NFC North: Andrew Quarless

MINNEAPOLIS – It might have been the longest 1-yard touchdown pass in Green Bay Packers' history, and for that reason the floater that Aaron Rodgers heaved across the field to rookie tight end Richard Rodgers on Sunday will serve as one of the most memorable scoring plays of the season.

Based on multiple looks at the replay -- and with a little geometry (see the Pythagorean theorem) to help in the calculation -- the ball traveled an estimated 39.4 yards through the air, according to unofficial calculations. The nearest Vikings' defender was at least 15 yards away.

Here's how it happened: In the second quarter of Sunday's 24-21 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, the Packers had a first-and-goal at the 1 after a 34-yard catch and run by Andrew Quarless. Coach Mike McCarthy then went with a three tight-end, two-back package that called for Aaron Rodgers to roll to his right. Almost everyone went with him, except Richard Rodgers. He waited for the entire Vikings' defense to follow the ball and then after a few seconds slipped out to the back left corner of the end zone.

By the time the rookie was waving his hands in the air about 3 yards from the back corner of the end zone, his quarterback was already at the numbers near the 10-yard line on the right side of the field.

"You usually don't have to throw the ball 20 or 30 yards for a 1-yard touchdown,” McCarthy said. "I'm sure you guys will measure that out and correct me. But Richard ran a great route on the back side. It's a delay route. Aaron delayed more than he probably needed to, but it was obviously a great throw."

And one that seemingly hung in the air for, as Richard Rodgers said, "forever. "

"I was just open, no one was really covering me," he said "So I was just standing back there waving."

Quarless was actually the primary read on the front side of the play, while Richard Rodgers was the second option on the back side.

"It didn't feel great that the back side was going to be open, so as I came off the fake and extended the play, Andrew got caught a little bit inside, so that was dead, " Aaron Rodgers said. "And at the last minute, I kind of saw him [Richard Rodgers] out of the corner of my eye and knew I had to put a little something on that to get it over there."

It gave the Packers a 14-7 lead with 5:23 left in the second quarter.
GREEN BAY, Wis. – JC Tretter's leg whip of Philadelphia Eagles outside linebacker Trent Cole cost him $16,537, the largest known fine for a Green Bay Packers player this season.

It happened in the fourth quarter on Sunday, when Tretter finished the game at left tackle after the Packers pulled several starters in the blowout victory.

The NFL announced the fine on Friday.

Tretter said his leg whip was not intentional and planned to appeal the fine. On the play, Tretter's assignment was to cut block on the backside of a pass play to the right. He was penalized on the play.

"I grabbed [Cole] right after the final kneel down to tell him it was totally accidentally," Tretter said Friday. “I didn’t know my leg was even up that high.”

The fine was more than half of Tretter’s weekly salary, which is $29,117.65 before taxes.

The only other Packers players known to have been fined this season were tight end Andrew Quarless ($8,268) for his role in a Week 2 scuffle against the New York Jets, and outside linebacker Julius Peppers (amount unknown) for wearing unauthorized shoes.
GREEN BAY, Wisc. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Green Bay Packers' 53-20 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday at Lambeau Field:

A crazy play: Eddie Lacy figured there was no way he was going to score when he caught a short pass from Aaron Rodgers early in the fourth quarter. But 32 yards later, he was in the end zone, thanks to a spin move, a handful of broken tackles and a goal-line push from teammate Andrew Quarless. "It actually was crazy," Lacy said. "I really didn't know if I was going to score. Q helped me out a lot, he pushed me in at the end. It was a crazy play." When asked about the play, Packers right tackle Bryan Bulaga just laughed and said: "Eddie's touchdown -- that's just ridiculous."

Back on top, sort of: The Packers' win, combined with the Detroit Lions' loss at the Arizona Cardinals, left both teams with 7-3 records, the best in the NFC North. "Aren't we a half-game behind?" Packers linebacker Clay Matthews said. That's right -- the Packers still aren't on top. At this point, the Lions hold the tiebreaker because of their 19-7 win over the Packers in Week 3 at Ford Field. "Obviously, we've got to take care of what's in front of us with victories against good teams," Matthews said. "But we've got everything we want in front of us now, and we've just got to maximize on that." That includes a Week 17 rematch with the Lions at Lambeau Field, which, at this point, is looking like it might decide the division.

Finding the football: Outside linebacker Mike Neal can't understand how a quarterback could fail to see outside linebacker Julius Peppers dropping into coverage. "I’m like, 'How do you not miss this dude, he's 6-foot-7?'" Neal said. "But he's a blessed dude. Plays fall into his hands, and he takes advantage of them." Sunday marked the second time this season Peppers returned an interception for a touchdown, this one a 52-yarder in the third quarter. He returned one 49 yards for a touchdown on Oct. 2 against the Minnesota Vikings.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Coach Mike McCarthy hinted last week this was coming, that the Green Bay Packers' tight ends -- even seldom-used Brandon Bostick -- might have a bigger role in the offense than they did in the first half of the season.

But even with that forewarning, it was still stunning to see quarterback Aaron Rodgers throw the first two of his six touchdown passes in Sunday night's rout of the Chicago Bears to tight ends. Bostick, who had one catch for 2 yards all season, was the recipient of the first, on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Andrew Quarless got the second, on third-down from the 4-yard line.

It was the first time since Week 3 of the 2011 season, when Jermichael Finley had three touchdowns against the Bears, that Packers tight ends have caught more than one touchdown pass in a game. And it was the first time since Week 2 of 2007, when Bubba Franks and Donald Lee had touchdowns against the New York Giants, that two different Packers tight ends have caught touchdowns.

"That was definitely great to see Bostick get his first one this year," said Quarless, who now has three touchdown catches (a career high) this season. "He was really excited. As a tight end group, we were really excited to make an impact."

Bostick's touchdown came out of a three-tight-end formation with Quarless and rookie Richard Rodgers along with fullback John Kuhn and running back Eddie Lacy. McCarthy eschewed conventional thinking, which says to take the field goal early in the game, and went for it on fourth-and-goal.

"I had a good play call," McCarthy said. "I felt like we had the momentum, just the confidence obviously in Aaron and the design of the play."

It was perhaps a watershed moment for Bostick, who had played only 18 snaps on offense -- all of it in garbage time of blowout games -- this season before Sunday night, when he played seven snaps.

"It meant a lot to me," Bostick said. "I've been working all season to get myself a chance and I got in there and made a play, so hopefully I'll get more reps. If not, I'll just keep doing what I've been doing all season."

Midseason report: Green Bay Packers

November, 5, 2014
Nov 5
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The parallels to seasons past are apparent in Green Bay, where a third straight 1-2 start sent Packers' fans into a panic and prompted quarterback Aaron Rodgers to try to ease their concerns with a different five-letter word: R-E-L-A-X.

And then he put together one of the best stretches of his career to help the Packers do what they had done the previous two seasons: lift themselves up after another slow start.

So here they are, halfway through the season with a 5-3 record and a favorable second-half schedule with five of their final eight at home. And they're actually moderately healthy for a change.

All of that again makes them one of the favorites in the NFC.

Yet the overriding issue that has held them back since their Super Bowl XLV victory remains apparent: They have major shortcomings on defense that might again prevent them from a long playoff run.

Midseason MVP: Aaron Rodgers. A case -- even a strong one -- could be made for Jordy Nelson, who is on pace for 100 catches and nearly 1,500 yards, but Rodgers' command of the offense might be better than it has ever been. That was never more evident than in the comeback victory over the Dolphins in Week 6, when he threw the game-winning touchdown pass with three seconds left. Although his yardage total is down from his best seasons, he has 19 touchdowns and just three interceptions -- all three of which bounced off the hands of his intended receiver.

Biggest disappointment: Run defense. Back in May, coach Mike McCarthy promised the Packers' defense would better this year. He said to put it "in big letters." But the run defense has been worse. In fact, the worst. Through eight games, the Packers ranked dead last in the NFL in rushing defense, allowing 153.5 yards per game. The loss of nose tackle B.J. Raji to a season-ending torn biceps in August was a blow, given that he was one of the few wide bodies the Packers retained on their defensive line. Their effort to get leaner and more athletic up front has failed them against the run.

Best moment: The fake spike. Not only was it one of the best moments of the season, Rodgers' fake-spike play against the Dolphins might go down as one of his best of all time. With the final seconds ticking away and the Packers in need of a touchdown without a timeout left, everyone at SunLife Stadium expected Rodgers to stop the clock. Instead, he surprised everyone -- everyone except receiver Davante Adams – and fired a quick pass to the rookie, who gained 12 yards and then got out of bounds with six seconds left. That set up the game-winning, 4-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Quarless with three seconds remaining.

Worst moment: Week 3 in Detroit. It's hard to imagine a game starting much worse. In the Packers' 19-7 loss at Detroit in Week 3, running back Eddie Lacy fumbled on his second carry, and the Lions returned it for a touchdown. It was Lacy's first fumble since Week 1 of the 2013 season. In the second quarter, the Packers went to Lacy on first down from their own 1-yard line, and he got stuffed in the end zone for a safety. The Packers' offense gave up nearly as many points (nine) as their defense (10) in that disheartening loss.

Key to the second half: If the defense can't create takeaways, then the Packers might be staring at another early exit from the playoffs, assuming they get there. It's unrealistic at this point to expect their defense to make significant gains against the run, so they're going to have to rely heavily on winning the turnover battle, which has been the formula for success. But that's a dangerous way to live in the postseason because playoff teams tend to take of the ball better than the middle-to-bottom-tier teams.
NEW ORLEANS -- If you saw Aaron Rodgers walk across the Superdome field with a security guard at his side on the way out of the stadium late Sunday night, you would have never known there was anything wrong with the Green Bay Packers quarterback.

He never broke stride on his way to the team buses.

Some of his teammates didn't even know during the game.

But they will when they see the film.

After Rodgers pulled his hamstring on the opening drive of the third quarter, he and the Packers' offense changed for the worse. Gone was Rodgers' ability to keep plays alive with his feet, to roll out or buy time for receivers to get open -- like he did on his 70-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb in the first quarter -- and to force the defense to respects his scrambles.

Consider Rodgers' production pre- and post-injury:
  • Before the injury, he was 14-of-19 for 298 yards and a touchdown for a passer rating of 133.1.
  • After the injury, he was 14-of-20 for 120 yards with two interceptions for a 45.8 passer rating.
When Rodgers felt the twinge in his left leg on a 7-yard scramble for a first down, the game was tied at 16-16. The Packers managed only one score after his injury in a 44-23 loss that sent them into their bye week with a 5-3 record and in second place in the NFC North behind the Detroit Lions (6-2).

The injury forced coach Mike McCarthy to ditch a large chunk of his game plan.

"We kept him in the gun [and] obviously didn't really even get into the play-action game ... and obviously scratched off all of the quarterback movements," McCarthy said. "He was limited."

A year ago, the Packers were 5-2 and feeling good about themselves when Rodgers broke his collarbone and missed the next seven games. They were in the same position Sunday night, and although their fortune wasn't altered for the long term by this injury, they need their quarterback healthy for the stretch run following next week’s bye.

"I didn't even know he had an injury," right tackle Bryan Bulaga said. "That's new to me."

Rodgers did not use his injury as justification for the Packers' second-half ineffectiveness, but he was in the unusual position of explaining two interceptions after his first multi-interception game since Week 3 of last season.

Three plays after Rodgers felt a pull in his hamstring, with the score tied 16-16, he fired a slant for Andrew Quarless on third-and-goal from the 5. The tight end couldn't handle the throw, and the ball bounced into the hands of linebacker David Hawthorne.

"I'd have to watch the film to see what happened, but I feel good about the throw," Rodgers said. New Orleans followed up by taking the lead for good four plays later on a 50-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees to Brandin Cooks.

After the Packers failed on a fourth-and-1 run on their next possession -- running back Eddie Lacy tried going behind fill-in right guard Lane Taylor, who got blown off the line of scrimmage -- the Saints went 40 yards in four plays to take a 30-16 lead. On the Packers' following possession, Rodgers threw his second pick, a ball that went off the hands of rookie receiver Davante Adams. It was one of the few post-injury plays in which Rodgers rolled out. When he threw on the run, it went off Adams' hand and was picked off by cornerback Corey White.

"Had to move to my right because of the pressure," Rodgers said. "Not sure if that made him think he was going to break his route out or whatnot but definitely missed my spot on that one."

From a pure passing yardage standpoint, it was one of Rodgers' best showings with 418 yards (the second-highest total of his career). But his mobility is one of his biggest assets, and with that largely removed from his repertoire, the Packers' offense could not keep with Brees and the Saints.

"Well if I felt it, then I had to back off a little bit," Rodgers said. "We had to do a little more in the shotgun, but it wasn't a big deal ultimately."
NEW ORLEANS -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Green Bay Packers' 44-23 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night at the Superdome:
  • Williams
    No defense, big problem: Packers coach Mike McCarthy wasn't especially proud of his team's defensive effort, but he didn't think the Saints played much either. The two teams combined for 986 yards and for the second time this season, the Packers were involved in a game without a punt. Before this season, that had occurred only once in NFL history. "I don't think they slowed us down at all defensively," McCarthy said. "We dropped the ball [by Andrew Quarless] that was an interception, we had a route that stopped [by Davante Adams] that turned into an interception. I don't think there was a whole lot of defense that was played here tonight, clearly by not our team."
  • Williams peeved: Packers cornerback Tramon Williams clearly thought Saints tight end Jimmy Graham should have been called for pass interference on his 22-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter. "Oh my god, let's not even talk about that," Williams said. "It's ridiculous. It's crazy."
  • Lang's prognosis: Right guard T.J. Lang left the locker room with a boot on his left foot. He left the game after the first series with an ankle injury. McCarthy said he did not know the severity of the injury. "I'm told it's an ankle sprain," McCarthy said.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The fake spike got all the attention, but it would have been nothing more than a footnote in Aaron Rodgers' career rather a highly celebrated moment if not for Andrew Quarless.

For it was Quarless, the Green Bay Packers tight end, who validated Rodgers' decision to forgo stopping the clock and instead surprise most everyone with his quick pass to Davante Adams on his penultimate snap of Sunday's 27-24 victory over the Miami Dolphins.

Even after Rodgers and Adams pulled off a 12-yard gain, there was work to be done. The Packers faced first-and-goal at the 4-yard line with six seconds left. Rodgers had time for one, maybe two snaps. And that's where Quarless came in.

"We got out there, and they were in man coverage with [a linebacker] out on Q," Rodgers said, referring to Miami's Philip Wheeler. "And Q had been kind of in my ear most of the day about throwing him the ball when we had that matchup."

And Quarless knew it was coming.

"Once I got the signal," Quarless said, "in my head I was jumping around already."

Three seconds later, it was a touchdown.

Quarless called the moment "epic for me."

"I believe this is probably my first game-winning touchdown of my career," Quarless said. "So that's definitely a blessing. It just shows the hard work is paying off."

Quarless is not the playmaking tight end the Packers had in Jermichael Finley and probably never will be, but after being somewhat forgotten this summer -- when rookie Richard Rodgers was busy winning the starting job and Brandon Bostick was looking like Finley-lite -- it has become clear that the fifth-year veteran is their best tight-end option. That's because Richard Rodgers has not been able to carry over his play from this summer and worse yet, he has become an untrustworthy blocker. And Bostick can't even do enough in practice to convince the coaches to give him any playing time.

"I'm thankful [Aaron Rodgers] came to me with it," said Quarless, who had only one other catch (for 4 yards) on Sunday. "It just shows how we're building. I'm happy. I'm proud about that."
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- The Green Bay Packers' offensive line had no idea the fake spike was coming.

Right guard T.J. Lang heard Aaron Rodgers yelling "clock, clock," indicating he planned to spike the ball. Center Corey Linsley heard Rodgers make a protection call, which told him to be ready in case a play was on.

As Rodgers came to the line of scrimmage with the Sun Life Stadium clock running down in Sunday's 27-24 victory over the Miami Dolphins – 15 seconds, 14 seconds, 13 seconds – he raised his right hand and made a fist just before he ducked in under center.

Perhaps that was the signal to receiver Davante Adams.

"Don't be giving away our secrets now," Packers wideout Randall Cobb warned Adams as he was asked about the play.

Whatever the signal was, Adams knew what was coming next. Rodgers took the snap with 12 seconds left, hunched over like he was going to slam the ball into the turf to stop the clock and then dropped back five steps and fired the ball to Adams in the right flat.

Jordy Nelson, who was lined up as the slot receiver on the same side of the field, never even came out of his stance.

"I didn't [know]," Nelson said.

The key was this: Rodgers saw Dolphins cornerback Cortland Finnegan playing well off Adams – at least 10 yards back – as he came to the line of scrimmage.

"It's one of those things that you don't really tell anybody what's going on," Rodgers said. "You're just yelling 'clock' and signaling 'clock' and then right before I snapped it, I looked out to the right and they were way off outside, so I just kind of faked it and moved."

Dolphins fans had seen this before. Their own Dan Marino executed the fake-spike play to beat the New York Jets on Nov. 27, 1994.

[+] EnlargeAaron Rodgers
Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesAs the clock ticked on the final drive, Aaron Rodgers kept his fake spike play a secret from just about everybody.
Rodgers' masterful decision would have been negated if the rookie Adams didn't have the savvy beyond his years to get out of bounds once he realized he would not reach the end zone. Without a timeout left, anything short of the end zone or the sideline would have ended the game and fueled the cockamamie criticism of Rodgers for his lack of comeback victories.

Adams, who had six catches for 77 yards, caught the ball at the Dolphins' 14-yard line and trucked down the right sideline, where Finnegan and cornerback Jamar Taylor shoved him out of bounds at the 4-yard line with six seconds remaining.

At that point, Rodgers -- whose record improved to 5-13 in games decided by three points or fewer and 7-25 in games in which he has trailed by eight points or fewer in the fourth quarter, according to Football Outsiders -- needed to finish it off.

He might have had enough time to get two chances at the game winner, but when he saw linebacker Philip Wheeler on Andrew Quarless -- a mismatch in his mind -- he changed the call at the line of scrimmage and fired to his tight end in the right corner of the end zone with 3 seconds left, and a drive that started at the Packers' 40-yard line with 2:05 left was completed.

So was the comeback.

"I just told A-Rod just now, 'That was epic for me,'" Quarless said. "He said that was fun for him, too."

As Quarless reached for the sky with the ball in his right hand to celebrate his touchdown, Rodgers ended up on his back. He stayed there for a second or two, pointing in the air as Lang came over to him. The celebration continued on the sideline, where Rodgers and coach Mike McCarthy embraced.

There were other factors critical to the final drive – Lang's third-down fumble recovery that set up a fourth-down conversion to Nelson among them – but the fake spike will be the one to remember. It led to Rodgers' second go-ahead touchdown pass in the final minute of a regular-season game; the first came in Week 17 last year to Cobb to beat the Chicago Bears.

"That's how you want it," said Rodgers, who threw three touchdown passes. "You want the opportunity to make a play at the end."
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Green Bay Packers' 27-24 victory Sunday over the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium:

Nothing torn: Cornerback Sam Shields limped out of the Packers' locker room in pain but was relieved that the initial diagnosis on his left knee is that nothing was torn. The weird thing about Shields' injury was how it happened. He was lining up in coverage when he went down before the first snap of the Dolphins' final drive of the third quarter. "It just gave out," Shields said. "I felt like a little pinch. They say nothing's torn, but it hurts." Two plays later, the Packers lost their other starting cornerback, Tramon Williams, to an ankle injury. So the Packers finished the game with Casey Hayward and Davon House as their top two cornerbacks and Jarrett Bush as their nickelback. Coach Mike McCarthy had no updates on their injuries or the neck injury that Jamari Lattimore sustained in the first half. Shields was expected to undergo more tests Monday.

Lang's big save: Right guard T.J. Lang's eyes opened wide when he was asked what he saw when quarterback Aaron Rodgers fumbled on the Packers' final drive. That's probably what his eyes looked like when he saw the ball on the ground. Packers president Mark Murphy came by Lang's locker and told him it was "the play of the game." It's a drill the Packers' offensive linemen used to do in practice all the time until JC Tretter broke his ankle while doing it last season in organized team activities. They have since curtailed it.

Fake spike: When Rodgers saw former Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino on the field at halftime, he surely had no idea he was going to replicate one of Marino's most famous plays. But that's what Rodgers did when he pulled off the fake-spike play, just like Marino did for the Dolphins in a 1994 playoff game against the New York Jets. Rodgers faked the spike and hit receiver Davante Adams for a 12-yard gain to set up the game-winning, 4-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Quarless. "That was kind of some freestyling right there," Rodgers said.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Day after day in training camp this summer, rookie receiver Jeff Janis made eye-catching play after eye-catching play.

It could be time to see if he can do that when it matters.

With the Green Bay Packers in search of offensive diversity, Janis might not be a panacea for everything that has bogged the offense down but could help in one important way: by stretching the field.

Janis' speed and ability to make difficult catches down the field stood out this summer, and with Aaron Rodgers' yards per attempt on pace for a career low (6.8), another deep threat to go along with Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb wouldn’t hurt.

The seventh-round pick from Saginaw Valley State has found himself on the game-day inactive list in each of the first three weeks of the season.

"I'm not really sure as far as when I'll get a chance, but as far as being ready to go whenever they do call my name, definitely, I'm ready," Janis said this week as the Packers (1-2) prepared for Sunday's game at the Chicago Bears (2-1).

Rodgers could use another target. He has sent the ball the way of Nelson and Cobb a combined 58 times in his 102 passes this season, accounting for 57 percent of his targets. Entering this season, only once had two Packers receivers (Greg Jennings and Donald Driver in 2008) made up more than 40 percent of Rodgers' attempts, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

No other Packers receiver has more than nine targets so far this season. Combined, the Packers' No. 3 and 4 receivers (Jarrett Boykin and Davante Adams) have seen the ball thrown their way 16 times. Tight end Andrew Quarless ranks ahead of both of them, with 10 targets.

If that's an indication Rodgers does not trust or have confidence in his other receivers, then why would it be any different with Janis?

"I can't get into Aaron's head on that," Packers offensive coordinator Tom Clements said. "He's worked with all of them."

The 6-foot-3, 219-pound Janis put his 4.42-second 40-yard dash speed to use in the preseason, when he caught touchdown passes of 33 and 34 yards. Although they were his only catches of the preseason, he showed off the same big-play ability that was on display in training camp.

"It's just like training camp; it’s just making plays whenever the ball comes my way," Janis said. "I think that's the biggest thing in gaining the trust of the quarterback and the coaches. That's what I've got to show."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Midway through training camp, Brandon Bostick looked like the Green Bay Packers' best chance to replicate what Jermichael Finley offered them at the tight end position.

Even if he did not win the starting job, Bostick had put himself in position to play a major role in an offense that thrives when it has an athletic player who can operate down the seam like Finley did before his neck injury last season.

So why hasn't Bostick played a single snap on offense yet when he seemingly offers an antidote to the ills of the Packers' passing game?

The leg injury he sustained Aug. 16 kept him out through Week 1 of the regular season, but that is no longer an issue. Bostick has taken his full workload on special teams in each of the last two games, and special-teams coach Shawn Slocum said there's nothing wrong with the way Bostick has run down the field on the coverage teams.

So it can't be the injury that has prevented coach Mike McCarthy from throwing Bostick into the game plan.

From the way offensive coordinator Tom Clements made it sound on Monday, Bostick's practice habits have not warranted playing time. When asked whether Bostick can elevate his play to match what it was in training camp, Clements said: "Sure, he can. It's just a matter of being consistent and getting back into the groove."

Meanwhile, the second-year pro waits his turn.

"I think it's kind of hard to play three tight ends," said Bostick, one of four tight ends on the roster. "You can't play three tight ends. It's whoever's hot right now."

The problem is, no one has been hot. Rookie third-round pick Richard Rodgers has started every game but has been a nonfactor in the passing game (one target and no catches in three games) and is a liability as run blocker (see the safety play from Sunday's game), leaving the Packers perplexed about why Rodgers has not been able to carry over a relatively solid showing in training camp.

"Well, I'm not sure of the answer to that," Clements said.

We may already have seen the beginning of a reduced role for Rodgers. Andrew Quarless played nearly three times as many snaps as Rodgers in Sunday's loss to the Lions and caught four passes for 43 yards and a touchdown, but he doesn't have Bostick's ability to stretch the field.

Perhaps Clements and McCarthy will give some of Rodgers' snaps to Bostick in Sunday's game at the Chicago Bears.

"I'm eager," Bostick said. "I'm just ready to get back to where I was before I left off, before I got injured."

With no reason to think Finley will walk back into the locker room given that Packers physician Dr. Pat McKenzie has not given him clearance to return, the Packers need someone from the tight end spot to take some of the defensive attention away from receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb.

Aaron Rodgers has thrown the ball the way of his tight ends less than four times per game this season -- 3.7 times to be exact. That's nearly two-and-a-half targets fewer than his average of 6.1 throws to tight ends in the previous six seasons. Some of that can be attributed to the fact that tight ends had a large share of blocking assignments in the six quarters the Packers played Derek Sherrod at right tackle in place of the injured Bryan Bulaga. But with Bulaga back from his knee injury, that should not be necessary.

"They're always, for the most part, involved with the pass game," Nelson said of the tight ends. "Sometimes we'll keep them in for pass protection, but they're doing what they're being asked to do."

The Film Don't Lie: Packers

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
A weekly look at what the Green Bay Packers must fix:

Some of former Packers tight end Jermichael Finley's biggest games came against the Chicago Bears. There was Finley's nine-catch, 115-yard game in 2010 and his three-touchdown game in 2011.

But unless the Packers can find someone to replicate Finley's production, the Bears might not have to worry much about the tight ends during Sunday's game at Soldier Field.

According to ESPN Stats & Information research, quarterback Aaron Rodgers has thrown to his tight ends an average of just 3.7 times per game this season, which would rate as a career low. In his first six seasons as a starter, Rodgers averaged 6.1 attempts per game to his tight ends.

Rookie third-round pick Richard Rodgers has started every game yet has been a nonfactor in the passing game, with only one ball thrown his way in three games. Although Andrew Quarless caught four passes for 43 yards (including a 10-yard touchdown) on Sunday against the Lions, he lacks the big-play explosiveness the Packers had with Finley, whose career remains on hold because of the neck injury he sustained last season.

The only way to replicate that might be to use Brandon Bostick, who is the closest thing the Packers have to Finley in terms of athleticism among their tight ends. But the coaches thus far have refused to give Bostick a chance. He was inactive for Week 1 while recovering from a preseason leg injury and played only on special teams the last two games. It might be time for the Packers to give Bostick a shot and see if he can help make something happen down the field like Finley often did.
DETROIT -- It was just one play, one failed play, but in many ways it encapsulated everything that was wrong with the Green Bay Packers' offense in Sunday's 19-7 loss to the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.

It was fourth-and-5 from the Lions' 20-yard line with 6:59 remaining. Jordy Nelson, the NFL's receiving yardage leader through the first two weeks of the season, found himself open up the right seam. It's a route he has run, and run successfully, hundreds of times. As Nelson took the route to the post, quarterback Aaron Rodgers saw him break free and fired what would have been a touchdown that could have at least given the Packers a chance at a comeback victory for the second straight week.

And the ball came up short and well behind Nelson.

Game over.

With the Rodgers-Nelson connection off -- Nelson had just five catches for 59 yards after combining for 18 receptions and an NFL-high 292 yards the first two weeks -- the Packers (1-2) had little chance given their lack of a running game and dearth of playmakers at the other skill positions.

The result was the lowest scoring output of a game that Rodgers started and finished -- and his second-lowest passing yardage total in such games -- since he took over as the Packers' quarterback in 2008, leaving it open to wonder what exactly is missing from what has been and what was supposed to be a prolific offense.

"There's a lot missing," said Rodgers, who completed 16 of 27 passes for 162 yards. "There's execution missing. We haven't been able to run the ball very well in any of the three games. We just haven't executed as well as we have in the past in the passing game."

Forget for now about the Packers' woeful running game, which totaled just 76 yards on 22 carries and featured a fumble by Eddie Lacy on his second carry of the game. That Rodgers & Co. could not shred a Lions' second-handed secondary which was missing starting strong safety James Ihedigbo and also had to play its fourth, fifth and sixth different nickel defensive backs of the season at various points on Sunday is perhaps most troublesome.

It showed that even a patchwork secondary can take away one player -- Nelson -- if it wants to and expose the lack of weapons around him. The Packers dropped at least three passes, one each by Randall Cobb, James Starks and Jarrett Boykin.

Cobb called his three-catch, 29-yard showing "embarrassing."

"I've got to figure out what it is that I can do to help and do more and give this team more," Cobb said.

Although the only points came on a 10-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Quarless in the first quarter, the Packers' tight ends have not come close to replicating the big-play threat that Jermichael Finley provided before his neck injury last season.

"We need to find a way to get those guys the ball when they're really trying to take Jordy away," Rodgers said. "Find a way to get Randall the football more, and we've got to run block better and we've got to run better."

Packers coach Mike McCarthy admitted that perhaps he stuck with an unproductive running game too long, saying he "maybe should have given [Rodgers] the ball completely earlier," but the normally accurate Rodgers missed his mark more than usual, so it might not have mattered.

Even before the missed fourth-down throw to Nelson, Rodgers overthrew Cobb on a roll-out pass on third down that killed the opening drive of the third quarter and then short-hopped a ball to Boykin on third down that ruined the next possession.

Counting the Nelson play, five of Rodgers' incompletions where underthrown, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. That came a week after six underthrown incompletions (the most of his career).

"We got what we wanted," Nelson said of the fourth-and-5 play. "We had an opportunity to make a play and just weren't able to connect on the throw. It's not an easy game. Sometimes we make it look easier than what it was, but today was not easy at all."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It often takes an injury or an unusually poor preseason showing for a Green Bay Packers draft pick to get cut at the end of his rookie training camp.

Take last year's class as an example. Of the 11 players picked, eight made the opening-day roster.

The three who did not – fourth-round pick JC Tretter plus seventh-rounders Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey – all had injury issues. Tretter missed all of camp because of a broken ankle that forced him to start the season on the physically unable to perform list, while Johnson and Dorsey battled injuries throughout the offseason. Johnson played in only two preseason games, while Dorsey played in only one. Johnson landed on the practice squad before the Cleveland Browns signed him, and Dorsey spent the season on injured reserve.

With that in mind, here's a look at where things stand for each member of general manager Ted Thompson's 2014 draft class heading into Thursday's preseason finale against the Kansas City Chiefs, plus the undrafted rookies who could be on the verge of winning a roster spot:

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S (first round): After a slow start to training camp, Clinton-Dix has found himself around the ball more often of late. He has three interceptions during practices this summer, which ties safety Sean Richardson for the camp lead. However, it looks like he won't unseat second-year pro Micah Hyde for a starting job. That means Clinton-Dix likely will play only in the dime (six defensive back) package to start the season.

Davante Adams, WR (second round): Early in camp, Adams was pushing Jarrett Boykin for the No. 3 receiver spot but inconsistent play derailed that. Meanwhile, Boykin has overcome a slow start to secure that spot. If Adams can refine his route running and shore up his hands, he could still make a push for more playing time as the year goes on.

[+] EnlargeRichard Rodgers
Benny Sieu/USA TODAY SportsRookie Richard Rodgers is in line to be the Packers' starting tight end.
Khyri Thornton, DE (third round): Much like fifth-round defensive end Josh Boyd last season as a rookie, it's been a big adjustment for Thornton. Thompson has never cut a third-round pick coming out of his first training camp, but Thornton might have trouble getting on the field early in the season. Playing mostly against second- and third-stringers in preseason games, Thornton has just one quarterback hurry and no sacks or hits in 81 snaps, according to Boyd was inactive for six of the first eight games last season. Thornton could follow a similar path.

Richard Rodgers, TE (third round): Without much fanfare, Rodgers appears to have won the starting job over veteran Andrew Quarless and up-and-comer Brandon Bostick (who went down with a foot injury in the second preseason game). However, Bostick almost certainly would have been the tight end in two-minute situations and likely will be when he returns next month. Rodgers' blocking has to catch up to his pass-catching ability.

Carl Bradford, LB (fourth round): It doesn't matter how the Packers spin the last-minute decision to switch Bradford from outside to inside linebacker this week, that's a tell-tale sign that they're concerned he may never be able to be a productive pass-rusher off the edge. Thompson has not cut a fourth-round rookie since receiver Cory Rodgers in 2006, but Bradford has been just as disappointing. If he makes it, it's solely because they're not ready to give up on him yet.

Corey Linsley, C (fifth round): This was supposed to be a redshirt season for him, but the knee injury to Tretter last week means Linsley might be the most important rookie on the team when the Packers open the regular season in Seattle. His responsibility as the starting center, even if it's only until Tretter returns, is far greater than what any other member of this draft class faces. Physically, he looks the part, but his mental errors have hampered him.

Jared Abbrederis, WR (fifth round): The former Wisconsin standout almost certainly would have made a strong push for the No. 5 or 6 receiver spot if not for a torn ACL in the first week of camp. He also would have had a chance at the kick return job but instead will spend his rookie season on injured reserve.

Demetri Goodson, CB (sixth round): The former college basketball player at Gonzaga who then played three years of football at Baylor has struggled mightily in coverage despite obvious athleticism. He sustained a concussion in last Friday's preseason game against the Raiders, leaving his status his doubt.

Jeff Janis, WR (seventh round): Still raw and unschooled in the complexities of the Packers’ offense, Janis' speed can't be ignored, which is why Thompson likely will keep him on the roster. After his impressive 34-yard, catch-and-run touchdown in the second preseason game, it's likely a team would claim him before the Packers could sneak him through to the practice squad.

Undrafted rookies with a chance: Defensive tackle Mike Pennel of Colorado State-Pueblo is a virtual lock to make the roster after B.J. Raji's season-ending injury, while outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott (who is tied for the NFL preseason lead in sacks with four) might be only one more good showing away from joining him on the 53.



Thursday, 11/27
Sunday, 11/30