Arizona Cardinals Have To Be Wary of That Bad, Bad Man, Aaron Rodgers

bad bad man

On Thursday Night Football, the Arizona Cardinals will face the Green Bay Packers in a meeting of two of the NFL’s top sides. The matchup features a combined record of 13-1; the .929 win percentage the highest between two teams, October or later, in the Super Bowl era. In their first primetime game of the season, the Cardinals face that bad, bad man, Aaron Rodgers.

Once the lady-in-waiting to legendary gunslinger Brett Favre, Rodgers’ improvisational style formed the blueprint for some of today’s stars, the Patrick Mahomes and the Kyler Murrays, to thrive in the modern game. And Rodgers is still here, still doing it up there in Green Bay. After 16 years, Rodgers’ time in Green Bay might be coming to a close, but, at least for this season, the Packers will continue to live and die on his shoulders. Stop Rodgers, beat the Packers. For Arizona, it’s just that simple, except it just isn’t.

Aaron Rodgers, That Bad, Bad Man, Will Threaten Cardinals On TNF

That Bad, Bad Man Is Very Good

Aaron Rodgers is arguably one of the most talented quarterbacks of all time. His maverick style and ability to create are bolstered by a unique yet flawless fundamental foundation. He has Hall of Fame arm talent,  capable of any throw on the field, and his ability to make throws off-base and from unconventional release angles has made Rodgers not only one of the league’s best but also most dynamic quarterbacks.

For all of the pretty throws and backyard plays, by far the most frightening aspect of Rodgers’ skillset is the velocity of his release. Sure, the arm strength is there too, but that release is so sharp and efficient that it’s near indefensible. Not only has it helped top target Davante Adams to thrive over the middle, but recently, Rodgers’ quick release has opened up the lateral game for the Packers. Checkdowns to running back Aaron Jones on the perimeter are anything but. Rodgers gets the ball out to Jones quicker than defenses can react and affords Jones space to create. Green Bay’s screen game is also enhanced by the speed with which Rodgers can deliver the ball out wide.

I suppose we can still call Rodgers somewhat of a dual-threat quarterback too. Even at 37, he’s still got the legs to move around outside the pocket. Inside the pocket, though, Rodgers is California-cool. His pocket presence is phenomenal, and his willingness to step up into the pocket and extend his protection is almost a trademark at this point. He will extend when he can, hit anyone, anywhere, and can get vertical if required. Aaron Rodgers is not only a bad, bad man but also the complete quarterback.

Rodgers Can Create Without Adams

Star wideout Davante Adams was ostensibly ruled out after returning a positive Covid-19 test on Monday. Granted, not facing Adams is preferable; Adams is perhaps the only receiver in the NFL that challenges for DeAndre Hopkins’ crown. But, Cardinals fans, hold your cheers. They’ve still got that bad, bad man, who took the best Cardinals team of the last decade to overtime in 2015 with Jeff Janis as his best receiver.

Adams does his best work over the middle, where Matt LaFleur does a good job of varying the depth of his routes to continuously create opportunities. As previously mentioned though, this inside game is buoyed by Rodgers’s speed and accuracy hitting these routes. Therefore, in-breaking routes will likely still feature heavily in Green Bay’s offense, even in Adams’ absence.

Much has been made about Rodgers’ apparent lack of elite weapons. It’s become a running joke on Draft Night that the Packers keep refusing to draft a top receiver for Rodgers. However, the group gets a bit of undue stick. Rodgers got Randall Cobb back, and Allen Lazard and Equanimious St. Brown have shown promise; Rodgers looked for Lazard frequently when Adams missed time in 2020. Add in tight end Robert Tonyan, one of Rodgers’ top targets in 2020, especially in the Red Zone, and Aaron Jones, and the Packers will be just fine without Adams on Thursday.

Stop Rodgers and Win, It’s That Simple

With Adams out, there has been some suggestion that the Packers will run the ball more. The run game will play a role, especially given Arizona’s inconsistencies against the ground game, but to take the ball out of Rodgers’ hands because of one absence is a disservice to his excellence. He can toss that back-shoulder fade to just about anyone.

There is no simple way to beat Aaron Rodgers, so the Cardinals have to disrupt what are the most potent parts of his game. As usual, it has to start upfront. Arizona will get star edge rusher, Chandler Jones, back on Thursday, but generating interior pressure is key in affecting Rodgers’ comfort in the pocket. He can navigate space in the pocket; Arizona’s pass rush has to make sure there isn’t any. Wisconsin native J.J. Watt will be expected to generate a good dose of this pressure as he continues a strong run of form.

Rodgers will test every level of this defense, but the unit has established itself as one of the best in the NFL. They have the athleticism at inside linebacker to obstruct Rodgers’ favorite throws over the middle, and they have to take that away first; inhibiting his best stuff is absolutely vital. Beating the Packers can be just as simple as beating Aaron Rodgers, but there isn’t any reliable way to stop that bad, bad man.

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