Examining Rodgers' reduced playing time

GREEN BAY, Wis. – In the third preseason game alone last summer, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers played 41 snaps over six series against the Cincinnati Bengals.

In the first three preseason games combined this summer, Rodgers has played one fewer series and almost the same number of snaps as he did in that one game at Cincinnati. Just one drive that covered 10 snaps in Friday’s 17-10 loss to the Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau Field left Rodgers’ total preseason playing time at five series and 45 plays.

Last year in the preseason, he went 14 series and 79 total plays.

Considering that Rodgers and the starters almost never play much in the preseason finale, which this year is Thursday at Kansas City, it’s worth asking a couple of questions:

Has Rodgers seen enough live action to sharpen his game for a tough season opener at San Francisco?

Has coach Mike McCarthy spent too much time this preseason trying to pick the bottom of the roster rather than focusing on his most important players?

“We’re going to trust the process,” McCarthy said after Friday’s game. “I feel very good about the process. You can’t sometimes have it both ways. We try. We want to win the game. We wanted to win tonight, especially at home, but there was more information that was needed.”

Rodgers went into the game knowing he would play only the first quarter, even though in preseason game No. 3 last year at Cincinnati he played the entire first half.

But when the Seahawks’ opening drive lasted 7 minutes and 32 seconds, McCarthy opted not to adjust his plan. So after Rodgers got the Packers into field-goal range, and Mason Crosby knocked in a 38-yard field goal to cap an 11-play, 52 yards drive that took 4:21, that was the end of the night for Rodgers even though some of the starters, including the entire offensive line, finished the first half.

“They had the 7½-minute drive, so Mike made the decision one drive and out,” said Rodgers, who completed 4-of-7 passes for 41 yards.

Rodgers also has been on a snap count in practice for the first time in his career.

“I’ll make sure my conditioning is where it needs to be for the first game, and we’ll be fine,” Rodgers said.

Perhaps McCarthy decided to reduce Rodgers’ reps because two of his top three receivers, Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson, have missed most of training camp with biceps and knee injuries, respectively. So it’s not like he’d be working on his timing with them. But for an offense that is looking to return to its 2011 form, when Rodgers was the NFL’s most valuable player and set franchise records for touchdown passes (45), passing yards (4,643) and completion percentage (68.3) among other marks, it’s a much different approach to preparing for the season.

“It’s part of developing your football team,” McCarthy said. “I’m sure everybody goes about it different. I’m not really interested in how people are doing it in this new structure. We have a talented personnel department and a talented coaching staff. We’re trusting the process that we’ve laid down for our players.”

In Rodgers’ five series this preseason, the Packers have totaled nine points. If he plays at all against the Chiefs, it’s not likely to be much. In the preseason finale last year, he played two series and threw two passes.

“I think our offense is so lethal and so deadly, I think it will be all right when the lights are really on for real,” tight end Jermichael Finley said.