Then consider that Rodgers is the NFL’s master improviser, the quarterback who has thrown more touchdowns from outside the pocket than anyone else since 2009. And it’s not even close. He has 62 in 127 regular-season games, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Coming into this season, Matt Ryan, who sits No. 2 on the list, had 35 in 16 more games.
That Rodgers might not have the kind of mobility needed to make big plays out of the pocket for a while — assuming he doesn’t miss any games because of the left knee injury he suffered in Sunday night’s season-opening win over the Chicago Bears — could seem problematic. It’s also a misnomer.
“I’ve always thought he was at his best in the pocket and getting the ball out of his hands quickly,” a longtime NFL scout said Monday.
That’s exactly what Rodgers did in his post-injury return Sunday against the Bears. His only two passes from outside the pocket came before his second-quarter injury. Both fell incomplete.
His other 28 passes came from inside the pocket, according to ESPN Stats & Information data. He completed 28 of them for 286 yards and three touchdowns.
“Obviously being more of a statue back there, had to deal the ball on time and make sure we had guys getting open,” Rodgers said after the game. “I thought the protection was really good, and guys made plays.”
“They were doing nothing offensively the first couple of series because he was doing that old stuff — run around, try to extend plays,” the scout said. “I’ve seen it over the years when he was banged up and couldn’t run, he’d just carve people up in the pocket. When he’s just using his arm and getting the ball out quickly, I’m telling you the guy’s unique. He’s a much better quarterback when he’s getting the ball out quickly.”
To be sure, some of what makes Rodgers special is his ability to extend plays and improvise. It’s what he did in the 2016 playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys on the roll-out pass to Jared Cook in the final minute, for just one example.