Aaron Rodgers In Focus
Over the course of this offseason I have had to duck for cover to avoid the wrath of irate Patriots fans after I suggested that Tom Brady should be scrubbed from the quarterback Mount Rushmore. I think the top three quarterbacks in the league right now are clearly Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees, with a gap to the next group of passers.
I’d actually go a little further than that and suggest that Rodgers and Manning stand where Brady and Manning once did – atop the quarterback mountain as the finest the game has to offer.
Rodgers displayed the abilities that make him as good as the NFL has to offer in a little under a half of play against the Raiders.
Playing quarterback in the NFL is probably the hardest thing to do in sports. The sheer volume of information you need to be able to process and react to in mere seconds is beyond compare, and there are so many different variables that one of the keys to playing the position is the ability to make instant correct decisions.
Rodgers and Manning are the best around at that. While some passers can prove viable in the NFL because they are able to execute a game plan and succeed when things go to plan, Rodgers excels when things break down and he is forced to react.
My favorite play from this game traveled just 8 yards in the air downfield and Rodgers’ portion of it lasted around two and a half seconds, but during that time his recognition and reaction to what developed was incredible to watch.
He took the snap from the shotgun and worked his eyes to his right, where he recognized that DLE Lamarr Woodley was peeling off to cover James Starks coming out of the backfield. Starks was running a wheel route up the right sideline, and this is a beneficial matchup for the Packers’ offense anyway, but Rodgers instantly recognized that he could put Woodley in a no-win situation, make the throw easier, and maximize the yardage on the play all at the same time with a move towards the lineman.
Rodgers took just a few steps in his direction, threatening to scramble with no intention of doing so, but Woodley had to respect the threat of a guy as athletic as Rodgers, so froze, leaving Starks to continue his route down the sideline. Once he had put Woodley in a catch-22 situation, he simply flipped the ball over his head to hit his running back in stride down the sideline for a big gain on 3rd-and-5.
The thought process itself isn’t complicated, and when you watch it take place and think about it it all makes sense, but what makes it amazing is how quickly all of this was processed inside Rodgers’ head, almost as if it was automatic. Muscle memory that required not so much thought as just leaning on instincts.
Rodgers will make tougher throws, bigger plays and provide far more highlight-reel fodder than this over the course of the season, but this play is a glimpse into why he is the best quarterback in the NFL, or at least as good as it gets.
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