As a rookie, tight end Richard Rodgers was an immediate contributor in the Green Bay Packers’ high-octane passing game.
It was in the run game where Rodgers fell short. His struggles in that area shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone. It was among the critiques his position coach at Cal mentioned after the Packers selected him in the third round.
Rodgers’ difficulties in the run game came to the forefront late in regulation of the playoff loss at Seattle. While there’s plenty of blame to go around for the Packers’ inability to seal the deal in the final moments, Rodgers certainly didn’t help matters with his inability to get so much as a stalemate on his man as they attempted to run out the clock.
The NFL’s media-only stats site has something called “net yards over average,” which reflects the difference between when a player was on the field vs. when he was off the field. Green Bay averaged 2.58 yards less per carry with Rodgers in the lineup than when he was on the sideline during the two playoff games. That was the second-biggest differential among the tight ends.
The difference wasn’t quite as stark in the regular season but it again showed that Rodgers’ best role in the run game was as a spectator. The Packers averaged 0.71 yards less per carry with Rodgers in the game than when he was on the sideline. On the other hand, Green Bay averaged 0.26 yards more per carry with veteran tight end Andrew Quarless involved in the action than when he was on the bench.
Thus, the offseason focus for Rodgers and position coach Jerry Fontenot has been obvious. Of the 10 tight ends drafted, Rodgers ranked fourth in receptions, third in yards and tied for first in touchdowns. He was as-advertised in that regard — excellent hands and route-running skills. Unfortunately, he was as-advertised as a blocker, as well. It’s an area where he’s going to have to get much, much better if he’s ever going be take over as the No. 1 tight end.
“Improvement in the areas that we talked about at the end of the season, and that was we want to improve our foot speed in our run blocking to gain some leverage, which he’s been working diligently at this offseason,” Fontenot said last week. “I think his route-running, he’s pretty keen as far as understanding coverages, understanding what his body gives him. He’s very efficient with his movements. In that area, I haven’t really changed anything or tried to. Just try to continue to give him opportunities to enhance the skills that he has that really make him a good player, and that is his route-running ability and his hands. He’s a smart guy, he learns very quickly. The more exposure that I can give him, the better he’s going to be.”
Rookie tight end production
The chart shows the impact made by the first seven tight ends selected in 2014. The first column shows net yards over average in the run game, as explained in the story. The second column shows the number of receptions.
* Played in only seven games due to multiple injuries.
Bill Huber is publisher of 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.