Skip to main content
Rodgers: Open Receivers Means Throwing Sooner

Rodgers: Open Receivers Means Throwing Sooner

Publish date:

Rodgers Sees Open Receivers; Data Tells Different Story

Zebra Technologies, with its RFID technology, helps tell the story of Aaron Rodgers' red-hot start to the season.
Author:

GREEN BAY, Wis. – With Aaron Rodgers on a roll, the Green Bay Packers are rolling into New Orleans for a Week 3 showdown against the New Orleans Saints.

In the first two games, Rodgers threw for 604 yards and six touchdowns with passer ratings of 127.5 vs. Minnesota in Week 1 and 107.6 vs. Detroit in Week 2. Other than last year’s midseason games against Oakland and Kansas City, when Rodgers threw for 734 yards and eight touchdowns with passer ratings of 158.3 and 129.0, you’d have to go back to the final two games of Rodgers’ run-the-table dominance in 2016 to find back-to-back games in which he threw for 500-plus yards and fashioned 100-plus passer ratings in back-to-back victories.

Rodgers, playing faster than he has in years, deflected the credit, though that was hardly the most interesting part of his response.

“We have guys open, so the ball’s able to be dealt a little bit quicker than in years past,” Rodgers said on Wednesday. “I don’t remember a time in the recent history where we’ve had multiple plays where we have guys that are wide, wide open. You know, the difference maybe between college and the NFL is, wide open in college is about 7 or 8 yards separation [but] wide open in the NFL is 2 or 3 yards. And we’ve had some college-style guys open the first couple weeks. A lot of that is due to the minor schematic changes we made in the offseason and implemented in training camp, and then the execution.”

Rodgers, with his remarkable recall of individuals plays from throughout his career, has a mind like a steal trap. Interestingly, though, the numbers from Zebra Technologies don’t back up Rodgers’ contention.

Zebra is in its seventh season as the official player tracking technology partner of the NFL. Two RFID chips, about the diameter of a nickel, are located on each player’s shoulder pads. On game days, data from those chips flows immediately into 22 lunchbox-sized receiver boxes located permanently in all 31 NFL stadiums. That data is translated to the Next Gen Stats site on NFL.com. It’s also available to coaches and scouts – and for this story.

According to Zebra, two of Green Bay’s three primary receivers are actually less open than last season. Davante Adams, who is Rodgers’ favorite target, was open by 3.0 yards in 2018 and 3.2 yards in 2019 but 2.7 yards to start this season. Allen Lazard was open by 2.9 yards in 2019 but only 2.2 yards in 2020. The exception is Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who was open by 3.3 yards in 2018, 2.6 yards during an injury-plagued 2019, and 3.5 yards in 2020.

RECOMMENDED ARTICLES

USATSI_17169932
Play

Packers at the Bye: Safeties

With 12 games down and a fight for the No. 1 seed and the playoffs on the horizon, here’s the key at safety for the Green Bay Packers.

USATSI_17144835
Play

With Love on COVID List, Packers Might Need Quarterback

Unless Aaron Rodgers' toe feels good, the Green Bay Packers have only Kurt Benkert healthy and available to start the practice week.

USATSI_16873713(1)
Play

Three Injured Packers Stars ‘Potentially’ Could Practice This Week

Getting back the team’s All-Pro cornerback, All-Pro left tackle and Pro Bowl outside linebacker, to state the obvious, would be a huge lift to the 9-3 Packers.

“Valdes-Scantling has created the most average separation in the first two games among Packers receivers and compared to his past seasons,” Zebra’s Christian Blatner said. “MVS has been especially effective on go routes, with four targets, three receptions and 125 yards. He only had two receptions on go routes in 2019.”

Rodgers has spoken several times about feeling more at home in Year 2 in coach Matt LaFleur’s offense. That comfort zone shows up in other data. According to Zebra, 89 percent of his throws have come within the tackle box compared to 84 percent from 2016 through 2019.

Also, 43 percent of his throws have come “in rhythm” in 2020. That’s defined as throwing between 2.5 seconds and 4.0 seconds. The previous four seasons, Rodgers’ in-rhythm rate was 36 percent, was the lowest mark in the league during that period.

It’s all added up an abundance of efficiency. Again, it’s only two games, but Rodgers has completed 67.6 percent of his passes. Compare that to the five seasons from 2015 through 2019. Of the 34 quarterbacks to throw at least 1,000 passes during that span, Rodgers ranked 22nd with a 62.9 percent completion rate. Last year, Rodgers’ average pass traveled 8.9 yards but his average completion traveled only 5.4 yards. This year, Rodgers’ average pass has traveled 9.6 yards and his average completion has traveled 6.9 yards. That’s 1.5 more air yards per completion.

“I think we’ve talked a lot about being in the second year of a program now and being able to take things to another level,” quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy said on Thursday. “The players have comfortability with the playbook and Aaron knowing where everybody is supposed to be at all times, I think all of that is what enables the quarterback to process things faster. I think it’s a sum of all those things. And then he’s the best in the business in terms at getting the ball out of his hands. Whenever he wants to, I don’t think anybody gets it out faster. I think it’s an accumulation of all that stuff. In the end, it’s Year 2 of him knowing where everybody is at at all times and what everyone is supposed to be doing. And then the guys he’s throwing the ball to, they’ve been around him enough now. They know their responsibilities a little bit better, as well.”

So, maybe, here’s what it is: Maybe Rodgers’ receivers aren’t getting more open. Rather, maybe he’s seeing those open receivers more frequently. Combined with improved accuracy that’s allowed to receivers to not just catch the ball but do something with it, it’s led to a much stronger passing game through the small sample size of two games against opponents with weak cornerback corps.

“I think when you put that all together and you’re getting guys open on time, the ball’s able to come out,” Rodgers said. “Obviously, I made a concerted effort to deal it. When I’m playing on time and in rhythm, the offense I think can be more efficient as long as we have guys open. But the two have been really correlated this year – the timing and the rhythm and guys being open when they need to be open.”

GREEN BAY, Wis. – With Aaron Rodgers on a roll, the Green Bay Packers are rolling into New Orleans for a Week 3 showdown against the New Orleans Saints.

In the first two games, Rodgers threw for 604 yards and six touchdowns with passer ratings of 127.5 vs. Minnesota in Week 1 and 107.6 vs. Detroit in Week 2. Other than last year’s midseason games against Oakland and Kansas City, when Rodgers threw for 734 yards and eight touchdowns with passer ratings of 158.3 and 129.0, you’d have to go back to the final two games of Rodgers’ run-the-table dominance in 2016 to find back-to-back games in which he threw for 500-plus yards and fashioned 100-plus passer ratings in back-to-back victories.

Member Exclusive

Get Exclusive Access to PackerCentral Content