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Have at It: Rodgers and sacks

10/7/2009



Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert

I came down fairly hard on Green Bay’s offensive line Monday night after quarterback Aaron Rodgers was sacked eight times against Minnesota, fully aware that line play usually is only part of the problem in poor pass protection. Tight ends can miss their blocks. Running backs might whiff on a chip. The blocking scheme might not account for the number of players rushing the passer.

There is also the issue of how long a quarterback holds the ball, and I admit there were times when Rodgers’ release seemed delayed. If anything, I attributed his hesitation to the lasting impact of season-long pressure on his internal time clock.

So I was a bit surprised Tuesday when coach Mike McCarthy openly discussed Rodgers' role in those sacks, offering a rare glimpse into his expectations for read progressions. Was McCarthy merely protecting an overmatched offensive line? Or is Rodgers more to blame than we originally thought?

That’s the question I’d like you to consider this week. Do you think Rodgers deserves a significant share of the blame for 20 sacks over four games? Or is this mostly a personnel/scheme issue on the offensive line?

For reference, here’s what McCarthy said:

“Just in this particular contest [Monday] night in Minnesota, Aaron Rodgers had a ton of positive production. I think that was obvious to anybody who saw the game. He had some plays that he's gonna wish he had back. We didn't call a lot of plays where we were holding the ball. That was part of the design. When you play up there in that noise, they're playing a little bit downhill on you when they know it's a pass. I think that's evident to everybody. Holding the ball sometimes is not what we want to do.”

McCarthy went on to explain his expectations for quick decision-making:

“When you can design plays, whether it's a three-step drop or a five-step drop, really the quarterback's decision-making is clear in our offense. He only has three reads in the whole offense. He has what we refer to as a pure progression read, where you create a triangle with the pass concept, and I tell him exactly who one, two and three are. You either throw it to one, two or three. The second read is the progression or an option. You throw it to one, two or three, or there's an option built in based on the coverage. And the third read is what we refer to as a PSL, pre-snap look, that tells you to work one side or the other. So when you stay in tune with that, the time clock fits, and it's tied to the protection. ... But you have to trust the read, trust the read, and that didn't happen all the time.”

Rodgers’ first four games are a bit of an enigma in that sense. He has the fifth-best passer rating in football, but sacks are not a part of that formula. Below, you’ll see how rare his sack total is relative to the 10-highest rated quarterbacks in the NFL.

So let us know where you stand on this question, and, as always, I’ll compile a representative sample and provide my own (revised) take Friday morning. Have at It.