Aaron Rodgers remains a worry for Redskins

ASHBURN, Va. – They worried about the matchup before the final game, knowing that despite what the stats suggest, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers remains dangerous. He still is, after all, Aaron Rodgers. He can still make throws others can’t make. He can still extend plays. And he can still win games.

Hence, there’s concern.

“He’s got unbelievable ability,” Redskins defensive coordinator Joe Barry said.

Yes, Rodgers certainly has that and, even in what’s considered a down year, he’s still thrown 31 touchdown passes and only eight interceptions. He’s averaging a career-low 6.88 yards per pass attempt, a function of receivers not getting free downfield.

However, the numbers just aren’t good during the last 10 games as Rodgers is the NFL’s 28th-rated quarterback during that period. He’s thrown 15 touchdowns and five interceptions in this stretch. Green Bay’s offense ranks 23rd in total yards per game and 15th in points. In the last 10 games, they’re 21st in points.

But the Packers remain a threat because of Rodgers.

“We all know Aaron Rodgers is a great player,” Redskins safety Dashon Goldson.

Here’s why the Redskins can’t relax:

The back-shoulder pass. The Redskins worked on defending this in practice, which makes sense considering how well Rodgers throws this pass. A big key: Seeing the receivers’ shoulders. If they turn, then it’s a back-shoulder pass.

Rodgers has made a living out of this throw, creating big plays over the years with receivers Donald Driver, James Jones 1.0 and 2.0, Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson.

“That’s just part of his arsenal,” said Redskins corner Will Blackmon, who played with Rodgers from 2006-10. “It’s not like it’s a planned back shoulder. It’s, if [the receiver] is leading, throw it over the top and if he’s not ahead, I’ll throw it behind him. You just have to stay tight. It’s very, very hard. You just have to read the receiver; usually he looks back early.”

Redskins corner Bashaud Breeland said he hasn’t faced many quarterbacks who throw that pass well.

“He throws it on a line,” Breeland said. “He waits until the guy looks back and it puts the receiver in good position to put it in a good spot for him to come back to it.”

But it’s not as if that’s the only throw he can make.

“He’s got a great feel for where the receivers are, where the DBs are and throwing it away from the DB with an accurate, catchable ball,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “He does a great job of putting exactly the right amount of touch and putting the ball in a location where only the receiver can get it. That’s what probably separates him from a majority of other quarterbacks."

Athleticism. Rodgers has made a living out of extending plays. His average time before throwing the ball ranks third-highest in the NFL (2.73 seconds), but his average time in the pocket is tied for 14th (2.30). Part of the problem this season has been that his wideouts are taking longer to get open. That, coupled with a banged-up line that consistently allows pressure, has forced him to extend plays even more.

“He’s got great pocket presence and he does a lot when he extends plays by moving out of the pocket,” Goldson said. “He’s always looking downfield and able to make big plays just by moving out of the pocket.”

The key will be containing him in the pocket, which is easier said than done.

“He’s really athletic,” Blackmon said. “The difference between him and any other quarterback is that he doesn’t need his feet set to throw an accurate pass. He can roll left and just turn his shoulder. He can be off-balance and run all over the place, it doesn’t matter.”

Brains. Earlier this season, the Redskins faced New England quarterback Tom Brady, who has spent his entire career in one system. Rogers, likewise, has spent 11 seasons in the same offense under coach Mike McCarthy. He can run the offense so well that his only focus must be on reading the defense. There’s a comfort level that evolves, something other quarterbacks view with envy.

“That’s first and foremost with him,” Barry said of Rodgers’ knowledge.

But it adds up to a complete package: a smart passer who is athletic and has a cannon arm.

“When you have all three of those things,” Barry said, “then you’ve got a great player. You’ve got a Hall of Famer.”