Are the Green Bay Packers Flirting with the Bootleg Too Much?

By Ryan Cook

There’s been plenty made of Aaron Rodgers’ brilliant plays during the Green Bay Packers first half of the season, some of which have earned him early MVP nominations from fans. In the past seven weeks, the list compiles of a 93-yard bomb to Jordy Nelson, along with a relentless 49-23 stomping of the desperate Denver Broncos – among many other notable highpoints.

But what Rodgers continues to do this season, is improve. Although Mike McCarthy’s latest surprise call could be placing him in a little danger.

After breaking his own personal record last weekend throwing 13 consecutive passes as a starter, Rodgers has recognized his minor flaws so far this year, and has continued to correct them while maintaining the Packers undefeated streak.

Last season, interceptions and sacks weren’t the worry, but concussions certainly were. Looking back, a Week 5 head knock in overtime against the Washington Redskins has been at the back of Packer Backer’s minds, not to mention a Week 14 concussion at the hands of the Detroit Lions in December.

Earlier this season though, McCarthy decided to throw caution to the wind and punish any team who was willing to focus on James Starks and Ryan Grant too much. A surprise bootleg left call did the trick, a risky play throwing your franchise quarterback into the open field for lineman to have a chip shot.

The play has been in the Packers book for a while however, it’s just been hiding between play action and back shoulder passes. Before the season began, the Chicago Bears defense was the last team to see the bootleg in the NFC Championship Game, and yet again, it resulted in a touchdown.

But already this year, several teams have been stung hard. The St. Louis Rams felt it on a 35-yard touchdown to James Jones in the second quarter, while the Minnesota Vikings most recently fell behind when Rodgers scrambled left to the line of scrimmage to deliver a drop pass to John Kuhn.

It’s almost become a thing of beauty really, especially with the amount of receivers Rodgers has to sift through when rolling left or right.

Maybe it won’t be so special though if Rodgers is hit full force in the coming weeks against the Detroit Lions again.

As it stands, the problem the Packers may face with the bootleg play is running it too often. It’s not like McCarthy’s play calling to become stale and predictable, but prior to this season, the bootleg was a call Rodgers had only thrown in practice.

There have been plenty of issues on the Packers offensive line as well. On the blindside, second year player Marshall Newhouse has begun to struggle with the workload of top class lineman, and injuries to Chad Clifton and Bryan Bulaga recently haven’t helped. Communication has also been poor between offensive lineman, leaving Rodgers with 16 sacks to his name already this year.

While some Packer fans hold their breath when Rodgers breaks free of the pocket, the coverage down field always seems to come apart thanks to the Packers thick wide receiver unit. The core part of the bootleg is also the fake run, something Starks and Ryan Grant seem to have mastered.

The other thing Rodgers does well is picking his moments. That’s normally a Peyton Manning quality, but Rodgers possesses it too.

By far there is plenty of positive and negative in the bootleg debate. The Packers offensive line has been notoriously hot and cold in recent years, but Rodgers has made it work. If the bootleg is to be used more often by the Packers though, the redzone seems to be the hot spot.

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