Today, we at Acme Packing Company begin our examination of the Green Bay Packers’ 2016 roster. Each day over the next two weeks, we will break down a different position on the roster with examinations of the players on the 53-man roster in 2016, the contributions of new additions and players who signed new contracts, and players who have contracts expiring this offseason.
Today, we begin our breakdown of the 2016 Green Bay Packers roster in the same place that we begin every year: with the quarterbacks. Green Bay carried just two signal-callers on the 53-man roster for most of the season, before adding a third late in the year as additional depth and insurance against injury. However, only one player had any significant impact on the season for the Packers.
And boy, what an impact he had.
After showing signs of similar issues to those he had in the 2015 season, Aaron Rodgers steadily improved over the first half of the season before dominating the NFL down the stretch and getting his name into the short list of MVP candidates. Here’s our look at the quarterbacks in 2016.
Starter: Aaron Rodgers
Regular season stats
Passing: 401/610 (65.7%), 4428 yards (7.3 Y/A), 40 TDs, 7 INTs, 104.2 passer rating
Rushing: 67 carries, 369 yards (5.5 Y/C), 4 TDs
Playoffs: 80/128 (62.5%), 1004 yards (7.8 Y/A), 9 TDs, 2 INTs, 103.8 passer rating; 8 carries, 62 yards (7.8 Y/C)
Rodgers’ season is a fascinating one to examine. In the Packers’ first nine games, Rodgers recorded just one game in which he threw for more than 7.5 yards per attempt - when he completed 15 of 24 passes for 204 yards and 4 scores against the Lions in week 3. In that first nine-game span, he threw all seven of his regular-season interceptions as well, and had a passer rating of just 93.9.
There were signs that he was starting to warm up toward the end of that stretch, however. Despite still-pedestrian Y/A numbers, he had great back-to-back performances against the Bears and Falcons in weeks 7 and 8, completing 71% of his passes for 572 yards and 7 scores with no picks.
Then, against Washington in week 11, Rodgers the superstar re-emerged.
From week 11 through the end of the regular season, Rodgers was stellar, completing 70% of his passes, averaging a much more Rodgers-like 8.4 Y/A, and putting up 18 scores against no picks. He only fell below 7.5 Y/A in one game after that point and he also took fewer than two sacks per game over that stretch - an extra bonus - despite issues with his right hamstring and left calf.
And while the numbers are great, no discussion of Rodgers’ 2016 will be complete without mentioning his “run the table” comment prior to the Packers’ six-game winning streak to close the season. By shifting the focus and the pressure from his teammates onto himself, Rodgers shut up - or should have shut up - anyone who still criticized him as a leader. His improved play down the stretch is the single biggest reason for the Packers’ NFC North title and the team’s two playoff victories. And finally, although a sick Rodgers did not play very well for much of the NFC Championship Game, there’s no question that he was out there giving the team everything he had until the dying moments of the fourth quarter.
Backup: Brett Hundley
Passing stats: 2/10 (20%), 17 yards (1/7 Y/A), 1 INT
Thanks to Rodgers’ good health in 2016, Hundley barely played all season long, and when he did it was when the game was well out of hand. His two completions game against Tennessee in week 10 and Washington in week 11, both losses by 18 points or more. With a training camp largely lost to an injury, we will need to wait until August to get feel for his development in his third year.
Others: Joe Callahan
Callahan was on the 53-man roster for just a handful of games this season, and did not suit up for any of them.
Overall Grade: A-minus
This is largely an individual grade, and Rodgers’ early-season struggles are what dragged this grade down a notch. The continuation of similar struggles from the 2015 season were too much to ignore, despite his return to form down the stretch. Still, although he likely will not earn the NFL’s MVP award, this will go down as one of Rodgers’ most memorable seasons. It should give Packers fans plenty of comfort in knowing that the bulk of the issues that plagued Rodgers and the offense for the equivalent of a full season should be behind them.