FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – It’s Wednesday around the NFL, which means every team is beginning its on-field preparation for the next opponent. At Falcons HQ, the thought on everyone’s mind… Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
Is he the best at throwing a receiver open? “Yes.”
Is there anything you can show him he hasn’t seen before? “No.”
Does his mix of experience and unpredictability make him an elite passer? “The best.”
The same questions given to multiple defensive players elicit identical responses across the board. This team respects Green Bay’s captain and quarterback immensely.
There are, however, some on the Falcons’ defensive unit that haven’t seen Rodgers turn something impossibly treacherous into a huge gain; a can’t-do-nothing play into a first down. At least they haven’t seen it in person. To then the best advice seems like child’s play.
Atlanta free safety Ricardo Allen was asked what advice he’d give rookie linebacker Duke Riley (Riley’s locker sits adjacent to Allen’s and the two have formed a mentor-student relationship since the rookie arrived from LSU) in terms of how to approach dealing with Rodgers.
“It’s kind of like telling a baby ‘Don’t touch the stove,’ said the fourth-year safety. “They’ve never touched that stove before, so they’re always wondered why not touch the stove? Then they stick their hand out there and get burned. “
Yes, Rodgers is the stove in this parable, and yes, he’s burned many a young defensive player. [And yes, if some kitchen appliance manufacturer reaches out to the venerable pitch man and offers an endorsement, I want a cut – I’ll share with Allen.] Allen explained his logic.
“That’s how he [Rodgers] is,” Allen offered more to his example. “Against this quarterback… try not to do that. You get out there and maybe he’s running around. Most quarterbacks when you get them running around, the defense is in man coverage. Most people have running backs in the backfield, and you want to go chase the quarterback. Don’t chase THIS quarterback if you have the running back in man-to-man. Because he will find him. He’s one of the quarterbacks that will find the open guy.”
Rodgers has made a career out of finding the open guy; turning nothing into something. A lot of times that’s been at the expense of a young player trying to do too much.
The consensus from the locker room on the defensive side of ball is that it’ll take a team effort to contain Rodgers, and everyone will have to not only manage their individual assignment, but not cross over into anyone else’s. And from a veteran who’s watched Rodgers make every throw imaginable to any spot on the field, the advice has to be simple because the concept of big team, little me will ring more true Sunday versus one of the best in the business as it does on most game days.
“Don’t touch the stove.”