The New York Jets have what they need to get Aaron Rodgers’ production back up to his usual standards
One of the main reasons that some New York Jets fans are skeptical of pursuing Aaron Rodgers is his drastic production dip in the 2022 season. Rodgers was a below-average starting quarterback in many statistical categories, which represented a steep nosedive for the back-to-back reigning MVP.
Among 33 qualified quarterbacks in 2022, Rodgers ranked 15th in passer rating (91.1), 27th in QBR (39.3), 23rd in EPA per dropback (-0.07), and 21st in passing DVOA (0.3%).
Those are worrisome numbers for a guy who will turn 40 years old later this year.
However, there are a few reasons to believe the Jets have the right supporting cast in place to facilitate a return to prominence for Rodgers.
1. The presence of a top-tier wide receiver
Losing star receiver Davante Adams to the Raiders was one of the biggest reasons for Rodgers’ down year in 2022. Without Adams, Rodgers was working with a very limited wide receiver unit. Allen Lazard finished as the team leader in receiving yards with only 788, placing him way down at 39th in the NFL among all players.
This was not the first time that Rodgers saw his numbers decline in his first season without a star receiver whom he relied upon for a long time.
Rodgers’ 91.1 passer rating and 217.4 passing yards per game in 2022 were his worst numbers in those categories since he had a 92.7 passer rating and 238.8 yards per game in 2015. At that point, Rodgers was the reigning MVP and was coming off six consecutive seasons with both a 100.0+ passer rating and 260.0+ passing yards per game. It was a huge decline for Rodgers.
Just like in 2022, Rodgers had lost his best receiver and was working with a depleted group of weapons. Jordy Nelson missed the entire 2015 season with an ACL injury. Without Nelson, Rodgers did not have a go-to guy to depend on, as Green Bay ended up with zero players ranked in the top-32 of receiving yards (James Jones led the way with 890, placing 33rd).
Rodgers had a premier No. 1 receiver to rely upon in the majority of his elite seasons. First, it was Jordy Nelson, and then Adams took over.
Garrett Wilson could be next.
Wilson is more than good enough to be the No. 1 weapon that Rodgers needs to play at an MVP level.
Take a look at the numbers posted by Rodgers’ top receiver in his four MVP seasons:
- Jordy Nelson, 2011: 68 catches for 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns
- Jordy Nelson, 2014: 98 catches for 1,519 yards and 13 touchdowns
- Davante Adams, 2020: 115 catches for 1,374 yards and 18 touchdowns
- Davante Adams, 2021: 123 catches for 1,553 yards and 11 touchdowns
In his rookie season, Wilson caught 83 passes for 1,104 and 4 touchdowns. He did that at just 22 years old while catching passes from Zach Wilson, Joe Flacco, and Mike White.
Swap out those quarterbacks for Rodgers and it’s hard to imagine that Wilson won’t match the numbers Nelson and Adams posted in Rodgers’ MVP seasons.
The Jets have the No. 1 receiver that Rodgers sorely missed in 2022.
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2. Deeper group of weapons
In addition to offering a star at the top, the Jets can offer Rodgers a deeper and more reliable group of weapons than he had in 2022.
According to Pro Football Reference, Rodgers had 7.8% of his passes dropped in 2022, which was the second-highest mark among qualified quarterbacks behind only Lamar Jackson (8.4%).
Drops often correlate with accuracy, meaning that an inaccurate quarterback is likely to cause more drops and vice versa. With this in mind, it’s possible that Rodgers’ own decline in accuracy is the primary reason behind the increase in drops.
However, in this particular case, it doesn’t seem as if a decline in Rodgers’ accuracy is to blame for his drop total. According to Pro Football Reference, 80.6% of Rodgers’ throws were deemed “on-target”, ranking second-highest among qualifiers behind only Daniel Jones (81.0%).
In his 2021 MVP season, Rodgers actually had a lower on-target percentage (77.3%, ranking 13th) but only 2.5% of his passes were dropped – the lowest rate of any qualified quarterback.
Simply put, it sure seems like Rodgers’ weapons are more to blame for his decline in production than Rodgers himself.
The Jets have a deep group of weapons that features plenty of intrigue beyond just Wilson. It may not have shown in their fantasy stats last year since their production was hamstrung by bad quarterback play, but when you dig deeper, it’s clear that the Jets have a good unit.
As a collective unit, the Jets’ weaponry showcased reliable hands in 2022. Pro Football Reference charged the Jets’ pass-catchers with a drop rate of 4.7%. This would have ranked 10th-lowest out of 33 qualified quarterbacks.
Rodgers clearly did not trust his receivers for much of the 2022 season, and that distrust is justified by the numbers. With the Jets, Rodgers can expect his pass catchers to get the job done at an efficient rate. The decrease in drops will not only provide a direct boost to Rodgers’ production, but it will also increase his trust in the players around him, creating an offense with far better synergy than the 2022 Packers.
3. Nathaniel Hackett
As we have broken down in great detail, Rodgers posted some of the best numbers of his career over the three years (2019-21) he spent with Nathaniel Hackett as his offensive coordinator in Green Bay.
Rodgers posted a 109.2 passer rating under Hackett, which is his best among the five offensive coordinators who have coached him during his time as a starter. That passer rating is fueled by an 8.5-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, beating the other four coordinators by a significant margin. His best under any other coordinator is 4.9-to-1.
More specifically, Rodgers posted the best numbers of his career in two areas under Hackett: short touchdown passes and quick-release passing.
From 2019 to 2021, Rodgers threw 55 touchdowns from inside of the opponent’s 10-yard line, which led the NFL over that span. That’s 18.3 per year. In 2022, his first season without Hackett, Rodgers only threw 11 of these touchdowns (tied for 8th-most). In 2018, his last year prior to Hackett’s arrival, Rodgers threw just 9 of them (tied for 19th).
Hackett was prominently involved in the Packers’ red-zone game planning, so it seems clear that he was doing a phenomenal job of dialing up short-game concepts in the red zone that worked perfectly for Rodgers.
Rodgers’ overall numbers on quick-release passes also experienced a spike under Hackett.
In each of his two MVP seasons under Hackett (2020 and 2021), Rodgers led the NFL in passer rating on throws released in under 2.5 seconds. He had a mark of 127.7 in 2020 and 118.5 in 2021. Not only did those marks lead the league, but they are the second and third-best marks of Rodgers’ career over the 12 seasons since this data started being tracked by Pro Football Focus (dating back to 2011).
Rodgers’ passer rating on quick throws stooped all the way to 97.3 in 2022, which tied Marcus Mariota for 18th out of 35 qualifiers.
Hackett’s ability to facilitate success for Rodgers in these two particular areas is extremely important because of Rodgers’ age. Hackett helps Rodgers play a style of football that can maximize his longevity.
As he approaches 40, Rodgers’ movement skills are declining, which is depleting the frequency at which he can create off-schedule plays. He must be able to thrive on in-rhythm plays within the structure of the offense to produce at an elite level. Under Hackett, Rodgers was doing just that. There’s no reason Rodgers cannot continue being dominant into his forties if he is doing it on the strength of short and quick passes.
For many reasons, the Jets are built to accommodate Aaron Rodgers. They have the right pieces in place for him to get back to playing like one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.
Next Article: What can the NY Jets learn from 2022 Super Bowl teams?
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