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Discussing Rodgers’ regression & Packers’ backfield workload with Football Outsiders

In part 2 of our Q&A, we shift our focus to the offense, where we discuss whether Rodgers is starting to slip a bit and how to split up carries between the Packers’ backs.

Green Bay Packers v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Acme Packing Company published part one of a Q&A with Football Outsiders analyst Derrik Klassen, the author of the NFC North team previews for the 2022 Football Outsiders Almanac. In that discussion, we looked at the potential improvements on defense and special teams for the Green Bay Packers.

For the second half of our discussion, we shifted gears and focused on the offense instead. The team has reloaded the wide receiver room after parting ways with Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, but our focus for the most part is on other parts of this unit. Aaron Rodgers is of course one area of discussion, as he exhibited a few somewhat concerning numbers despite his MVP season, and we also check in on expectations for the Packers’ lone free agent receiver and the running back tandem.

Be sure to take a look at the 2022 Football Outsiders Almanac and enjoy our discussions with Derrik about the Packers’ offense.

APC: Are Rodgers’ 2021 issues under pressure and outside the pocket a harbinger of things to come? Is this age starting to catch up with him, or is this just noise?

Klassen: It’s probably just noise. While Rodgers did have the highest split between pressure and non-pressured DVOA, that’s more because his non-pressured numbers were fantastic. He was almost 40% DVOA better than average on non-pressured dropbacks, but only about 20% below the average for pressured dropbacks. Granted, it was Rodgers’ worst year under pressure in the LaFleur era, but he’s earned more than enough benefit of doubt to not panic yet.

The same generally goes for his work outside the pocket. Rodgers was below average, but not alarmingly so, and he still has all the athleticism, arm strength, and wit necessary to survive outside the pocket. He should be just fine there.

APC: Is there anything that you feel comfortable predicting about Sammy Watkins’ contributions to the Packers in 2022? (Note: this question was posed prior to the Packers placing Watkins on the NFI list to start training camp.)

Klassen: He is going to block and be a vertical presence. At least that’s what I would hope the plan is. Watkins was reduced to more of an underneath player in Kansas City, but he still has enough juice to be the team’s field-stretcher until Christian Watson figures things out.

APC: AJ Dillon led the NFL in rushing success rate last season but rarely registered any explosive runs, while Aaron Jones was more explosive but less consistent. What do you think the ideal breakdown of touches would be for these two backs this season?

Klassen: Boring answer, but I think it’s perfect as is, at least until one of the two fills each other’s weakness. Save for the pair in Cleveland, the Packers have the best 1-2 punch in the NFL and giving them equal opportunity as best as possible should be the move. I’d like to see Dillon take more of the red zone carries perhaps, but I don’t blame Green Bay for keeping Jones in the red zone as a quick receiving threat.

Thanks again to Derrik for his analysis and responses. Check out the 2022 Football Outsiders Almanac here.