One: The Big Deal
For a stretch of several years, the mere presence of Brett Favre made the Packers a Super Bowl contender every season.
Now, the Packers enjoy that luxury with Aaron Rodgers.
It's almost unfair at times. Take, for instance, a no-huddle period on Thursday night. It's third-and-11. There's nobody open, the 2.5-second clock has gone off and Rodgers is running out of time. He backpedals to buy a split-second, then pump-fakes to buy another split-second. Then — zing! The pump allowed Greg Jennings to get away from Davon House and Rodgers fires a rope off his back foot. Just like that, it's a 50-some-yard touchdown.
Or, before that, there was a blitz period. For longtime readers, this is nothing new: Rodgers destroys the blitz. Last season, not only was his 131.4 rating against the blitz 20.5 points higher than Tom Brady's second-ranked number but it was the second-best in NFL history behind Peyton Manning's 136.8 for the Colts in 2004, according to STATS.
With surgical precision, Rodgers hit Donald Driver, who found a hole in the middle of the defense about 15 yards downfield, then connected with Jennings for a touchdown on a back-shoulder throw.
This, more than anything, explains Rodgers' greatness: After the touchdown to Jennings — which looked exquisitely executed — the two talked about the play for about 5 seconds. Apparently perfect isn't perfect enough.
"I think Aaron looks very sharp," coach Mike McCarthy said after practice. "He's in command. We're doing a lot more with him, if you can believe that. He's on top of his game."
What can Rodgers do for an encore? The league's reigning MVP set a single-season record with a passer rating of 122.5. His career passer rating of 104.1 is merely 7.2 points better than No. 2 Tony Romo.
"Don't get hurt, don't do anything really stupid, don't make the same mistake twice," Rodgers said Thursday afternoon. "For me, it's about a feel that I want to have come Week 1. Right now, you're trying to figure out some of the young guys who are getting more playing time, some of the old guys who are getting a little more opportunities, get on the same page with those guys and get a feel for how Jordy and Greg and those guys are running their routes and how the tight ends are reacting. It's fun. I'll be ready once the season starts."
Two: Rookie of the Day
The Packers used a second-round pick on Jerel Worthy. They're hoping they get a three-down player but, at the least, they hope he can add some punch to a defensive line that recorded just six quarterback sacks last season.
So, this might be cause for some worry: In five days of one-on-one pass-rushing drills, Worthy is just 1-8. In his only rep on Thursday, he got nowhere against undrafted rookie guard Greg Van Rote, who was signed the day before camp. With that said, every player has his own agenda in the one-on-ones, whether it's working on footwork or a particular move. A week into camp, Worthy probably has a lot on his mind as he tries to master the techniques preached by position coach Mike Trgovac.
The talkative Worthy hasn't made much noise with his play, though Thursday was one of his best days. In a run-game drill, Worthy was lightning in slipping through a double team. In 11-on-11, he made a nice play against the run — then promptly jumped offside. On one of the final plays of the night, Worthy had a sack of Aaron Rodgers in a red-zone drill when he got past T.J. Lang.
Three: Position of the Day
Each day, we take a look at the competition at one position.
Specialists: Mason Crosby hasn't missed a field goal in a live drill. Tim Masthay is picking up where he left off last year as one of the league's best young punters. Snapper Brett Goode is excellent.
"Both guys are very diligent in their work habits," coordinator Shawn Slocum said. "They have continued to improve the whole time I've been around them. Mason's a little bit further long in his career right now but I think what they're doing now is a reflection of their work habits and the way they train."
Randall Cobb will return kicks, Slocum said, but Diondre Borel has shown some real flash there and pretty clearly has the No. 6 receiver slot within his grasp.
McCarthy, on whether Family Night is just another practice when it comes to evaluating players: "I view Family Night clearly as your first opportunity to get into the game environment. Myself in particular, the things I watch on Family Night are really the operation, the mechanics of substitution and communication to the huddle, communication on the boundary. In all seriousness, the pregame is important. You've got people on your team that have never gone through pregame. And you have to warm up properly and know where to go, so it gives you a chance to rehearse all of that. Family Night from a player's perspective is the first opportunity to be in live action. And as I stand here tonight, I know tomorrow night when I'm talking, there will be a few individuals who will do things in the scrimmage that you have not seen. It's an opportunity for particularly young players to step up and show what they can."
Rodgers, on last season and looking ahead to this season: "Be consistent and win a Super Bowl. It's fun to be able to play the way you want to play and be consistent throughout a season, but it's all about how you finish a season in the end. I'll probably look at (last) year 10, 15 years down the road and be proud of the things I was able to accomplish and that we were as a team – doing things that haven't been done here in a long time. But the 2010 season is my favorite until we get back to the Super Bowl and win another one."
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers, on tackling: "I just think that every year in this league, you go back and evaluate what you did well and what you didn't do well. We've done it here since I've been here, and we've done it every place I've been. Normally, I think the things that you put the greatest emphasis on, you end up improving the most on. And that's our goal. We know a couple of things that we've got to get much better in is eliminating the big plays, and then tackling. And tackling contributed to that somewhat last year."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.