By Tom Di Benedetto
There was no way to do a QB Corner this week without discussing Aaron Rodgers’ continued, baffling struggles. And there was no way to discuss those struggles without waiting to see how he would fare against the lowly Bears under the prime time lights of Thursday Night Football. Earlier this season, I said it was too soon to panic when it came to the Packers QB and to expect significantly better performances over the course of the year. This was turning into a largely inaccurate projection until Thursday’s unexpected second half breakthrough.
So what changed for Rodgers and the Packers? For one thing, they were essentially without a running back for the game (although wide receiver Ty Montgomery performed admirably in the role), which exacerbated their recurring issues creating separation for wideouts in their go-to downfield passing scheme. Once again, excellent protection was wasted and Rodgers simply could not find his rhythm in the first half. This forced an adjustment in the third quarter, as Green Bay continued to throw but shrunk their passing attack down to a short-yardage, “dink and dunk” plan and watched their ridiculously over-maligned receiving corps excel.
It should have been obvious all along to the Packers’ coaching staff and media pundits alike: Green Bay’s wide receivers are just not a fit for the deep passing scheme Rodgers and McCarthy have (for the most part) successfully employed over their career together. In fact, with Jordy Nelson looking a shell of himself, GB doesn’t seem to have a natural deep threat on the roster. What they do have is a crew of capable west coast-style wideouts in Davante Adams, Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery, and all three immediately flourished after the forced adjustment in the second half on Thursday night. Not so coincidentally, Aaron Rodgers had his best half of football this season.
The Bears are terrible and those calling Green Bay’s Thursday nightperformance a “mirage” may very well be right. But their second half success should not be ignored by Mike McCarthy, as it brought Rodgers back to life for the first time in a long while, and definitely seemed to fit the available personnel better than what the Packers have been trying to do through the air this year. If nothing else, Thursday nightdemonstrated that Aaron still has magic in his arm.
Dak or Romo?
We ran a Twitter poll on After Hours this week and over a sampling of almost 1,000 people, one in five somehow still think Tony Romo should start when healthy for the Cowboys. I have been a HUGE Romo apologist over the last few years, but there is no debate here: it’s Dak’s job at the moment. There is absolutely no reason to upset the stunning offensive rhythm Dallas is playing with right now. There was also last week’s comment from Jerry Jones that the two offensive rookies have rejuvenated the entire organization. Just turn on a Cowboys game and you will see that he is right, and that Dak Prescott is currently the leader of the Dallas offense.
All that said, I still believe Tony Romo will play a critical role in this Cowboys season. To sum up what Troy Aikman shared on the topic during the broadcast on Sunday (and I couldn’t agree more): Dallas seems to be heading to the playoffs, and the idea that their rookie quarterback will make it all the way to the finish line healthy and without a drop in play is a long shot. Romo should be getting himself prepared and fit to back up his protege because it might well become the most important role of his career.
Carson Wentz looked like a rookie for the first time in Philadelphia’s loss in DC on Sunday. The Redskins got consistent pressure and Wentz was not comfortable or smooth in the pocket, a major departure from his early-season fluidity. It was a road divisional game, and the Eagles lost by only 7 points, but my major concern is in the eye-popping schedule that lies ahead. Philly now faces this stretch over the next 7 weeks (remember they already had their bye): MIN, @DAL, @NYG, ATL, @SEA, GB, @CIN. Yikes. It’ll be a tough road for the young QB, especially if Doug Pederson maintains his extremely conservative passing game plan.
Geno is Back
But nothing has changed from my point of view. Pickspatrick still gives the Jets their best shot to win on any given Sunday. I’m guessing based on his postgame comments (when he unequivocally backed Fitz as the starter) that Todd Bowles feels the same way. So why the mid-week change of heart? This is quickly becoming a lost season and the Jets are (I HOPE) stalling with Geno as they get Bryce Petty ready to play. Benching Fitz was a message to the rest of the team about accountability as the Jets gear up for a comically long slate of irrelevant games over the rest of the year. Now the entire locker room is on notice that anyone can and will be benched if they don’t perform.
Week 6 Game Balls
I felt four were deserved, so four it is this week.
1. Matt Ryan
2. Tom Brady (++)
3. Matt Stafford (++)
4. Philip Rivers
5. Derek Carr (-)
6. Sam Bradford (-)
7. Ben Roethlisberger (-)
Knocking on Seven’s Door: Russell Wilson, Dak Prescott, Drew Brees