Redskins

Packers looking for ways to keep Rodgers upright

Packers looking for ways to keep Rodgers upright

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) For a guy who does his best work in the air, Aaron Rodgers is spending way too much time on the ground.

The reigning NFL MVP has been sacked 37 times, more than any quarterback in the league. He's been knocked down more in the first 11 games than all of last season (36 sacks), and is on pace to topple the career-high 50 sacks he took in 2009.

And the Green Bay Packers (7-4) haven't even seen Jared Allen yet.

``It's something that we obviously talk about,'' Rodgers said. ``We shoot for, obviously, a lot less than we've had so far. We've got to do a better job as an offense of eliminating some of those. Some of those are situational stuff. Some of it's getting beat one on one. Some of it's holding the ball a little long. Some of it's not getting open.

``So everybody has a part in that and, as a whole, we have to do a better job,'' Rodgers added. ``Because those hits start to add up a little bit.''

Finding a way to protect Rodgers is hardly a new problem for the Packers. He was getting knocked around more than a soda bottle in a carnival game early in that 2009 season. But the challenge might be even greater this time around because the solutions are limited, and the Packers face two teams with excellent pass rushes - Minnesota and Chicago - three times in the last five games, with the playoffs still on the line.

Injuries are partly to blame for the poor protection. Rodgers was hit often early in the year, getting sacked 16 times in the first three games - half of those by Seattle alone. But the line seemed to settle into a groove in mid-October, with Rodgers being sacked only eight times during a four-game span.

Then right tackle Bryan Bulaga suffered a season-ending hip injury against Arizona, and the line has been trying to adjust ever since.

T.J. Lang was shifted from left guard to right tackle, and Evan Dietrich-Smith replaced him at guard. That essentially puts two new players on the line - and that's in addition to center Jeff Saturday. Saturday is a veteran, but this is his first year in Green Bay after spending his first 13 seasons in Indianapolis.

Though McCarthy insists the players can handle the moves, the adjustments have not exactly been smooth. Dietrich-Smith has looked overmatched, and the New York Giants' swarm of pass rushers ran over left tackle Marshall Newhouse as if he wasn't even there.

Most telling: Rodgers has been sacked eight times in the last two games, including five by the Giants. He's been hit or under pressure probably a dozen more times.

``Any time that quarterback gets hit - it's not just sacks, it's a hit or a pressure - it's a big deal,'' offensive line coach James Campen said Thursday. ``The quarterback has to be protected. We all know at times he's not going to be and there's going to be times he gets hit. But the frequency is too great. Yeah, it's a big deal.''

McCarthy said he plans to stick with the same lineup and, really, the Packers don't have a ton of options. Former first-round pick Derek Sherrod hasn't recovered enough from his broken leg to come off the physically unable to perform list - he would have had to be activated this week - and the other backups are rookies. Green Bay also doesn't ask its running backs or tight ends to play as big a role in pass protection as other teams, say the Bears. Not that the Packers have a whole lot of those to spare, either.

But McCarthy can alter his play calling to help Rodgers, just as he did back in '09. More short passes would help get the ball out of Rodgers' hands early, and get him out of harm's way.

``Our offensive line performance Sunday was not our best performance,'' McCarthy said. ``It wasn't our best performance as a whole offense, and you can start with me.''

No matter what they do, the Packers have to find a fix.

Fast.

The Vikings (6-5) barely touched Jay Cutler last week, and some have wondered if Allen has lost a step because he has ``only'' seven sacks so far and has gone the last three games without one. But something about seeing Rodgers has always brought out the best in Allen.

Of his 112 career sacks, 12 1-2 are of Rodgers. His single-game high of 4 1/2 sacks came against Rodgers - in early October of '09, naturally. He's failed to get at least one sack in just two of the eight games he's faced Rodgers.

``Aaron is such a good quarterback that sometimes he'll hold the ball a little longer to try to make a great play. Sometimes that can work against him,'' Allen said. ``You get a quarterback who is that good, sometimes you'll get to him because he holds it a little extra and sometimes he burns you. I think it's just been a combination of the way our games have been played over the years. They're not afraid. Their offense is predicated on taking shots down the field. When you take shots down the field, every once in a while you're going to give up some sacks.

``I've just been blessed to be on the fortunate side of it sometimes.''

Rodgers, though, is confident his protectors will get it together.

``I think there's a lot of pride in that group,'' he said. ``We're going to do a better job of putting them in situations where they can be successful. We've talked about some things already and hopefully we can protect a little better, get it out a little quicker, and be a little more efficient on offense.''

---

AP Sports Writer Jon Krawczynski in Eden Prairie, Minn., contributed to this story.

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Quick Links

Need to Know: Redskins' Jay Gruden and Alex Smith from the podium

gruden_otas_ap.png
Associated Press

Need to Know: Redskins' Jay Gruden and Alex Smith from the podium

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, May 24, 64 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

What Jay Gruden and Alex Smith had to say from the podium

After yesterday’s OTA practice, Alex Smith and Jay Gruden took the podium. Here are some of their quotes and my comments on them:

Smith was asked about getting together with his new teammates:

So I think every guy these last two days has enjoyed just getting back out there and losing yourself in the game, right? To be limited, it does make you miss it, and I think it makes you appreciate it, so that’s been nice. 

Comment: This is a guy who loves football and everything that goes with it. Smith would start playing games tomorrow if they were scheduled.

Gruden was asked how Smith has looked in these first two days of OTAs:

He’s got good command of the offense already. Great command in the huddle. He’s just getting a feel for the receivers, the players around him, how we call things, but overall, the first two days, I would say I’m very pleased with his quick progression and learning. I knew that wouldn’t be an issue with as much as he’s played in a similar-style system.

Comment: It did seem that Smith was in sync with his receivers, Jamison Crowder in particular. He and Paul Richardson connected on a deep pass after giving each other a look at the line of scrimmage. The encouraging thing is that he is coming from a similar offensive system, so the learning curve should not be too long. 

Smith had a great analogy when asked about similarities to the offenses he has run:

Both from West Coast worlds, so it’s kind of like they are all Latin-based languages, you know, but they are not the same. There are some similarities, structure of the playbook, of how we call things, things like that. There are a lot of similarities but it’s not the same language. I guess that’s the best analogy I can make

Comment: If terminology is the biggest obstacle for Smith to overcome it will be a smooth transition for him. 

Gruden was impressed with the running backs. 

“I’ll tell you what, just today in general, you could see the competition. You could see Rob Kelley step up. Samaje Perine’s had a couple big days. Byron Marshall, I mean, he had a couple great routes today. He’s running the ball between the tackles. [Kapri] Bibbs had some big runs yesterday. Obviously, Derrius Guice has come in here and fueled the fire a little bit.

Comment: I think that the Redskins are going to have to release some good running backs. Rob Kelly never really earned the nickname “Fat Rob” but he looked particularly lean and quick running the ball. He wants nothing to do with being on the roster bubble. Marshall moved quickly and showed his speed. Although Gruden wouldn’t say it, Guice clearly was the best of the bunch; his ability to change direction while maintaining his speed will serve him well. It must be noted that they are not in pads and not getting tackled so more definitive opinions will have to wait until we are in Richmond for a few days. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler

Tandler on Twitter

Timeline  

Days until:

—Minicamp (6/12) 19
—Training camp starts (7/26) 64
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 78

The Redskins last played a game 144 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 108 days. 

In case you missed it

 

Quick Links

NHL Stanley Cup Final 2018: Capitals vs. Golden Knights full schedule announced, date, time, TV channel, how to watch

NHL Stanley Cup Final 2018: Capitals vs. Golden Knights full schedule announced, date, time, TV channel, how to watch

The Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights are the only two hockey teams left standing and will meet to decide the 2017-18 NHL Stanley Cup champion.

The Capitals advanced to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1998, thanks to a 4-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

The Golden Knights, in their inaugural season, shocked the NHL world, defeating the Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks and Winnipeg Jets to become the first team in major American professional sports history to reach the championship game in the franchise's first season.

The Capitals and Golden Knights met twice during the regular season, with Vegas coming out on top in both games. The Golden Knights blanked the Caps 3-0 in the Caps' first trip to Sin City, and bested the Caps 4-3 at Capital One Arena on Feb. 4.

Game 1 of the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final between the Capitals and Golden Knights takes place on Monday, May 28 at 8:00 p.m. ET on NBC and is available to be streamed online by using the NBC Sports App.

NBC Sports Washington will broadcast pre and postgame coverage of the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final between the Capitals and Golden Knights,  with Caps FaceOff and Caps GameTime preceding Capitals vs. Golden Knights puck drop and Caps Extra and Caps OverTime following the end of each game. 

2018 STANLEY CUP FINAL HOW TO WATCH

Game 1: Capitals at Golden Knights
Date: Monday, May 28
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET 
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nev.
TV Channel: NBC 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan)

Game 2: Capitals at Golden Knights
Date: Wednesday, May 30
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET 
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nev.
TV Channel: NBCSN
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan)

Game 3: Golden Knights at Capitals
Date: Saturday, June 2
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET 
Location: Capital One Arena. Washington, D.C.
TV Channel: NBCSN
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan)

Game 4: Golden Knights at Capitals
Date: Monday, June 4
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET 
Location: Capital One Arena. Washington, D.C.
TV Channel: NBC 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan)

Game 5 (If Necessary): Capitals at Golden Knights
Date: Thursday, June 7
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET 
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nev.
TV Channel: NBC 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan)

Game 6 (If Necessary): Golden Knights at Capitals
Date: Sunday, June 10
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET 
Location: Capital One Arena. Washington, D.C.
TV Channel: NBC 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan)

Game 7 (If Necessary): Capitals at Golden Knights
Date: Wednesday, June 13
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET 
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nev.
TV Channel: NBC 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan)
 

MORE CAPITALS STORIES