In case you haven’t heard, the quarterback spot in Green Bay is locked up for the foreseeable future.
While that is great news for quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Packers receiving corps and the coaching staff, it has created a roadblock for backup Matt Flynn.
As the three-year veteran enters the 2011 season, the final year of his rookie contract, his audition for a potential move at the end of the year will come over the next four weeks as the Packers go through their preseason schedule.
A seventh round draft choice out of LSU, where he won the National Championship in 2008, Flynn entered the league without a rocket arm, without the measurables of a franchise quarterback, and without the pinpoint accuracy of a player like Matt Ryan, who was selected third overall by the Falcons in that same draft.
However, Flynn excelled early in preseason games and was awarded the backup job to Rodgers over second round draft choice Brian Brohm, currently with the Buffalo Bills. In his rookie season, Flynn finished the preseason 27-of-42 (64.3 percent) for 209 yards and three touchdowns.
A year later he threw just eight passes in preseason, completing six for 63 yards. In 2010, Flynn turned heads again by completing 50-of-85 passes for 583 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, including a 304-yard performance in the finale against Kansas City.
His most impressive performance came last year in his first and only start to date, when he filled in for an injured Aaron Rodgers in New England and passed for 251 yards and three touchdowns in an eventual 31-27 loss.
The secret is now out on Flynn as a potential starting quarterback, and one executive in personnel for an NFL team even touted him as “the best backup in the NFL.”
Unfortunately for Flynn, he will not get a chance to start, barring injury to Rodgers, until at least the 2012 season.
Two years ago, Packers’ Aaron Rodgers was being booed by Packers’ fans as he stepped on to the team’s practice facility in training camp. Yet he accomplished what many believed to be an impossible feat: stepping out of Brett Favre’s shadows establishing himself as a premier NFL quarterback, passing for over 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns.
And it was a mere six months ago that Rodgers shed the label of failing to win in the clutch, reeling off six straight win-or-go-home contests on his way to a Super Bowl XLV championship, a game in which he was awarded the MVP (and a shiny, new car).
So with the city of Green Bay backing his every move and a world championship under his belt (pun intended), Rodgers will now try attempt to accomplish the next feat in his already-stellar career: the title of league’s best quarterback.
Since New England’s Tom Brady and Peyton Manning entered the league in 1998 and 2000, respectively, they have been at the head of their classes, combining for 660 touchdowns, four Super Bowl rings and two future busts in Canton whenever they decide to walk away from the game.
But with Manning dealing with a neck injury that could force him to miss time in 2011, and Brady having just celebrated his 34th birthday, the window of opportunity for Rodgers to surpass both just opened, and there’s an excellent chance for him to do it.
When Green Bay Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers came out of Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions late in the second quarter, everyone knew the offense would take a hit.
But that big of a hit?
In one of the more boring games of 2010 to date, infected by stagnant offenses run by back-up quarterbacks, the Packers failed to recover from the absence of Rodgers, who left with a concussion, and fell to the Lions 9-3, moving them that much further back in the playoff race.
Quarterback Matt Flynn, who had not thrown a meaningful pass since he took over for Rodgers in Week 4 of his rookie season two years ago, failed to move the ball on offense and finished with a disguising 258 yards of offense. Turnovers and, once again, lack of a ground game killed the offense and limited them to just three points, a far cry from the 25.3 points per game they were averaging coming in.
Flynn actually performed well considering he had no preparation for the game in terms of timing with the first team offense and he actually threw a couple nice balls to convert a couple of third downs, but his inexperience was evident with his lack of pocket presence, miscommunication on a crucial third down, and a terrible interception in the Lions’ endzone that took sure points off the board.
He finished with 177 yards on 15-of-26 pass attempts and also ran for 10 yards, but no one could have expected him to take the Packers on his back and lead them to victory.
Because the rest of the Packers’ offense decided to take the day off.
Even before Rodgers went out with his concussion, the offense was downright awful. Andrew Quarless fumbled inside Lions’ territory on a basic tackle, and Greg Jennings dropped a sure-fire touchdown pass which ended up being an interception for Detroit. Luckily the Lions failed to convert either turnovers into points, thanks to a fantastic performance from the defense, but the play from the Packers’ receivers early was sloppy, at best.
The biggest storyline heading into the Packers’ Monday night contest with the red-hot Patriots has to be the status of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. After suffering a concussion late in the second quarter of last week’s loss to the Detroit Lions, Rodgers’ availability is in serious doubt. It is his second concussion this season (he suffered one in overtime against the Redskins) and will most likely not practice until Saturday, meaning he’s almost surely out of Sunday night’s tilt.
That means backup Matt Flynn will probably make his first career start just a week after passing for 177 yards and an interception against the Lions. It was an admirable performance for a backup entering in the middle of the game, but a crucial interception in the Lions’ endzone stalled a drive that would have been turned into points in a close game.
The Patriots have outscored its opponents 114-17 over the last 10 quarters and have won five straight, making them arguably the hottest team in the NFL. Making things worse is that the game will be played in New England, where the Patriots are 6-0 this season. They have won 21 of its last 22 games against NFC opponents and will be highly favored to add to that streak come Sunday.
Going into the 2009 season, the Green Bay Packers will boast one of the most high-powered offenses in the National Football League. Last season, they ranked eighth in the league in total offense as well as fifth in scoring and have only improved the offense this season. With a much-improved offensive line and some up-and-comers at the skill positions, the Packers should repeat their success on offense and then some.
At the same time, the greatest fantasy sport in the world begins in two weeks. Fantasy football leagues will be drafting their teams and owners will be looking for first round ponies as well as their late-round sleepers. Over the next three days, we will take a look at and break down each set of positions on the Packers to get ready for the 2009 fantasy football season.
Aaron Rodgers, fifth season, started 16 games last season
Heading into 2008, Rodgers was under loads of scrutiny to perform in the absence of Hall-0f-Famer Brett Favre. Thankfully, he was given a great supporting cast that helped him rank as the fifth best passer in all of football. He passed for over 4000 yards, 28 touchdowns, and just 13 interceptions.
An added bonus to Rodgers’ game was that he also rushed for 200 yards and scored four touchdowns on the ground. Despite being hurt in the Tampa Bay game, Rodgers stayed relatively healthy over the course of the year and did not miss any time.
This season, Rodgers has two huge additions to the offense that can only improve his statistics. The first is the rise of tight end Jermichael Finley. The third rounder from Texas was a project last season and took some heat for comments after a game, but has completely turned his game around and is ready to break out this season.
In the West Coast Offense, check downs to the tight end, especially in the red zone, are very important and Rodgers having a big target in Finley (6’5″) will surely help.
The other addition is the huge improvement of the offensive line, which is sure to improve this season. Jason Spitz has moved from right guard to center, Josh Sitton moved to center, and Allen Barbre is taking over at right tackle for the veteran Mark Tauscher. While the latter two are more efficient in the run game, an improvement on the line means more protection for Rodgers.
Along with those two additions, Rodgers will have Greg Jennings and Donald Driver to throw to all season. Both of them surpassed the 1000 yard mark on offense and combined for 14 touchdowns. Great possession receivers, they also have the ability to run after the catch to improve Rodgers’ stats even more.
Hopefully Ryan Grant will re-gain his 2007 form to put more men in the box, but either way the Packers will be a pass-first team because of Rodgers. Depending on how well receivers James Jones and Jordy Nelson progress this season, Rodgers will improve even more.
Looking at the schedule, Rodgers will face the Lions and Bears twice, who both ranked in the bottom six in pass defense last season. On the flip side, he will face four of the top five pass defenses from last season in Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, and Dallas. Also, four of Rodgers’ last five games will be played in cold weather, with the only warm-weather game occurring in Arizona.
Don’t let the opposition fool you, however. Rodgers is a good quarterback, and good quarterbacks get their numbers regardless of who they play. Rodgers is a safe bet to pass for 4000 more yards and 30 touchdowns seems reasonable. I wouldn’t put Rodgers past any of the elite signal-callers in fantasy such as Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, or Kurt Warner. After that, he could rank among any of those other players.
I would look at Rodgers starting in the fourth round, and to get him in the fifth round or any later would be a huge steal. He overcame his draft ranking of last season and should do it again this year.
In the case that Aaron Rodgers went down for any part of the season, the Packers would be in a terrible spot. Both back-ups, Matt Flynn and Brian Brohm, offer no fantasy value whatsoever and should not be touched. Rodgers proved last year he is both durable and able to play with injuries, so Rodgers remains the only viable fantasy option under center.
No one in the NFL was under more pressure to perform last year than Aaron Rodgers, and he did so in excellent fashion. His final stats included 4,038 yards and 28 touchdowns as he made most Packers fans forget about the Brett Favre saga earlier that summer.
He will go into the season as the obvious starter and will look to avoid the sophomore slump, despite being in his fifth year. He made smart decisions all year and played through a very tough shoulder injury that easily could have had him miss a start, but didn’t.
He proved to be a great fit for the Packers and meshed well with his weapons on offense. He acts well beyond his years and is a true professional that still enjoys the game.
Backing up Rodgers, at least to start the year, will be last year’s seventh round draft choice Matt Flynn. Flynn was not even a lock to make the team last year, as most thought the Packers would keep second round pick Brian Brohm and sign a veteran.
However, Flynn beat out Brohm and became the back-up which prevented a free agent to come in. Flynn was two for five in his only playing time of the year against Tampa Bay, but Rodgers played in all 16 games last year so it was not a huge issue.
Flynn does not project to be more than a backup, but another year under his belt can not hurt if he has to start a game next year.
General manager Ted Thompson took some heat when he drafted Brian Brohm in the second round in last year’s draft.
The pick seems more confusing as Brohm was the third string quarterback for all 16 games last year. However, Brohm will be just 24 years next year and should improve in his second season.
Remember, the year before he came out for the draft, he was considered one of the top picks in the draft.
Aaron Rodgers: 350-540, 31 TD, 14 INT, 4,110 yards, 235 rushing yards