Senior writer jclombardi profiles QB Rodgers & Center Wells and Lions scouting report.
QB Rodgers avoided picks–low turnovers translate into wins: The Packers’ Aaron Rodgers has become one of the best quarterbacks in the National Football League, mentioned in the same category as Philip Rivers and Drew Brees and as someone to look forward to having a career like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. And part of that success is because Rodgers is so good at avoiding interceptions. Look at the Packers’ record book in the category of most consecutive pass attempts without an interception: 294: Bart Starr, 1964-’65; 177: Rodgers, currently; 163: Brett Favre, 1995-’96; 159: Rodgers, 2008-’09; 157: Rodgers, 2005-’08; 152: Starr, 1963-’64. QB Rodgers’ last interception was at the end of the first half against Minnesota in Week 7. He has not thrown a pick in his last 177 attempts. “It’s a testament to how well he’s thinking out there, how well he’s reacting and how well he’s throwing out there,” said backup QB Flynn. “And the receivers are doing a good job of being friendly to the quarterback and making plays, running the right routes, not cutting their routes off. Aaron is making good decisions and being real accurate.” This is Rodgers’ third year as starter and sixth overall. In beating San Francisco on Sunday, Rodgers had his fifth straight game without an interception, a personal-best. “He’s been very disciplined; he hasn’t thrown the ball up for grabs very often,” said offensive coordinator Joe Philbin. “Aaron’s playing at a very high level,” said coach Mike McCarthy.
Center Wells: The center-quarterback relationship is an intimate one – on the field. It has to be. We have to understand each other 100 percent and be able to anticipate what each other is going to do. From a lineman’s standpoint, I have to be in tune with his checks, so I can anticipate what to call when the check is made, and he has to be in tune with me to understand that I’m going to make the proper adjustment so he’s going to know who we’re blocking. So we have to have that trust and understanding of the game plan. My wife, Julie, been through the highs and lows with me–We’ve been through a lot of life experiences together. We’ll be married 10 years this offseason, so we’ve been through a lot of highs and lows. It’s important, I think, to go through the peaks and valleys in life with someone that’s strong and supportive and there for you and really keeps you grounded. You’re never too high and never too low. With three kids now, my wife and I have to play zone defense. We used to be in man-to-man, now we’re in zone. We try to employ my son to help us out a little bit, which is the curse of being the oldest. My daughter Lola has my personality. Lola is the wild child. She speaks her mind, doesn’t really care who hears it, so I think she gets that from me. Son Jackson has calmed down a lot. The best part about being a dad is, when I come home from work, regardless of how my day went, my kids are excited to see me. When I’m home, I’m ‘Dad,’ and they just want to spend time with me. Watching my 7-year-old son look out for the baby and my daughter thinking she’s the mom, all that stuff’s exciting. My son comes to every game; my daughter comes to all of them except the night games. If it’s a Sunday or Monday night game, she doesn’t come, because she has preschool still. My legacy, you want to be remembered for being a hard worker and doing things the right way. On and off the field. Dependable and reliable, that’s how I wanted to be remembered. Every Thursday night, we have dinner as an offensive line. We all take turns. We start with the oldest and work to the youngest as far as paying the tab. Whoever’s paying picks the restaurant; if we win, we go back to the same restaurant. That’s kind of what we do. During our winning streak, we went to Chives. We ate at Chives every week. Then we had Thanksgiving and we all ate at Chad’s house and we lost. So we went back to Chives. My closest friend on the team is probably Chad Clifton. We probably hang out the most because we’re from the same area, went to the same school, live in the same area in the offseason, our wives get along, our kids play together. I’d say he’s the one I have the most in common with. I always said if I didn’t play football, I’d either be coaching or I’d go to law school. I’ve got history and sociology degrees, so I’m set up to either teach or do post-graduate work. I plan on doing some high-school coaching. I think that’s where my heart is at. I’d love to work at my high school and do some coaching there.
Lions scouting report: Run offense: The Lions are No. 28 in the NFL in rushing yards per game and No. 27 in average yards per carry. They’re average on the offensive line, where the best player probably has been left guard Rob Sims and the weak link is right guard Stephen Peterman. Halfback Jahvid Best is a small, talented but brittle back who’s a poor man’s Reggie Bush. He’s averaging only 3.3 yards a carry but has the quickness and speed to break off a big play at any time. He also catches well out of the backfield (50 receptions), and the Lions try to get him the ball in open space as much as they can. Pass offense: No. 3 quarterback Drew Stanton will make his second straight start. The fourth-year pro played fine in a 24-20 loss to Chicago last week (102.4 passer rating, 178 yards passing, one touchdown, no interceptions). He’s 0-2 as an NFL starter and has a career passer rating of 59.0 points. He has physical tools, a good athlete, decent arm, accurate thrower, but the game sometimes seems to move a little fast for him. The Lions’ passing game plays off receiver Johnson who is a large target with big-time straight-line speed. That threat has opened the way for tight end Brandon Pettigrew’s big year who is tied for second among NFL tight ends in receptions (50). Run defense: The Lions rank No. 25 in rushing yards allowed and No. 28 in yards allowed per carry, but they have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. The anchor is rookie Ndamukong Suh. He’s a big (6-4, 307), square-built player with strength, quickness and instincts. Former Packers lineman Corey Williams has been mostly a rock inside also. The problem is at linebacker, where the only legitimate starter is middle linebacker DeAndre Levy. Pass defense: The Lions rank No. 16 in passing yards allowed, No. 21 in total yards allowed, and No. 25 in points allowed. They rush the passer well because of their talent on the defensive line. They rank No. 4 in sacks percentage, but their shortcomings in the back seven have been a killer. Suh gets great pressure from the inside and has a team-high eight sacks. Defensive end Avril is blossoming. His three sacks last week against Chicago pushes his season total to seven. The Lions could be short-handed for a second straight week, though, because of defensive end Bosch’s neck injury that sidelined him against the Bears. At age 32 he’s not as athletic as he was. He has four sacks this season, but if he doesn’t play this week the Lions will miss his off-the-charts effort. Their best defensive back is safety Delmas who’s more of a hitter than a cover man. They probably won’t have the best player from their weak group of cornerbacks. Starter Smith, who has five interceptions but lacks speed for a short cornerback, injured his shoulder last week. Vasher or Hill probably will start in his place. Nickel back Brandon McDonald, picked off waivers from Arizona in late October, has been OK. Special teams: Stefan Logan has been one of the best returners in the league and is a big-play threat. He leads the NFL on kickoff returns (28.8-yard average, one touchdown) and is No. 4 on punts (12.4-yard average). Former Packers kicker Rayner is 6-for-8 in his four games as Hanson’s replacement with a long of 50 yards. Punter Nick Harris ranks No. 9 in gross average (44.9 yards) and No. 28 in net average (35.5 yards).