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NY Jets: How Aaron Rodgers’ injury could severely hinder his game

NY Jets, Aaron Rodgers, Injury, Achilles, Return
Aaron Rodgers, New York Jets, Getty Images

Aaron Rodgers’ tendencies as a passer could make his Achilles injury hurt the New York Jets tremendously

The New York Jets are prepared for a 2023 do-over — with one key difference. Aaron Rodgers is coming off an Achilles injury, one of the most severe injuries an NFL player can sustain, let alone a 40-year-old quarterback.

It’s easy to think that the injury won’t hamper Rodgers as much as it would a younger, more mobile quarterback. After all, at least in theory, Rodgers shouldn’t move around as much as he used to. If he’s going to follow the Tom Brady template of playing into his 40s, it should be as an immobile pocket passer.

The problem is that when we last saw Rodgers, that was not his game. In 2022, per NFL Next Gen Stats, Rodgers had the 12th-most dropbacks outside the pocket (79) out of 33 qualified passers (min. 225 base dropbacks). For reference, that was more than double Brady (30). Although half of them (40) were designed rollouts, this still indicates that rolling out of the pocket was a significant part of Rodgers’ game, even at age 38. He also had 74 plays where he was considered “on the run,” clocking in at 8 mph or above on the GPS.

To compound that, Rodgers’ time to sack and scramble were among the longest in the NFL. Per Pro Football Focus, his 3.98 seconds to sack was the fifth-longest out of 33 qualified passers. His 5.56 time to scramble was the fifth-longest, as well. Rodgers relied heavily on his legs to escape pressure.

Even on Rodgers’ two dropbacks prior to his injury, he rolled out or attempted to roll out of the pocket. Even if the Jets’ offensive line improves significantly in 2024, he will still find himself in many such situations throughout the season. The Achilles tear will likely restrict him significantly at those times.

Can Rodgers adapt? As savvy as he is, it’s certainly possible. However, there are parts of his passing profile that will make it more difficult for him.

For one thing, Rodgers avoids interceptions like the plague. His 1.4% career interception rate is tied for the lowest among active passers. His 4.52 career touchdown-to-interception ratio is by far the best of all time, a full touchdown more than Patrick Mahomes’ next-best 3.48. In his quest to be careful with the ball, he might forgo a possible read in a tighter window and seek to extend the play, particularly if he doesn’t trust his receiver.

Furthermore, Rodgers doesn’t release the ball as quickly as his reputation would indicate. His 2.67 average time to throw in 2022 ranked 12th-fastest out of 33 qualified passers — certainly not slow, but nowhere near Brady’s 2.29 mark. In fact, Brady never exceeded 2.62 in his entire career, and he averaged 2.35 over his last three seasons. While 50.3% of Rodgers’ passes were released in under 2.5 seconds, the 10th-highest, he also threw the sixth-highest rate of deep passes (15.5%) and ranked 24th in time to throw on those passes (3.18 seconds). Rodgers has a name as a passer who gets rid of the ball quickly, but the reality is a lot murkier.

If Rodgers cannot escape the pocket as he is accustomed to, the result will be, at minimum, an increase in sacks. His 20.4% pressure-to-sack ratio in 2022 ranked 17th among passers, but that ratio may sharply increase in 2024 if he continues to try to evade pressure with his legs.

Never put it past the wily 40-year-old to reinvent himself. He did so once in a sense when the Packers started to give up on him, posting back-to-back MVP seasons. Still, it’s worth remembering that a big part of Rodgers’ game was likely eliminated and could negatively impact his play in 2024.

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