Packers QB Aaron Rodgers explains inconsistency with deep passes


Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is aware that he’s not connecting on as many deep passes as last season, but he doesn’t think accuracy is one of the main contributing reasons for the drop off.

Rodgers pointed to the loss of Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who has missed three games with a hamstring injury, and the two-deep shell coverages designed to help slow down Davante Adams.

“83 has been hurt,” Rodgers said Wednesday. “That definitely is a big part of it. We haven’t had a ton of that stuff in the plan. Also, we’ve seen a lot of Cover-2. With 83 not playing, and them clouding Davante a bunch, we just haven’t had the same opportunities.”

Through six games, Rodgers has attempted 30 passes over 20 yards in the air but completed just nine, good for a completion percentage of just 30.0, with two interceptions and a passer rating of 48.5, per Pro Football Focus. Last season, his completion percentage of deep throws was 41.6, while his passer rating was 123.7, one of the best in the NFL.

Asked if he is missing more deep balls than usual, Rodgers said no.

“No, not really. Not more than usual. We’re close on a number of them. Doesn’t feel like I’m missing more than usual,” Rodgers said. “I don’t know. Without Marquez, he’s been our deep threat for a while, but I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve been missing a ton of throws, but we haven’t been connecting on as many deep throws.”

On Sunday in Chicago, Rodgers missed Allen Lazard for what could have been a big play down the field. It was the latest miss in what is becoming a trend for the Packers offense.

Doug Farrar of Touchdown Wire dove into the issue on Wednesday.

Part of the drop off certainly deals with Valdes-Scantling. In the first three games, the speedy receiver caught only one of Rodgers’ eight deep attempts. That connection hasn’t been right to start this season. Rodgers has also failed to connect with tight end Robert Tonyan on a single deep pass despite four attempts, and Allen Lazard has just one catch on three deep targets. Rodgers and the secondary targets aren’t in sync early.

Farrar does not believe the issue is related in any way to arm talent. Rodgers can still push the ball down the field with velocity or touch. Watch his throw to Adams in the fourth quarter on Sunday. He was moving to his right but still delivered a perfect throw. But there is still a high level of difficulty and a small margin for error when throwing the ball vertically, and Rodgers the Packers have been just a little bit off through the first six games.

The inability to hit Valdes-Scantling deep and then losing him from the offense altogether certainly hurt, but teams are also protecting against the deep shots with extra safety help and also throwing double teams at Adams, who still leads the NFL with 16 catches of at least 16 yards and 12 catches of at least 20 yards.

How can the Packers get back to attacking downfield? Returning the speed of Valdes-Scantling will help, but so will getting back a big piece along the offensive line (All-Pro David Bakhtiari) and playing more varied formations and personnel groupings. The Packers were often at their best as a big-play offense last season when using play-action from disguised pre-snap looks.

Rodgers can still make all the throws. The offense is still designed to create explosive plays. The Packers have the playmakers to win downfield. The quarterback knows the deep shots aren’t hitting as often to start 2021, but there is confidence the big plays are close and will soon start hitting.

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