out, but it’s a throw that Rodgers needs to make with his other playmakers. It takes time to form connections with your receivers, but when the playcall and the coverage scheme someone open, the throw has to be made and it just hasn’t been so far this year.

Against Buffalo, Rodgers had three distinct plays that were cause for celebration, each with a variation on what was encouraging about them.

The first play came in the first quarter. The Packers ran a route combination they’ve used a lot lately; the switch, with the outside receiver, Adams, running a post route with an inside stem, and the next closest receiver - in this case Jimmy Graham - run a modified wheel route, and takes the place of Adams. The idea is to overload the coverage on the outside, and have the safety and corner focus on Adams while Graham sneaks in behind him.

The defense wasn’t fooled here - man coverage doesn’t allow for any defensive confusion on this kind of play, and the Bills’ linebacker was able to stay with Graham. The coverage was good and with a defender bearing down on him, Rodgers didn’t have time to look anywhere else than his first two reads (Adams and Graham) and Adams had a safety lurking over top. Rodgers didn’t hold on to the ball and instead threw it to his safest bet on the play. Regardless of the outcome, it was the best option at the time and at the very least gave your biggest target a chance to make a play. Best of all? No sack, no intentional grounding, no scrambling around causing your linemen to hold their rusher.

On a later play where Jimmy was the target, Rodgers had ample time to go through his progressions and even hitched twice before making his throw. Additionally, Graham had a man in his back pocket.

A play like this shows Rodgers’ willingness to stay in the pocket and place an accurate throw to a ‘covered’ receiver.

The last play from the Buffalo game that showed some progress was a timing throw to Davante Adams.

The Packers ran a staple slants play against cover 1. Adams, at the top of your screen, doesn’t get a ton of separation but it’s enough for a throw to be made. As soon as the man covering Lance Kendricks - who started inside and ran to the flats - crossed Adams’ face, Rodgers had already let the ball go.

The ball was released on the third drop step without a hitch, and Rodgers’ quick release got the pass to Adams before the linebacker covering the middle of the field could read and react to it. Adams made a good contested catch, but this isn’t a type of catch that is difficult for him to make. This should be the rule rather than the exception, and Rodgers should trust his receivers to make these types of catches.

It’s not all gloom and doom for our beloved quarterback. The mistakes in the passing offense can be fixed, and we’ve seen improvement from slow starts for the offense before, but the corrections need to happen quickly or this team will find itself in more trouble than its already been in.