NFL preseason games don’t bring a lot of excitement to NFL fans. That is especially the case in the first preseason game. Most of the first-stringers don’t even suit up. But for backups, looking to stand out, it gives them an opportunity to do so. Green Bay Packers wide receiver Amari Rodgers made the most of the opportunity against the San Francisco 49ers on Friday night.
Amari Rodgers Shows Progress in Green Bay Packers Preseason Opener
Amari Rodgers didn’t have the rookie season he was envisioning in 2021. After Green Bay Packers general manager, Brian Gutekunst traded up in the third round in the 2021 NFL Draft to select him, many expected Rodgers to contribute in 2021. Unfortunately, that didn’t turn out to be the case.
On offense, Amari Rodgers was pretty much the invisible man. He finished the season with just four catches for 45 yards. The biggest contribution Rodgers made came on as a returner on the Green Bay Packers special teams. That isn’t saying much either. His debut as the Green Bay Packers returner didn’t go well at all.
While Rodgers didn’t take over the game on Friday, he did show some glimpses as to why Gutekunst traded up to get him in 2021. He contributed on special teams as well as in the passing and run game.
Numbers Don’t Tell the Whole Story
If you strictly go on Amari Rodgers final stats from the Packers 28-21 loss to the 49ers, you wouldn’t think much of his night. He finished the game with one catch for 20 yards as well as one carry for four yards. While the numbers don’t jump out, it’s what he did on that one reception and one carry that should give Packers fans some hope about what Rodgers can do offensively.
The jet sweep has become a staple in the Green Bay Packers offense since Matt LaFleur took over as the head coach/offensive play caller. The play itself isn’t a game changer. In fact, it rarely goes for big yardage. But what it does do is keep opposing defenses honest. In many cases, LaFleur doesn’t even have the motioning wide receiver take the handoff. Instead, he uses it as a fake, setting up a play-action pass. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has become a master of faking the handoff and has made some big passes off the play-action fake.
On his one carry, a jet sweep, Amari Rodgers rushed for four yards. It wasn’t a big gain, but it illustrated his ability to carry the ball on the jet sweep. Displaying that he can do it, shows that LaFleur can rely on him if he chooses to run that play in the regular season.
While at Clemson, Amari Rodgers made a name for himself as a receiver who can do a lot on runs after the catch. Rodgers isn’t a burner, but instead, he uses his quickness and ability to juke to make plays. On his one reception, which went for a touchdown, Rodgers showed that ability he had at Clemson. He made a couple of would-be tacklers miss and dove to the pylon for a touchdown.
This was absolutely not the Amari Rodgers we saw last season.
— Eli Berkovits (@BookOfEli_NFL) August 13, 2022
Just one carry and one reception in a preseason game don’t guarantee that it will carry over to the regular season. But what it does show is that Amari Rodgers has some potential, something he didn’t display in 2021.
Flashes as a Returner
As the Packers punt and sometimes kick returner in 2021, Rodgers struggled. The word struggled seems like an understatement. He struggled mightily.
With Rich Bisaccia as the new Green Bay Packers special teams coordinator, it was thought that Rodgers days as a returner were over. Bisaccia is a very well-respected NFL special teams coordinator. The belief is that he wouldn’t put up with another season of Rodgers struggling as a returner.
But the way Rodgers returned the ball on Friday night, and if he continues as he did throughout the preseason, Bisaccia might have to change his mind. Rodgers returned two kickoffs for a total of 69 yards. One of those returns went for 51 yards. He showed an explosion and unlike in 2021, he didn’t hesitate when he brought the ball out of the end zone.
Amari Rodgers with the longest return of his NFL career before getting bodied by Rashan Gary… pic.twitter.com/PJIIyT7izu
— Daire Carragher (@DaireCarragher) August 13, 2022
Rodgers didn’t return a punt against the 49ers. But he did make a couple of fair catches and he fielded the ball cleanly. That was something he struggled with in 2021. If Rodgers can continue to field punts cleanly this preseason and even show just some ability to gain positive yards, he could be in the race to return punts this season.
Bisaccia is looking to stabilize the Green Bay Packers special teams. He doesn’t want negative plays. There isn’t much doubt he would accept Rodgers not being a Devin Hester type of returner if he is able to not turn the ball over and make the occasional gains.
Still has Time to Develop
The Packers could be willing to give rookie wide receiver Chrisitan Watson time to develop. There isn’t any reason that they won’t be willing to do the same thing for Amari Rodgers this season as well.
Veteran receiver Randall Cobb is entrenched as the Packers starting slot receiver for 2022. It’s the same position that Rodgers plays. With Cobb, a favorite of Aaron Rodgers, in front of Rodgers, there isn’t a need to rush Rodgers into a prominent role on the Green Bay Packers offense. Still, if he can continue to show he is capable of spot duty, as a ball carrier, or even a pass catcher, he could start seeing some time.
One place that Rodgers could show his importance this preseason is in the return game. His play on Friday has him off to a good start. But he will need to show consistency. That is why the last two preseason games will be important for Rodgers. Preseason games might not be exciting, but for Amari Rodgers, they are important when it comes to his role in 2022.