Time is not on the side of Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers’ passing attack.
Forced to adapt quickly without Jordy Nelson, the Packers have two preseason games to adjust to life without the Pro Bowl receiver. However, there’s a good chance Rodgers plays little — or maybe not at all — in Saturday’s preseason game against Philadelphia because injuries have sidelined three-fifths of the starting offensive line this week. The final preseason game, next Thursday against New Orleans, typically is about the end-of-the-roster guys trying to fight their way onto the final 53. In between, there’s just one practice, and that will be tailored to the young guys, as well.
So Rodgers doesn’t have much time to build trust with the likes of Davante Adams, Ty Montgomery and Jeff Janis.
“(Time) is running out and that’s why these reps in practice are so important,” Rodgers said after Wednesday’s practice. “We’ve seen a lot of from those guys, but we just need to see consistency whether I’m in there or Scott (Tolzien is) in there or Brett (Hundley) or Matt (Blanchard). We need to see those guys making plays, whether they’re going against the first, second or third corner or the seventh, eighth and ninth corner. We expect them to make plays with the football, run their routes properly.”
For Rodgers, it goes far beyond the receiver beating the cornerback and catching the ball. Rodgers doesn’t tolerate mental mistakes. That attention to detail by Rodgers, Nelson, Randall Cobb and receivers from recent Packers history is a big reason why Rodgers is the NFL’s career leader in interception percentage.
Adams played almost 900 snaps between regular season and playoffs as a rookie last season, so he’s further down that road than Janis and Montgomery. If the former Division II star and the rookie can’t consistently be in the right place at the right time ...
“Then don’t expect (the ball),” quarterbacks/receivers coach Alex Van Pelt said.
To that end, Rodgers is putting his young receivers to the test.
“I’ll give you an example,” Van Pelt said. “The first snap of (Tuesday’s) practice was a route that probably nine times out of 10 he would’ve thrown to Randall. He was wide open on a certain route. And he went right to Davante, just to see. And I made mention of that in the receiver room. I said, ‘Here’s what he’s doing. You understand now? He’s testing you that you’re going to be there when you’re supposed to.’”
The trust will factor in the coaches’ decisions, too. There’s no doubt Montgomery and Janis will make the roster. But there are no guarantees about playing time for either of them.
“They’ve got to earn that. They have to earn that trust,” offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett said. “And the only way you do that is by your actions. It’s not something you can talk about, as far as, ‘I’m going to do this, I’m going to do that.’ you have to show us. You have to show us on a daily basis.”
Throughout training camp, Rodgers has repeated a line from coach Mike McCarthy. The smartest players are the best players and are the ones who enjoy the longest careers. The smartest players tend to be the most consistent players, as well. He pointed to Janis as making great plays one day and too many mistakes the next.
It’s consistency that Rodgers craves as he tries to figure out who else factors in the passing game other than Cobb.
“The mental part, like I keep saying, is the most important thing,” Rodgers said. “If you want to stick around this league, mentally you have to be really sharp. What you do from the time the day is over here at the facility until you get back here in the morning is vital to you sticking around and having a job. I think when it really clicks in for guys, then you see them make the jump because when you know what you’re doing then you can play faster. We need those guys to play a little faster. That will give them confidence and the quarterback confidence in throwing them the ball.”
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 www.twitter.com/PackerReport.