GREEN BAY – While Aaron Rodgers still believes that the Green Bay Packers’ running game is valuable based solely on the quantity of runs, the quarterback is in full agreement with coach Mike McCarthy on this undeniable fact: The team needs better quality out of the running game as well.
Halfback Alex Green, who has assumed the starting role for an injured Cedric Benson in the wake of Benson’s Oct. 7 foot injury, has topped 20 attempts in each of the Packers’ three consecutive victories. But he’s managed only 154 yards on those 64 carries (2.4-yards per attempt), and just as McCarthy acknowledged that the Packers need more than that out of Green, Rodgers said the same thing Tuesday on his weekly radio show on 540 ESPN and ESPNWisconsin.com.
While Rodgers believes there is value in the number of attempts because they force opposing defensive linemen to respect the run and keep them from simply teeing off and coming after him, Rodgers said the Jacksonville Jaguars played a lot of snaps with only six men in the box, daring the Packers to beat them on running plays. Green wound up carrying 22 times for 54 yards, and the Packers’ passing game wasn’t on point, either.
“Teams like Jacksonville are coming and expecting their four-man rush to get to the passer, but also their six- and seven-man boxes to stop the run. And they’ve been doing a good job of that,” Rodgers explained. “So when they do that, they can free up guys in the secondary to play coverages and play their two-high coverages and it makes it a lot more difficult to kind of hit some of those big (pass) plays.
“Obviously we have to run the ball better. If we can do that, we’re going to have the opportunity to make some of those play-action gains, make some of those gains in the big plays over the top --- and then you’re going to see the runs in the fourth quarter pick up. I think that’s maybe the one area we haven’t been effective. We haven’t been able to close out games running the football and so that keeps our attempts down. We haven’t been ahead by maybe two or three scores and kept those drives alive at times to give us even more attempts. So we have to do a better job at the quality part that goes along with the quantity of runs that get.”
Rodgers said he wasn’t surprised by numbers compiled by Packer Report’s Bill Huber that showed that the Packers have run the ball less this season than ever before in Rodgers’ time as a starter. Per Huber, the Packers have run the ball 37.4 percent of the time (195 running plays against 327 passes/sacks) through the first eight games this season, compared to 40.0 percent running plays in 2011, 42.1 percent in 2010, 42.0 percent in 2009 and 43.2 percent in 2008.
“I think when you get to eight games, whether you have an identity or not on offense, one is kind of made for you,” Rodgers said. “As we look at some of the midway statistics, I think I’m probably on pace to have the most attempts with the most completions in my career.
“When I did look at those in the last couple of days, I did come to the conclusion – without looking at the stats that we probably passed it more than we have in my five years as a starter. At times it doesn’t feel like that because of runs that we’ve had. But I think, as I’ve said at my locker on Wednesdays, quantity is important; we want to have a certain amount of runs each game to keep them honest. But I have to say that the quality of them has not been anywhere (near) where we’d like them.
“We chart explosive runs and passes and passes are 16-plus (yards) that they list as explosive and runs are 12-plus – and there haven’t been a lot of 12-plusers (runs) this year. I think that has directly affected the amount of 16-pluser in the passing game. We’ve probably had less of that than in the past as well. Our yards per attempt passing the ball are obviously down from last season and I think a lot of that is due to the types of coverages we’re seeing.”
Indeed, through eight games, Rodgers has completed 205 of 297 passes (69.0 percent) for 2,165 yards (7.3 yards per attempt) with 21 touchdowns, four interceptions and 28 sacks for a passer rating of 107.9. That puts him on pace to complete 410 of 594 passes for 4,330 yards with 42 touchdowns and eight interceptions with 56 sacks.
Rodgers’ numbers from his first four seasons as a starter:
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