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Will Cowboys blitz Aaron Rodgers?

1/8/2015

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Dallas Cowboys aren't the blitzing kind, and few teams try to pressure Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Perhaps that could change in Sunday's NFC divisional playoff game at Lambeau Field.

It could be one way to put Rodgers' strained left calf to the test. Rodgers returned to practice Thursday, but his mobility remains a question.

"I wouldn't be surprised to see more [blitzes] this week knowing that with his calf," Packers right guard T.J. Lang said. "I wouldn't be surprised to see them generate some extra pressure to try to move him around a little bit. I don't know, we'll have to see."

It's a risky strategy, to be sure.

Typically, Rodgers shreds defenses that try to come after him. Since he became a starter in 2008, Rodgers has the NFL's highest Total QBR (76.2) when teams send five or more pass-rushers, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and the second-best passer rating (112.5), behind only Tom Brady (113.5). He has 91 career touchdown passes and only 18 interceptions against the blitz. That's the second-best ratio in the league behind only Brady (83 touchdowns, eight interceptions) in that stretch.

It explains why teams blitzed the Packers just 26.4 percent of the time this season. Only four teams faced fewer blitzes, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Rodgers was sacked just 28 times this season, the fewest in his career when he has played a full season.

"The way we've shown we can block a four-man rush, I don't know why you wouldn't try to bring a little bit more on him," Lang said. "But with him it's kind of pick your poison."

It would take a change in philosophy on the Cowboys’ part. They blitzed on just 23.7 percent of their opponents' dropbacks this season. Only seven teams pressured less. And in last Sunday's NFC wild-card victory over the Detroit Lions, they came after Matthew Stafford with five or more rushers on just 10.9 percent of his dropbacks.

But a gimpy Rodgers could be enough to convince Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli to take chances.

If so, the Packers will be ready.

"You know we have a plan in place, a good plan, and we have the ability to adjust at any time if we need to," Packers quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt said Thursday. "I think a lot of that will be dictated by how he feels on Sunday."

And even if Rodgers isn't overly mobile, he's already shown that he can be effective just staying in the pocket. When he returned after his injury against the Lions in the regular-season finale, he completed 11 of 13 passes and threw one touchdown and never scrambled or rolled out once.

"I'd say the second half of the Detroit game was pretty darn impressive," Van Pelt said. "It really was. But you know he's a veteran guy, he's obviously been doing this for a long time, and he's very in tune with his body. He'll adjust accordingly and we'll adjust on game day, if we need to at all."